This past Friday was the annual fundraiser for a local radio station, or I should say, “the only station that matters,” WBER. I love this radio station, and have a long history with it. My cousin’s husband is the station manager, and they met through my sister who used to guest DJ there. I did a couple shows with my sister back in the mid-1990’s. I remember when my cousin and her husband first started dating and he would play Weezer as a love note to her whenever he was on the air and we listened to it, sitting in her crappy red Ford Escort in the parking lot in college (oh nostalgia!). So, yeah, I love this station, and when they have their annual fundraiser (they’re not a commercial station), I try to drop by, make a donation, and cheer on the DJs who stay on the air until they reach their goal. This year, my husband and I went to dinner with some friends, and dropped by the station afterwards. My sister met us at the door and told us that they had already reached their goal for this year (yay!), but we could still donate, and the DJs were staying on the air for another hour.
As she’s bringing me up to speed on the fundraising situation at the speed of light, she points to a random guy and says, “this is my friend Jay, Jay meet my sister Lydia and her husband Mike.” She also introduced us to a number of other DJs there, and we were promptly swept away by the sea of humanity to the back of the station to make a donation. As we worked our way back towards the DJ booth about 20 minutes later after having laid down our donation to help the cause, hugged many a body and shook many a hand, I happened across the nondescript “Jay” again, and still flanked by my sister, she quickly caught us up into a conversation with those magic words, “Jay in an author.”
Jay held the wall up with his shoulder and nodded quietly in assent to my sister’s accusation. I was like, “that’s great! What did you write?” He said “I wrote about robots and dinosaurs.” I thought that was pretty nifty and I asked him a bit more. He explained that his book started as a serial on Amazon and was later released in novel form. “Cool, cool,” I said. Mentally logging away the information in case I could follow in the footsteps of the published author standing before me. He mentioned something about showing up at his agent’s door with a six-pack and I started firing away.
Me: “Is your agent local?” thinking he was literally thinking of heading over to his agent’s house (clueless me)
Him: “No, he works down in Manhattan.”
Me: “Wow! And you said his name was what?”
Him: “David Dunton.”
Me: Blank stare
Him: “He’s at Harvey Klinger.”
Me: Lightbulb! Quickly scrabbling to collect my wits and pick this guy’s brain.
“I’ve heard of them. How did you get your agent?”
Him: “I wrote a piece for NPR and it aired during Memorial Day years ago. Of course no one listens to NPR on Memorial Day, but he was literally one of three people who heard the piece, and he contacted me.”
My sister, who had stood quietly during this interchange piped up around this point and said, “Yeah Lyd. This is Jason Sheehan.”
And the pieces fell into place. I had heard of Jason Sheehan. He went to high school with my brother-in-law and was a professional writer. He wrote a food column for Philadelphia Magazine and also had published a book about his experience in the food service industry called, Cooking Dirty. Naturally my sister had told me all this about the food guy, so I hadn’t connected the dots that the guy standing in front of me, who told me about his science fiction book, was the same guy (which science fiction book my sister had never mentioned I might add in defense of my boneheadedness).
Somehow my sister kindly worked in that I was an aspiring writer, and I began pelting the poor guy with questions about agents and advances, and independent publishers, and e-publishing versus traditional publishing, and on and on. Jay kindly answered all of them. Then he asked me a bit about my book and I gave him the “elevator pitch” to use his wording.
Somewhere in this conversation he ran for the door. My sister yelled after him about him running out for a smoke, but followed him anyway to let him back in through the locked station door. When he came back, he carried a book with him which he handed to me. I looked at it, a large and imposing tome, and blurted out, like the idiot I am, “Is this for me?” He said yes, and I quickly followed my idiot question with another, “will you sign it?” As I fumbled through my bag for a pen, Jason pulled back the corner on his brown leather bomber jacket to reveal a line of pens and sharpies hanging from his pocket. “You’re prepared,” I remarked. “Can you tell I’m a journalist?” he responded – which explained it because I was wondering if he just carried around a bunch of sharpies in case fans attacked him.
Somewhat unrelated story – I once spent a weekend in the company of a professional athlete who shall remain nameless. Said nameless athlete also carried around sharpies because he was constantly beset by people who wanted him to sign random things; t-shirts, hats, toys, random pieces of junk, body parts, etc. He was the only other person I had ever met who carried around sharpies.
Long story long, I had a super informative surprise meeting with Mr. Sheehan for which I am very grateful. Thanks Jay! I’m now happily reading my copy of Tales of the Radiation Age, inscribed to me personally. I admit to authoring said inscription. Jason graciously added the word “yet” and his John Hancock.