There’s an old saying that we should never meet our heroes. As I don’t have heroes, I can’t speak to that. But having met one of my two favorite living authors last week, I can say that meeting someone I admire was pretty expletive awesome.

This saga begins a couple months ago when my bestie texted and asked if I had time for a chat. She had a proposition that would be best explained on the phone. Intrigued, I told her to call.

On the phone, she explained that author Ann Patchett – aka one of my two favorite living authors – would be interviewing Tom Hanks – yes, the Tom Hanks – in Nashville in May about Hanks’ novel. Said bestie had purchased two tickets, but her husband had a conflict and wouldn’t be able to accompany her to the event.

I exclaimed something like, “I’m in!”

The ticket was embarrassingly inexpensive, especially given the opportunity to listen to a conversation between Tom Hanks – yes, the Tom Hanks – and Ann, as my bestie and I refer to Patchett. I would have been stupid to pass up that opportunity. Besides, attendees would receive a copy of Hanks’ book.

So, on the day of the event, I drove three hours to my bestie’s house and hopped in her car, and then we drove another three hours to Nashville. We arrived at the venue an hour and a half before the start time. By the way, when our Uber driver learned why we were in Nashville, he asked, “You came down here for that?”

Yes, my dude, we did.

Anyway, the event was wonderful. Ann, an excellent interviewer, sat back and allowed Hanks to talk. And talk he did. He was charming and hilarious as he discussed his book, The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece, and shared anecdotes from his career. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so much in a 90-minute timespan. I believe Hanks would have continued talking all night if Ann hadn’t reminded him of the time.

By the way, when he said, “A movie is made for an audience of one,” I felt like he was speaking to an audience of one.

The next morning, I rolled out of bed at the hotel, took a shower, dressed, looked at myself in the mirror, said, “Good enough,” and hit the road. After all, we were just going to Ann’s bookstore, Parnassus Books, and then heading home. Who was I going to see?

Ann expletive Patchett! That’s who we saw!

Let me back up. Even before we met Ann, I had enjoyed my visit to Parnassus Books. As my bestie and I perused books, a lady from Ohio, who had also come to Nashville for the event, overheard me talking about Richard Russo, my other favorite living author, and approached me. She said she doesn’t run into many Russo enthusiasts. Neither do I, so I’m glad I got to talk to another one.

Back to meeting Ann…as the employee at Parnassus Books helped with my order, my bestie ran up to me. With wild eyes, she cried, “Ann is here!”  

She told me she was going to try to arrange a meeting. A few minutes later, I heard my bestie laughing. I said to myself, “Self, she did it.”

I nearly ran to the back of the store where I found my bestie chatting with Ann.

Yes, the Ann Patchett.

Here’s what our friends at Wikipedia say about Ann, “She received the 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction in the same year, for her novel Bel Canto. Patchett’s other novels include The Patron Saint of Liars (1992), Taft (1994), The Magician’s Assistant (1997), Run (2007), State of Wonder (2011), Commonwealth (2016), and The Dutch House (2019). The Dutch House was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.”

I’ve read all those books, except for Taft, which as it turns out, I had already planned to start next week. Ann seemed surprised that my bestie and I heaped praise on earlier works like The Magician’s Assistant. She might also have been a bit overwhelmed by us. I think at some point, I called her, “Sis.” I also told her I started Commonwealth in my gynecologist’s office. She simply replied, “As one does.”

Ann was delightful and gracious, agreeing to pose for photos with us. When she heard I was a Russo fan, she told me he would be at Parnassus Books in July. She also hugged my bestie.

My bestie earned that hug. If not for her, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to spend an evening laughing with Tom Hanks or a morning meeting Ann Patchett.

Yes, the Ann Patchett.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.