Pat Conroy is my favorite author of all time! When I found out that he would be speaking at the Miami Book Fair last month I went wild with anticipation. A dream come true to a fan.
My dear friend Danielle is also a huge Conroy fan, and she has a cute little hybrid car; such a no-brainer for her to drive. Going to Miami from Bonita Springs is such a big deal.
We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy dinner at Bay Side which is just a hop, skip and a jump from the venue. The rain drizzling down over the city did nothing to damper our excitement. In fact, it may have enhanced it.
We were whisked into the building where Pat would speak and rode an escalator up to the second floor. There, we encountered a line. After almost getting in the front of the line, we realized we needed to go to the back. While waiting, we met several giddy fans who were just as happy as we were.
My guess is that there were 1000 people in the room Pat spoke in. He was so beautifully introduced by one of the great Florida authors, Les Standiford. Les is well-known around these parts for his outstanding LAST TRAIN TO PARADISE and his mystery series starring John Deal.
When Pat Conroy strode out to the podium, the crowd was beaming from ear to ear. There was much clapping and ado. There he was; the big guy himself, larger than life. His pink-cheeked face was smiling and he was happy to be there. He immediately began talking about his crazy family. Told us all how nuts they were. Most of us already knew it, but to hear it come out of his mouth with that southern drawl, just cracked me up. Pat Conroy did exactly what I had hoped he would do; he spoke in his own voice and without an agenda or notes. He told stories about taking care of his mother at the end of her life that had my friend in tears. He told a story about his tyrant of a father at the end of his life that had us all in stitches, laughing our heads off. But mostly, he made every single person in that huge room feel special.
After Pat was finished speaking, they allowed us to line up to have two books signed; no personalization. Danielle and I floundered around and finally figured out where the line was. I can tell you now that I was as nervous as a mouse in full view of a cat. I was actually going to meet my favorite author of all time. People were taking photos. It was a dream come true. So, when I arrived at the great man’s table, my heart beating like crazy, I said to him,” Thanks so much for coming. My favorite book of all time is BEACH MUSIC. And Mary Alice Monroe sends her love.” That last got his attention. He asked how I knew Mary Alice and we had something to talk about. How cool was that! And, he personalized BEACH MUSIC for me.
Click on the photo of Danielle & Pat Conroy and it will enlarge so you can get a really good picture of Pat himself.
As Danielle and I walked through the hallway, took the escalator down, and walked the short distance to the parking garage, we both were smiling like cheshire cats. The long ride over in rush hour traffic and now the long ride home again are all worth it. We’ve met a legend!