On Being the Ultimate Super Fan

Over five years ago now my husband and I cut cable out of our lives. At that point in time, my reading habit took an enormous leap. Who would have known that cutting yourself off from watching back-to-back episodes of Stormchasers would leave more time to read?

As I did more reading and the Internet entered this golden era of authors connecting with their readers, I started following my favorite ones via various social media channels.  I learned that a new author I had found, Jim C. Hines, was attending a local science fiction and fantasy convention. My best friend, Erin, and I, who I would term as closet geeks at the time, decided to attend one day of the convention with the sole purpose of meeting Jim and getting our books signed.

Trying to be a calm fan girl.

Trying to be a calm fan girl.

Little did I know, this first convention in 2012 would lead me down the path of being a professional fan girl.

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Yo, Ho Ho, It’s the Convention Life for Me

Attending one convention lead to attending more conventions—it’s like a bag of Lay’s potato chips. I’ve been to MiniCon in Minneapolis where I entered my first Masquerade with my stylized version of the T.A.R.D.I.S. (I didn’t win.)

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I’ve seen George R.R. Martin so many times now that when I encountered him walking behind me back to his hotel at MidAmeriConII in 2016 that didn’t flip out and held a short conversation with him.

At this point, I’ve graduated from just attending conventions to actually help organize them. I’m the social media coordinator for ICON, the longest fan-run convention in Iowa, and one of the organizers for Imagine Other Worlds with Authors, a multi-author signing event. I even lent my meager web talents to MidAmeriConII by taking charge of the In Memoriam page.

Been There, Done That, Seen It All…Well, Not Quite Yet

At this point, after 5 years, one would think that I’ve seen and met all my favorite authors, but that is far from truth. A major bucket list author for me is Diana Gabaldon.

After 4 years of college studying English Literature, I was burned out on reading. One of my co-workers recommended Outlander and my reading life changed. Where had books like this been all my life? The series appears to defy genre classification. I’ve gotten many girlfriends to read the series and at least two guy friends (my husband is still resistant).  Then there is Jamie & Claire with a love so honest and true it transcends time.  (Get to book three, Voyager, you’ll see what I mean!)

Since Ms. Gabaldon restored my reading life to pre-college reading levels and started a new obsession for me, I knew I had to meet her. When I was working college admissions, I nearly dropped everything to drive to Minneapolis in the middle of the work week to see her at a Barnes and Noble in Roseville. But my rational brain stopped me from doing it.

This year I made plans to attend Phoenix ComiCon. Even if Diana wasn't scheduled to appear, I could at least make a stop at The Poisoned Pen which I've seen her write about and knows she visits to sign books. PhoenixComiCon is the largest convention I’ve ever attended and not only do a lot of authors attend, but several mid-list TV and movie stars make an appearance.  As the list of celebrities were announced, Erin and I started making a list—Elden Henson (Daredevil), Alan Tudyk (Firefly), James A. Owen, Pierce Brown, V.E. Schwab, Dick Van Dyke…and DIANA GABALDON were all slated to make appearances.

As is usually the case, things rarely work out as smoothly as you have planned. As the schedule of events rolled out, we discovered that we would have a tight schedule with our photo opportunity with Mr. Van Dyke and then getting over to the opposite side of the convention complex to watch Diana’s panel and get our books signed.  On Friday night, Erin and I decided to skip Diana’s panel to ensure we could be as close to the front of the photo opp line for Mr. Van Dyke in hopes of increasing our chances of making it to Diana’s signing.

Saturday afternoon rolls around and Mr. Van Dyke's schedule started running behind. The photo opp wranglers kept pushing us away and telling us to come back in 10 minutes to see if it was time to line up.  With the photo opp scheduled to start at 1 PM, we were finally allowed to line up at 12:45 and then we were forced to wait.  With Diana’s signing starting at 1:30, we slowly saw our opportunity to meet her and get our books signed slipping away as we knew, for the more popular authors, they were capping their signing lines.

My hopes were slowly sinking as the minutes ticked away…1:00…1:15…1:20. How could I be so close to Diana and yet so far away?! Finally the line for our photo opp with Dick started moving.

(Zoom ahead to 3:18 to see Erin and I with Mr. Van Dyke.
And yes, all the photo opps are THAT fast!)

We rushed through the line, grabbed our photo and raced across the convention complex and down three floors (a tough feat for a gal with asthma) with hopes of making it to the signing.

As we decided the final escalator, which thankfully ended right at the entrance to the room where Diana’s signing was being held, to be greeted with a sign that read, “LINE CLOSED.”

Why Your Best Friend is Your Best Friend

The next few minutes were a blur and a reminder why you should take your best friend almost everywhere.  Erin refused to let us be bullied by a sign. After all, we had paid extra money for front of line access at signings, she insisted, we were going to check to see if the “Line Closed” signed applied to fast pass holders.

She marched into the room and up to the booksellers organizing the signings and asked if we the line was closed to fast pass holders.  And heaven be praised, one of the booksellers confirmed that the line wasn’t closed for fast pass holders and she took us to the front of the line where another volunteer took our books, moved us into place and we waited a brief moment for Diana to finish up the book she was signing.

Standing only a few feet away from the author who renewed my love for reading, I was within moments of my dream coming true.  As I waited, tears filled my eyes. As I tried to get my emotions in line and stop the tears, the volunteer waived me forward. When I got to the table the tears wouldn’t stop and no words would come out of my mouth. Diana took my hand and told me everything would be okay, that I was fine. At that point, I started to calm down (the tears didn’t necessarily let up), but at least I was able to say that I came all the way from Iowa to meet her.  She signed my copies of Outlander and Voyager, Erin ordered me to stop crying so she could get a good picture and then we were off (after Erin had a brief moment with Diana as well).

Diana trying to calm me down.

Diana trying to calm me down.

Sitting on the floor, outside the signing room with my signed copies of Outlander and Voyager I got myself in check, took a few deep breaths and felt a bit emotionally exhausted. Achieving a dream and knocking an item off my bucket list isn't an easy thing to do apparently. However, for me, in the end, it was worth every embarrassing, tear-filled moment.

Look closely. I'm still crying.

Look closely. I'm still crying.

Terri M. LeBlanc

Marion, IA, 52302

Terri M. LeBlanc is a master planner and a self professed book dragon. Working higher education and marketing for over 10 years, Terri successfully planned and launched hundreds of calling and email marketing campaigns to students around the world. On computers since 1983, Terri loves seeking out and learning new technology and sharing her knowledge with others.

In her spare time, Terri enjoys reading and reviewing books for her blog, Second Run Reviews and The Cedar Rapids Gazette. She volunteers for ICON, Iowa's longest running science fiction and fantasy convention and is one of the lead organizers for Imagine Other Worlds with Authors, a multi-genre author signing event. When not absorbed in the world of books, Terri can be found riding horse, shooting pictures and spending time watching movies with her husband while cuddling her two cats.