Tuesday, July 1, 2014

At Church with Diana Gabaldon

It was a Friday night and I was at church.

And I wasn’t really AT ‘church’ in the religious, worshiping sense, but IN a church; specifically, a building that used to be a church. Metropolitan Methodist Church or Centennial Methodist Church (it had changed names over the years), is in the heart of downtown Victoria, BC. And I can’t even say I was at ‘church’ because the building had been repurposed and is presently dubbed ‘Alix Goolden Performance Hall – Victoria Conservatory of Music.’ But given my religious upbringing I felt the overwhelming need to whisper, genuflect and think only holy, pure, unselfish thoughts.

None of those things happened, despite my being in awe of the architecture and stained glass windows synonymous of old churches. I did, however, sit in a pew; the kneelers long gone.

I would, however, be blessed later in the evening.

I was there with a friend for a presentation and book-signing by Diana Gabaldon, prolific author of the ‘Outlander’ series. Her books have been classed as literature, fiction, historical fiction, historical non-fiction (despite their accuracy), science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, military history and horror. Generally, her novels are somewhat in the time travel/historical fiction genre, with LOTS of (hunky) guys running around in kilts (this is just my own personal summary – the author, herself, can’t even classify what kind of novels the wildly popular books, are).

I had read only one of her books and that was many years ago. So when my friend invited me along, I went along out of curiosity. I have heard Ms. Gabaldon is a funny, insightful, down-to-earth speaker, and her words of wit and wisdom found in many writing reference magazines and books have always intrigued me. I suspected she would be solely plugging her new book, ‘Written in My Own Heart’s Blood,’ as well as the upcoming TV series, ‘Outlander,’ based on the first book in her ‘Outlander’ series named - you guessed it - ‘Outlander.’ (I’m really good at explaining stuff, I know). My suspicions would be soon proven wrong.

Anyways, there I was, in a church/performance hall packed to the rafters with fans – mostly female. Although, given how muggy it was outside and warm it was inside, a few ACTUAL fans around the place would have done us all wonders.

When the author finally did walk on stage, the crowd went wild, the applause and cheers nearly blowing the rafters off the sanctuary. I would have like to have seen the massive still-present organ beat out the noise everyone made!
And everything I heard about her was true. She was funny and witty, and her dry humour delivered with eloquence and sarcasm was spot on.

True, Ms. Gabaldon talked a bit about her books and upcoming TV show – who wouldn’t – but she also spoke about her writing career and how she got started, as well as her writing process – of which, as she proclaims, she has none. Sprinkled throughout her talk were quips and anecdotes, jokes and sidebars. After recounting how she wrote her first book while holding down two jobs, raising three kids, and supporting her husband and his growing business (at the time), she challenged anyone to say they ‘don’t have time to write.’ I will carry that bit of inspiration with me, always. I loved her, and everyone else did, too.

All too soon it was time for the book signing. My friend and I hustled down the winding stairs from the loft to the main floor, scooting in line before the rest of the congregation could parkour over the pews to the fast-growing line. (parkour – see definition here).

The line moved quickly – it had to what with hundreds of anxious women waiting to have their books signed. What added to the experience was Ms. Gabaldon, along with staff coordinating the event, took the time and effort to allow a photo with the author, either using the fan’s phone or camera! WOW! Now THAT is fan appreciation!

While I was standing in line, anxious for it to move so that I, too, could have my book signed along with a chance at a photo-op, divine intervention overcame me. I came up with the most brilliant idea ever. I hashed out my plan and second-guessed myself a few times – “Don’t be silly, Lisa, that’s just…WEIRD.” But in the end I figured – what the heck? Why not?

It finally came to my turn, and I handed my cellphone over to the event staff to prepare for a photo. Ms. Gabaldon was gracious and kind, but the excitement and impending crowds made any chance of a meaningful conversation impossible. She signed my book and ensured a photo-perfect pose by her (me, well, not so much as you can see, despite the photographer’s attempt at another photo).
Then in a rush, before my ‘turn’ could be over, I whipped out a postcard showcasing my young adult book, ‘Newbie Nick,’ and explained what it was to the prolific author. I summoned the nerve to ask her if she would sign it. (Yes, weird of me to ask, I know.)

But she ‘oohed!’ over the card showcasing my book, and with a flourish signed the back of it. It wasn’t until I left with my signed book clutched to my chest, and my very excited friend in tow, that I looked at what she wrote on my postcard:

‘Good luck!
Diana Gabaldon’

Wow. WOW! WOW!

I translated her good luck sentiment into that of wishing me luck on my book sales and future writing. That signed postcard bearing her kind words means more to me than my photo that didn’t exactly turn out (she was gorgeous, of course, and as for me? I don’t get what I was doing with my mouth).

Upon leaving the church/performance hall I got a case of the goosebumps. It felt as though my whole writing career had been blessed by a great literary inspiration. Wow!

Ms. Gabaldon, I learned a lot from you that night in church – thank you for so much, and more!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Jen!!! It WAS very cool! Loved it! Thanks for stopping by! Lisa

  2. Oh Lisa
    Great post. I'm green with envy. A night to remember.

    1. Thank you, Jo-Ann! It was, indeed, a most memorable night! The postcard is framed and hanging in my 'office.' Thanks for stopping by! Lisa

  3. Wow, indeed! I love that you framed the postcard. What a memento! (And thanks for the enlightenment on "parkour." Who knew!)

  4. Well done Lisa. Keep up the hard work and one day it will be you sitting there signing your books...