BELL: This didn't happen at a reading, but directly after one: A couple years ago, I went and saw Benjamin Percy read here in Ann Arbor, right after Refresh, Refresh came out. Afterward, about fifteen people went out to the bar together, including some local writers and publishers I knew already--Aaron Burch, Elizabeth Ellen, Dan Wickett, and probably some others--and of course some I didn't. I got to the bar late, and so missed introductions. I also missed getting a seat directly at the table, and ended up in a sort of "second row" between Elizabeth Ellen and this other writer who I didn't know. Elizabeth was talking to someone else, so I talked to this new writer most of the night. She asked me if I was a writer, and I replied that I was (it was at least technically true then), and she said that she was too. I asked her what she was working on, and she said, "I'm trying to write a novel."
Now, when someone says they're trying to write a novel, that makes me think that they have never written a novel before. That they, are in fact, some kind of beginner, like myself. So this writer and I proceeded to talk our way through a few drinks, while I--emboldened by said drinks, and assuming we were on equal footing as writers--maybe did too much of the talking, and offered too many of my own half-assed theories on the act of novel-writing, despite the fact that I had only written the first 100 pages or so of a very bad one at that time.
The next day, Elizabeth Ellen e-mailed to say how cool it was that we got to hang out with a bunch of famous writers. I didn't catch anyone's names the night before, so I had to ask her who she meant. And that's how I found out that the woman who was "trying to write a novel"--the one who I had offered so much badly informed and unsolicited advice--was in fact Elizabeth Kostova, who was trying to writer her SECOND novel, the followup to her hugely successful, gigantic-advance-earning first novel, The Historian.
I'm still feeling a little ashamed about the whole incident, even though Kostova probably doesn't even remember me or my bad advice. Some day, I'll have to check out her second book, The Swan Thieves, and see how badly I managed to throw her off. Hopefully it wasn't too bad!