• Meeting Your Favorite Writer

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 6 comments

    When Roald Dahl was six he begged his mother to take him to meet Beatrix Potter, author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

    Potter was eighty then, and working in her garden when the pair showed up. She asked what the lad wanted. Young Dahl said he’d come to see Beatrix Potter. Potter replied, “Well, you’ve seen her. Now buzz off.”

    Potter didn’t like children.

    Dahl spent a lifetime not liking adults.




    William Butler Yeats was an early admirer of James Joyce’s work.

    When the young Joyce met the aging Yeats, Joyce asked Yeats’ age, then said, “I thought as much. I have met you too late. You are too old.”

    Yeats was thirty-nine.




    In my own thirty-nine years, I’ve had a chance to meet many of the writers I admire, in both professional and social settings. I’ve lucked out: Nobody has told me to buzz off, and for the most part, these experiences have been positive.

    They’re not always. Sometimes — maybe often? — it’s better not to meet your favorite writer. After all, writers are just people.




    I want to hear your horror story about meeting a writer you admire!

    Share with us your anecdote(s) in the comments below, or send me an email at david[at]writebynight.net

    You can obscure the writer’s name, if you’d like.

    If we get enough of these I’ll collect ’em in a blog post so we can all enjoy.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Flora Le

    This post is timely. I am about to meet two of my favorite authors in the next two weeks, although I have never done this before. I will drive 16 hours to meet one of them in North Carolina. I am driven by the need to find a writing mentor. I hope I won’t be disappointed… Actually, I probably will, but want to meet them anyway. Whether the experience is positive or negative, I will certainly learn something.

    Thanks for this great post!


    David Duhr

    Hi Flora. Thanks for sharing. And best of luck with your upcoming encounters. Driving sixteen hours to meet a writer? That’s dedication to the craft! I hope it works out. I guess if there’s any advice I can give, it’s this: Try to remember that writers are just people.

    Let us know how it goes!

    Jeri Walker

    Mine is not a horror story, alas. I met Charles Frazier at a reading he gave in Charlotte, NC upon the release of Nightwoods. He was a kind and soft-spoken man, and he could name more Idaho writers than me even though I am an Idaho native!

    David Duhr

    Hi Jeri. It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I’m glad you had such a good experience with Charles Frazier. When it does work out, it’s usually memorable. I’ve had brunch dozens of times in my life, but the one I remember best is the one I got to share with George Saunders, who, like Frazier, was kind, soft-spoken, and (intimidatingly) intelligent. I was horribly nervous in the days preceding it, but as soon as we sat down I realized that he’s a super friendly guy, and I was at ease.


    Wouldn’t it be interesting to know if that was a pivotal moment in Dahl’s life, and at least part of the reason he wrote what he did. It must have affected him greatly if he was still telling the story decades later. It’s amazing how our experiences shape us and how much of it goes into our writing. It would also interest me to know why Potter didn’t like children. I kind of doubt that, because she wrote her Peter Rabbit story from a letter she originally wrote to a child. I choose to believe he was treading in her… Read more »

    David Duhr

    At least she didn’t tell you to buzz off. Unless she did, and you just didn’t mention it.

    I wonder if Dahl modeled one of his witches after Beatrix Potter. A Beatrix Potter witch doesn’t seem so scary, does it?

    Though the non-scary witches are the ones you need to watch out for.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x