Saturday, November 9, 2013

Author Meets Author

I usually don’t meet other writers unless I attend a conference or take a class specifically for writers. We scribes spend a lot more time in our quiet spaces writing than socializing with our peers. But if there's a place to meet fellow writers, it's a bookstore.

So, imagine my surprise yesterday when I made a quick trip into my local Barnes & Noble in Silverdale Mall, Washington and met none other than world-famous romance author, Debbie Macomber. ( 

Debbie is actually my neighbor. In the world of rural writers, any one who lives within 20 miles of me is considered my neighbor! She makes her home in Port Orchard, just a short drive south from my boondocks property in Seabeck. I visit the yarn shop she owns on occasion to satisfy my crochet craving, and dine in the adjacent tea room. Both places are so Debbie--absolute escapes from the daily rat race.

I had just signed six copies of one of my books, Lighthouses of the Pacific Coast, for Barnes & Noble when the clerk helping me yelled, “Debbie! Come meet another local writer. She does lighthouse books.”

A beaming little woman that you might mistake for your beloved kindergarten teacher trotted toward us--almost ran--with her hand extended. The clerk gave introductions and we both got that astonished expression that comes with meeting a kindred spirit. Debbie had an armload of books and a face that said, "I know you, simply because we're both writers."

It's true. Writers recognize and know things about each other, even when they've never met before. I saw Debbie glance quickly at my hands; writer's hands. Hers were the same, only smaller than mine--short manicured nails and a couple of knobby knuckles from years of pounding a keyboard. She lightly grasped my arm and offered a gracious, "So pleased to meet you, Elinor!"

My first impression: That smile! And, she’s so tiny! But she’s a mighty mouse among writers, with more than 100 books to her credit. All are bestsellers. Debbie has found her niche, and she never seems to lack for a plot. She bucks the romance writer stereotype too. She’s more grandmotherly than glamorous, no Danielle Steele, Lisa Kleypas, Jill Sanders, or Susan Wigg (another neighbor in Puget Sound). Debbie Macomber is much more real, with stories drawn from a believable life.

We exchanged some thoughts about books and interests, and then she grabbed one of my signed books: “I love lighthouses, and everyone thinks there’s one in Port Orchard! I’m buying your book!”

I thanked her and quickly looked around for Jon, hoping he’d snap a photo of us with his Smart Phone—two matronly writers in residence at the local B&N sharing their craft and love for their town's bookstore and readers—but he was nowhere to be seen. Maybe next time our paths cross…

Port Orchard is the model for Cedar Cove, the fictional town in many of Debbie’s novels, as well as the spinoff Hallmark Channel series starring Andie MacDowell.. I am embarrassed to say I've read only one of Debbie’s books, an older title called Navy Woman. It was like listening in on a conversation over coffee, very straight-forward and honest. She gets grist for her novels from her community, including the military bases in Washington.

Romance novels are fun to read, often carry heartwarming and enduring messages, and they are a good distraction from life’s serious business. But with all the reading and research I do for my college teaching and writing, I don’t find much time for recreational reading. But you can bet, now that I've met Debbie Macomber, I’ll get a copy of 16 Lighthouse Road and devour it!

A footnote: I've decided Port Orchard should build a lighthouse. It’s on the edge of Sinclair Inlet and has a small ferry and plenty of boat traffic. It also has a nautical feel and hosts several salty festivals each year. Yes, it has a restaurant with a faux lighthouse, but that isn't what I have in mind. With America’s most popular romance writer in residence, it seems only fair to build a lighthouse in her honor. The Debbie Macomber Lighthouse—what do you think? (If my plan flies, maybe Seabeck will follow suit and build a cute little  lighthouse on the tip of the little marina at Seabeck Harbor. I wonder what the name of it would be?)

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