Fort Myers Florida Weekly

When a dose of humility would do



At a recent writing conference I had the chance to meet a man I’ve admired for years, a writer whose work I’ve followed through a number of publications. I enjoy his style, his pathos and his willingness to put himself fully on the page. When a good friend said she knew him and asked if I would like to be introduced, my whole body lit up.

“What’s he like?” I asked her.

“He’s cute,” she said.


“A good story teller.”


She thought it over for a minute. “You’ll see.”

I smiled to myself. I couldn’t believe my luck.

That night, I went to a swanky literary party where everyone but me seemed to be wearing the same on-trend glasses. The women had on funky dresses and bright red lipstick; the men were all thin and unshaven in narrow jeans and tight sweaters.



My friend was there, and soon after I arrived she pointed to the famous writer across the crowd. He was in line for the keg and looked every bit the swashbuckling author. When she brought him over to say hello, my shyness overcame me.

For the first few minutes of the conversation, I stared at the floor and nervously worked a ring on my finger. He mostly talked to my friend. But then she saw someone she knew on the other side of the room and flitted away, leaving the famous writer and me to talk. The conversation lulled.

“I have to tell you,” I said, meeting his eyes for the first time, “I read your piece last year in — .” I said the name of the important magazine where his story had been published.

“I really loved it.”

He smiled his best dashing smile. “Oh, yeah?”

I beamed. “Yes, definitely.”

He took a sip of his beer. “Well, you know, that piece was picked up by Best American Essays.”

My smiled faltered. “That’s great,” I said.

“Yeah. It is.”

He took a slow look around the room. He seemed to be waiting for me to say more.

All I could think to say was, “It was a great piece.”

I must not have given him what he needed; I must not have seemed impressed enough. Because he spent the next 15 minutes telling me what a big deal he is. This from a man I have admired for a long time — the least likely person to have to impress me. I wanted to shake him. How could he not see that the last thing he should be doing was boasting?

That a dose of humility and humor was all it would take to make me swoon? Did he not realize that in trying to be grander he only made himself seem small?

Finally, worn out from the conversation, I spotted my friend on the other side of the room.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, touching his arm lightly. “I have to go.”

He nodded, took another sip of his beer and scanned the crowd around us. Before I had fully turned away, he was already talking to another woman. I was happy to let her have him.

— Editor’s note: The writer’s book, “Unremarried Widow,” was reviewed in The New York Times on Sunday, Jan. 5.

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