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Gayle Forman is the author of several hugely successful young adult novels, including If I Stay, which was also made into a film. But for me, she’ll always be the person who convinced me to let my grey hair show.

Here I am with Gayle Forman and Algonquin publisher Elisabeth Scharlatt

I met Gayle at the booth of the publisher of her latest book, an adult novel, at the annual publishing convention, Book Expo. I was chatting with a longtime publishing buddy of mine, Ina Stern, the associate publisher at Algonquin, and Elisabeth Scharlatt, their talented publisher. Ina commented on my red hair and said I reminded her of Gayle and then, fortuitously, Gayle showed up and Ina introduced us. Gayle then proceeded to tell me all about her hairdresser’s strategy of keeping her grey streaks amidst her vivid red hair.

Hair color tips from authors? Well, why not?

Authors are people too, as they say. For those of us who are passionate about books, they are our celebrities, but they do the ordinary things of life, and like to talk about them.

Meeting authors has become somewhat de rigueur for me after over 30 years working in book publishing. I’m fairly comfortable having a calm, workaday conversation with an author, although I do get tongue-tied sometimes. There was the time I was at Book Expo in Los Angeles, and I had left my ten-month-old baby for the first time and was missing him terribly. Walking around the hall, I zoomed in on an adorable baby strapped face forward into a Baby Bjorn on its father’s chest. I went right up to that baby and did some cooing and goo-goo-ga-ga-ing with it. Then I realized I probably ought to make contact with the person to whom this baby was attached, so I looked up at the parent’s face, only to immediately realize who it was. “You, you’re Michael Chabon,” I stuttered, hoping I had pronounced his name correctly. “I am,” he replied. “Cute baby,” I said. “Love your books.” Convinced I’d made a fool of myself, I immediately walked away.

Since I spend a lot of time creating and running author events, I’m often the person who has to make sure the author gets to the event, hence I’ve had some really lovely long car rides and intimate conversations with the likes of Nicole Krauss, Jami Attenberg, and Jennifer Haigh. And there was the day and a half last fall I spent ferrying Colson Whitehead, author of the Pulitzer-prize-winning book The Underground Railroad, around Philadelphia for various media appearances. We talked casually as we went from WHYY to ABC to the Free Library of Philadelphia. He had a cold and was feeling run down (and this was pre-Pulitzer), so he was, understandably, not very chatty. But he did give me some good advice about what to get my husband for his birthday! (A plaid shirt was his recommendation. Check out pics of Colson; you’ll see that he favors plaid.)

All in all, it’s quite the fun life talking with this variety of smart, interesting people who are engaged in the world and who create that thing without which we could not survive: literature. Plus now I have a really cool streak of grey in my hair (totally natural, mind you!).


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