It’s a small world after all…

Yesterday, July 8, 2017,  I had the pleasure of attending my third Orlando Book Festival hosted by the Orange County Library. My first year, I was a reader and writer; my second, I was a featured author; for my third, I was a moderator. It was in a word, AMAZING!  The panels were informative and fun, and the keynotes were inspirational.

The opening keynote was by Adam Silvera, bestselling author of More Happy, Than Not, History is All You Left Me, and the soon to be released They Both Die at the End.  He spoke about his writing journey and its roots in fan fiction, his home life and his growing up in the South Bronx. It was a wonderful talk about accepting who you are, recognizing your true strength and finding your way. I applauded his frankness but was left curious. Where in the South Bronx did he grow up?

I was interrupted in my musing when I got to hang out with my friend and fellow Jonathan Maberry fan, Eddie Anglero.  He was there to see Maberry but he was impressed with the young man who spoke of coming out, suicide, acceptance, and embracing life.

We got to sit in on panels about graphic novels in publishing and monsters in publishing (not the publishers folks). I was even given the opportunity to moderate a panel called Romancing the Book-Yep, about romance, since I had been a featured author at the previous year’s event.

The closing keynote was given by Jonathan Maberry, who for a nerd/geek (I’m both) like me is a treasure trove for playing the Six Degrees of Separation game.  His talk was inspirational as well. Having overcome certain racist barriers imposed at birth he found himself mentored as a youth by no less personages than Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson. I admit to being a bit dumbstruck before I listened enough to hear what those esteemed writers had imparted to him.

-Have Fun -Bradbury

-You don’t have stick to one thing when you write-Matheson

Write what you would go out of your way to read-Matheson

But then he imparted his own wisdom:Learn what you want to do and do it. And, you want to find something that you are good at and like. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?

As writers, we need reminders. Things aren’t easy. Life isn’t easy. But dammit, if you love what you do then do it and do it right!

Anyway, when we got to the book signing at 3pm I was able to get Jonathan Maberry to sign all of my Joe Ledger and Rot & Ruin books!  Woohoo!

Then I got the chance to speak with Adam Silvera. I hadn’t had a chance to get his book because of the line so I just waited my turn and finally asked the question, where in the South Bronx are you from?

What happened then blew everyone’s minds away. Not only were we from the same neighborhood, we were from the same street, same building and same floor, just a few doors down. We were both stunned as we mentioned things we had both done as children in the Michelangelo Apartments. It was both of our playgrounds.  Our mother’s both worked in the same place and know each other. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. He got up and said he had to hug me and I said of course, nothing else would suffice.  It was like hugging home.

We talked for several minutes before I finally let him get back to his signing and then came his giveaway.  He was giving away an Advanced Reader Copy of They Both Die at the End. The person picking the numbers kept coming up with a miss, the people who signed up hadn’t waited for the drawing.  By the fifth pick it ended up being…ME! Not only did I get his book, but we are hoping to get the moms together for lunch and to reminisce when I go to New York.  I called my mother and she said everything happens for a reason. I believe that. With regard to Jonathan Maberry, I feel privileged to consider him as a “friend in the industry” and feel blessed to have been able to connect him with this festival. As for Adam Silvera, my Michelangelo brother from another mother, I feel re-connected to my roots and to my writing.

My message to all of you?

Believe in yourself. Be true to yourself. Be kick ass at what you do.