Sunday, August 8, 2010

Art in the Heart, Vancouver USA

Writers are strange people. Nothing is as it should be, nothing is certain. Just when you think you know what is happening with a writer there is a new twist, a dip in air pressure, a gust of wind.

I knew Carolyn J. Rose would be there, at Vancouver, Washington's Art in the Heart festival, promoting her book Hemlock Lake. But secretly I wanted to go meet Bill Cameron, with whom I'd been conversing on twitter for nearly a year. I wanted to buy one of his books, but I wanted it to be autographed. I wanted it to be personalized. I wanted it to have meaning. Most of all, I wanted it to make me feel like I belonged in the inner circle of published writers (even though I'm not). Bill has three books published and another to come out in June of next year. He is witty and charming and amusing on twitter as @bcmystery and I hoped he'd be the same in person. He did not disappoint.
He sat at a table outside Angst Gallery beside Carolyn J. Rose, an awning shading them from the glinting August sun (yes, we do get sun in Washington, for crying out loud), with stacks of Lost Dog, his first, Chasing Smoke, his second, and Day One, his third. He even had a few copies of an anthology, Portland Noir, in which he had a contribution.

"Hi, I'm @Scupperlout," I told him. He didn't back away in horror. This was a good sign. He even stood and shook my hand (I shall never wash it). He knew who I was, he'd read my blog, and still he smiled. What a gentleman.

"Which book shall I start with?" I asked.

He pointed to Lost Dog. "Well, I would start with Lost Dog," he began.

"I don't want to start with Lost Dog." Although I've nothing against Lost Dog, I didn't want to start with it.

Without missing a beat, Bill said, "Or you can start with Chasing Smoke, or Day One," jabbing a finger to each with just the slightest hint of trepidation. I snatched up Chasing Smoke. I think that is the one I wanted all along just because I'm in love with the title.

"You'll autograph this, won't you?"

He smiled graciously. So graciously in fact, that I got brave and reiterated my offer (okay I was begging, I admit it) to have him do a guest blog here. He said he'd consider it.

Then I noticed Ann Littlewood sitting beside Bill. Her first book, Night Kill, takes place at a zoo. Ann spent years working at the Oregon Zoo in Portland so she knows the "behind the scenes" stories the general public could never know...until now. She had given a talk at the Vancouver Writer's Mixer last year and read an excerpt of Night Kill that was so intense I still get goosebumps when I think of it. Although it was her first, and she had copies of her second, Did Not Survive on the table, I had to get the first just to read that scene myself, and savor the chills.

I introduced myself to Ann and asked her if she would autograph her book. "Certainly," she said, her expression deadpan, "what name would you like me to use?"

Besides her own? Johnny Depp? Just a thought.

Bill did, indeed, autograph my book. He wrote, "Melanie. Thanks for saving my life in Vietnam. Bill Cameron"

It was nothing, Bill. Really. Nothing.

Ann wrote, "Melanie. Keep your fingers out of the cages. Ann Littlewood, aka Johnny Depp" I mean, honestly, it almost looks like his signature. Only prettier, like her own.

How did she know about the times I stuck my fingers in the cages at Knowland Park Zoo in Oakland, California?


  1. Melanie, it was a delight to finally meet you in person! Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog too. I just need to finish this draft first, which should be any day now! :)

  2. Bill,

    You are a delight. And I understand the need to finish a draft. I have your book sitting on my desk, but I need to finish my revisions. Maybe I'll just take a little peek tonight. :)

  3. Gosh, I feel as if I'm interrupting. Elbowing way in. Did you happen to see any visual art that you liked at the festival?

  4. Dale,

    Yes there was art. The Angst Gallery always has art, and someone had set up an easel in the middle of the street and was painting. It was very nice. I like your paintings better though.


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