A good ninja knows when to strike and when to walk away. Likewise, a good writer knows when to squee and when to be professional. Mary Robinette Kowal talked about this in her blog last week and gave some really great guidance.
I've been to enough signings and seminars that I don't have much of a problem reigning in my inner fan girl. Plus, as an actor, I know how to hide my emotions so only the desired character shows. (I'm not saying that being professional is a character or facade, it's not, but the skill is pretty handy.) The last time I turned into a fan girl in front of an author was during Laurell K Hamilton's A Lick of Frost tour and that happened to be the first signing I'd ever attended so it was to be expected. Since then I've managed to be calm, clever, and professional.
As Mary pointed out in her blog, it's much better to be seen as a colleague instead of a fan. That's why I don't often take pictures at signings, dinners, and release parties (much to the chagrin of a certain friend). I feel that asking for a photo immediately puts me into the fan category. Granted, if I took Mary's advice and prefaced the request with "May I indulge..."I could get away with it. I'd still feel a little uncomfortable, but I could get away with it. There's nothing wrong with being a fan, but I find it limits your interaction with an author. They'll nod and smile, sign your book, maybe answer a question, and then you're on your way. However, I've noticed that if you establish yourself as a peer (through casual conversation and shop talk) the author you're speaking to will relax a bit and you'll get to see the real individual rather than public persona. It's allowed me to have a more memorable experience with the authors I admire and respect, and conversely, be more memorable to them. Instead of just meeting so-and-so, you're instigating a relationship with so-and-so.
However, on Monday night my spotless record came to an end. That was the night I went to David Brin's signing at Powell's books. I love David Brin. He's an incredibly intelligent, well spoken, funny and clever man that writes absolutely beautiful prose. It's almost lyrical. David is also not afraid to flatter a pretty and intelligent woman -- a category I found myself in when I was talking to him after the signing.
I lost control and squeed. I'm not talking about the "oh my gosh, ______ is standing right there!" kind of squee, but the shy and giggling twelve year old kind of squee. It was shameful and a certain friend will never let me forget that shame.To my credit, I didn't squee in front of David, but I did have to make a hasty and discreet retreat so I could hide my mouth behind my hands and blush (just like Sailor Moon). I have to clarify, I'm not a super girly girl. Marriage proposals don't elicit that kind of reaction from me. I'm a calm, clever professional. Speaking to my writing idol leaves me shaking afterwards (repressed nervousness), but not squeeing.
So what was different this time? David caught me off guard. He complimented me. Not once, but three times in rapid succession. I didn't know how to process that. It was too cool. As guilty as I feel for loosing my control, I've come to realize that I shouldn't beat myself up for needing to run away. (He is contrary Brin, after all. Defying expectation is what he does.) An inner fangirl can only be kept in a box for so long. Eventually she'll burst out and wreck havoc. Walking away and venting the squee was necessary. In his eyes (I'm assuming on this since I haven't been able to confirm it with him) I'm still the intelligent pretty woman he met in Portland. He has no knowledge of the squeeing fangirl or of the razzing I received from friends afterward and that's the real goal.
To see and be seen, but never let them hear you squee.