Hey there, Little Shelly. It’s me, Big Shelly. I know you’ve got some really important Tiger Beat reading to do but I really need to talk to you. Would you mind putting that down and listen to me?
I know it’s hard to imagine when you’re only 12 years old that someday you’ll be me—in your…umm…30’s. Scary, right? What do you mean “ew?” Look, kid, I’ve taken great pains to undo the sun damage you’re about to do in your teens. And FYI—you’re gonna look like bacon on that trip you take to Key West ’93. And no, you little twit, I’m not on disability. I can still get around just fine. And nope, no starter marriages under my belt and thankfully no 12 year olds of my own. Seeing that I’m just chock full of disappointment here’s another one: we’re not acting on any soap operas either. Never. Have. Deal with it.
Hey! I’m still talking to you. Wow. I couldn’t possibly have been this annoying at age 12, could I? I assure you, Tiger Beat will not disintegrate in your hot little hands if it goes unread for 11 seconds. You’re going to appreciate this glimpse into your future, I promise. Here’s some good news: You will write a book. Go you! And it’s a real book that gets published! Here’s the kicker—it’s about Dungeons & Dragons. Yep, you really play D&D. Oh get over it! Are you crying? Stop crying, Little Shelly. You have no idea how many bad haircuts, road kill, unrequited crushes you’ll witness over the next couple of decades. All that is much worse.
D&D is fun. You love playing. Some of your best friends are rangers and wizards. Still not impressed? Well, you will be. Know that boy you’re reading about right now? The actor whose picture is scotch taped to your Pepto pink walls? (Mom’s going to kill you if that tape ends up peeling the paint off, by the way.) The boy who’s picture is tucked into your Social Studies textbook and scrawled in ballpoint pen all over your Trapper Keeper? Yeah. Him. Wil Wheaton. (sigh…) Take a moment…breathe…
I see now I have your attention. What? No, sorry Little Shelly. You’re not married to him but that’s okay too. Impossible as it may seem, your little crush goes by the wayside some time in the next few years. You and your BFFs Cindy, Milena, and Theresa watched Stand By Me this summer and promptly fell in love. They’re all swooning over River Phoenix, which is fine because you don’t like competition. Gordie Lachance is much more your type. He’s a writer! In real life Wil grows up to be a geek—a handle he readily embraces. He writes books and essays (yep, he’s a writer in real life) about his life as a geek. And he plays D&D! See? It’s not so uncool now, is it?
In about 10 years or so you’ll figure out what Book Expo America is (BEA) and you’ll really want to go. It’s a huge book convention where publishers, booksellers, writers, agents and literary types from all over converge. It’s great fun. How do I know? Because you get to go. Twice, thanks to you job. The first time you go is in 2007 (and no, not by space ship. You travel by airplane just like you do now) and check this out—you sign copies of that D&D book you just wrote! It’s really cool. The following year dare I say it gets even cooler?
While you’re not signing copies of your book, the show is still fun. And weird. I won’t get into the strangeness surrounding the show like how your shower curtain goes missing from your hotel room or the weird gardening blogger from Texas who carries sprigs of rosemary in his pocket and calls your friend Nina “Monster Lady” and you “Sorcerer” and keeps trying to take pictures of the two of you. Let’s not go there. What happens is sure to be one of the most memorable moments of your life.
You and Nina leave the Wizards booth to walk around the show. You head down random aisles checking out what other publishers have to offer. Some publishers are offering wine (you like wine!) which you take and you’ll be glad you did when I tell you what happens next. You’re in Tokyo Pop’s booth when Nina says three words that you probably utter 45 times a day in your teens:
That’s Wil Wheaton.
Sure enough, Little Shelly, Wil Wheaton is sitting 6 feet away from you signing books. You see him, but only for a second because things start going from black to white to black to bubble gum pink. You feel like you’re trying to surf on a mechanical bull and reach out to hold on to something but end up spilling your wine on the sleeve of a passing bookseller. Good thing it’s white wine. I know this will be hard to believe but you don’t still have pictures of Wil Wheaton taped to your cubicle or your bedroom walls. You don’t still write his name on your notebooks. But seeing him again brings you straight back to your family room, and that giant TV with the noisy dial, back to the days when HBO was called Home Box Office and actually required a box to operate. Back to watching a beaten down Beta Max recording of Stand By Me on Saturday afternoons with Cindy, Milena and Theresa and then hunkering down in your pink palace of a bedroom to flip through Tiger Beat and Bop with your scissors and scotch tape. Here at BEA, you start giggling like a maniac and tugging on Nina’s wrist and babbling incoherently. (She claims anyway. You really don’t remember these next 6 minutes all that well.) She starts towards him but you hold her back, insisting you can’t possibly talk to him! Please don’t, Nina! But it’s too late. She’s standing before him talking about Wizards of the Coast (that’s where you work.) Somehow you inch your way forward and Nina introduces you, saying you work for Wizards too. He must ask what you do because you kind of remember mumbling something about marketing children’s books. Then Nina says something incredible.
“Shelly also wrote a book about D&D.”
“Really?” he says. “That’s cool.”
OMG! Wil Wheaton thinks I’m cool! Okay, something I did was cool! We’re so going to the prom.
Nina continues, “D&D for girls—“
She’s about to continue but it’s no use because Wil Wheaton is on his feet, waving his Sharpie smeared hands and pacing behind the card table.
“That’s your book?” he asks. “I love that book!”
No freakin’ way! You tell him he clearly doesn’t know what book you’ve written. He must think you’ve penned The Dungeon Master’s Guide or The Orc King or something.
“Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress?” you ask. Better to know now. (Good advice, Little Shelly. Try not to get your hopes up.)
“Yes!” he says, and he’s still waving his hands excitedly. He then reaches into his backpack and pulls out a copy of his latest book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives. He asks if you’ll read it. Even goes on to say others have told him your respective books “compliment each other.”
You take the book and try not to drop it but your hands are really shaking. You mumble something about visiting the Wizards booth so he can preview the 4th Edition handbooks. He gets really excited about this and starts in on his thoughts regarding Dragonborns (doesn’t like them) and DM’ing (no dragonborns in his campaigns.)
“I play a tiefling,” you whisper.
“I PLAY A TIEFLING!” he tells you.
I mean…what are the chances?
A little later Wil comes to the Wizards booth where you will geek out a bit more. Someone even takes a cute picture you don’t remember having taken but you did smile. Duh. How could you not be smiling? You’ve got your picture taken with Wil Wheaton! And he’s even leaning in a little towards you and looking at the camera, which proves he wasn’t cutting through the Wizards booth on his way to the food court and someone happened to catch his photo with your head in it. It was meant to be. The photo, that is.
All of your co-workers get a little fanboy/girl on Wil, which makes you feel better but makes him a little uncomfortable. In between perusing pages of the new 4E handbooks, you learn Wil has dogs (You love dogs!) And he too is a vegetarian. Cute, huh? You talk about favorite vegetarian restaurants in Seattle—oh yeah, you live in Seattle now. What the hell? That blank look you’re giving me is the same one your friends and family gave you when you announced your plans to move after graduating from college.
You and your Wizards co-workers load Wil up on give-aways, including a copy of your book. And get this! He asks you to sign it! Are you listening, Little Shelly? Your future has you signing a copy of YOUR book to Wil freakin’ Wheaton. He signs the book he gave you too. He even spelled your name right. Wil with one L is considerate to Shelly without the extra E. What a guy.
He’s excited about the D&D 4E products he scored. So excited that—OMG—I can barely get the words out—he hugs you. Yes. You. Hugged. Your head exploded. But quietly. On the inside. No one but Nina noticed.
As you can see, Little Shelly, you have quite a bit to look forward to. And I’m not even telling you everything like those 6 months you spend in London or all the good friends you get to meet or the U2 concert you go to at the Carrier Dome in about 3 years, and your recent trip to Australia. And OMG—Charlie! Your first dog. Not that Woofie isn’t great but Charlie was real. You will love her very much.
Did you ever think an old woman like myself could still be having so much fun? Don’t get smart with me, young lady! I’ll pry that Tiger Beat right out of your hands and shove it so far up your nose you’ll be dreaming in coated wood free paper and InDesign.
It’s been nice visiting with you, Little Shelly. I’ll let you get back to your reading now. I wish I could have taken you with me this past weekend. Then again, judging by the way I blabbered and blushed and still can’t wipe the smile off my face, some might say I did.