I’ve just returned from a dinner with Phillip Margolin, an international best-selling author of murder mysteries. A couple of the women in my writer’s group bid on him at an auction, and we all gathered to gorge ourselves and pick his brain about writing.
Before I get to him, I must talk about the food. And what a spread it was! I love a potluck better than almost anything because people bring their show-off foods. There were only 13 of us present, including the guest of honor, but there were at least 20 different dishes. At least. People brought two and three things, and huge quantities of everything – like a Thanksgiving platter full of lasagna and fruit salad. After I finished stuffing myself, I found a crock-pot full of chili that no one even knew was there. I love chili but one more smidgen of food and I would have exploded like I’d swallowed a grenade, which might have put a damper on the evening, but you never know.
If the food had been lousy, I would have probably overeaten anyway, but because it was so spectacular, I ATE TOO MUCH AND had three very lovely little red cocktails, which had no effect on me whatsoever except to make me extremely sleepy.
Okay, okay, I’m getting to Margolin. I ended up sitting close to him, so I’d ask him a question and he’d say, “I’ll answer that a little later when I give my spiel.” I don’t know about you, but when I’m sitting next to a perfect stranger, I either have to talk about my boring life or ask him questions. I wasn’t going to sit there like a chipmunk with my jaws puffed out from food and not talk, so I asked him something else and he smiled with infinite patience and said, “That’s one of the questions I’ll answer a little later.” Ooookay. Actually it made sense to wait because of the seating arrangement. We weren’t all gathered around the same table, so the people at the card table would have missed out, or we at the big table would have had to hear his answers again.
When dinner was over, Mr. Margolin settled back to tell us how he got his books published, and I started feeling my eyelids coming down like someone was tugging on a window shade. I jerked my lids back up and forced myself to look bug-eyed for a little bit, but then the old shades started sliding down again. I figured, what the heck, I’ll just have myself a short little nap and be good as new in a few. I’d wake up when the group would laugh. Finally I opened my eyes and saw the lady across from me dozing. It’s really hard to stay awake when you’ve eaten so much. Mr. Margolin’s stories were interesting as he took us down these winding paths, back alleys, and over hills and dells describing his experiences as a published writer. He’s also involved in a program that teaches grade school kids how to sit still for an hour and play chess that he’s very passionate about, and that has enjoyed many successes. I probably should have asked him if he could teach overeating grownups how to sit for an hour and stay awake. He’s an extremely nice guy who was a lawyer and must have worked very hard to do that and write at the same time, but he made it all sound like a piece of cake, which is what I got up to get because I could smell that chocolate from the kitchen and it was calling me like a siren song (whatever that is and I’m not looking it up right now).
If you want the summary of what he said, read on. Basically, he started writing because he wondered what it would be like to write a whole book, and about that time an old college friend he hadn’t seen in years called him up wanting to come visit. This guy turned out to be a bigwig in the publishing world. One lucky break after another effortlessly fell into his lap, and lots of very nice people helped in many, many ways. He just writes and lets the rest take care of itself.
His is a great success story, and one that, I think it’s safe to say for the whole group, none of us wanted to hear. We wanted him to write for many years and suffer rejection after rejection but keep going and one day, finally, someone recognized his talent. This is what we’ve all been going through, except we haven’t reached the one day, finally, part yet.
But all in all it was a successful evening. He gave us insights into what it’s like to be a famous writer flying all over the world with escorts in all the cities who take him to all the bookstores and speaking engagements. It sounds like great fun. Hope to be there soon.
The other place I hope to be even sooner is in my snuggly warm bed. Yawn, stretch, snore, dreaming of Margolin and success, and stuffed mushroom caps and chocolate cake. See ya!