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If I Stay(ed)…

By Maytpapa
If I Stay(ed)…

I was going to be late for Jomike Tejido's talk.

What a dilemma! I was torn between staying at the conference hall where Gayle Forman's talk was scheduled because I really really wanted to hear her talk (but more than 30 minutes had already gone, and it still hadn't started) and running down the Expo Centre to the Literature Forum to watch Jomike Tejido's panel discussion. It was a no-brainer. I decided to support my friend and kabayan, of course. I collected my bags of books and got up, silently weeping inside.

As I half-ran and half-walked to the end of the corridor, I saw four figures silhouetted against the brightness of the Expo hallway walking fast toward me. I stepped out of the way to let them pass.

Oh no, it's Gayle. I recognized her from her author's photo in her books.

"May!" the lovely Qurrat, head coordinator for SCRF 2017, today garbed in a golden-hued hijab, stopped me. She clasped her hands over her chest as she smiled widely, eyes twinkling, "You will join us, right?" And before I could open my mouth, Qurrat had already turned to Gayle Forman, who'd likewise stopped walking. "Gayle, I'd like you to meet May. She is an author from the Phillippines. May, this is Miss Gayle Forman. She'd just arrived from the US."
Was dumbstruck. My heart stopped as Gayle held out her hand. "Pleased to meet you," Gayle smiled warmly.

"Likewise," I thought I said, but my mouth felt too dry. "Yes, of course, I am staying," I said. Was going to mumble that I was pleased to meet Gayle Forman too, but before I could say anything, their little party had already resumed walking fast toward the room that I had just left.

So I went back to the room, trailing them. Gayle was very generous with her writing tips and she shared the stories behind her novels and their characters.

What I learned from her talk:

When you write a novel, Gayle said, you're either a pantser or a plotter. If you are a pantser, you are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" kind of writer. You are the opposite if you are a plotter, because you want to plan everything carefully.

"If I Stay" was inspired by true events. She lost a friend in a tragic accident which killed her friend's whole family as well.

The characters in her novels are inspired by real people around her. Some of her characters, like Mia, also have aspects of herself in them.

When the talk was over, I asked her to sign my book. She not only signed it, but she asked me when I flew in, when my session was, if I had already done my round of school visits, etc. We chatted quite a bit. I really held up the line. But I took my time. I will only get to do this once, after all.

"Can I take a selfie with you?" I asked.
"Of course," she smiled warmly.
And I took our pic and I showed it to her.
"Oh, let's do another one. A crazy-faced one," she laughs.
"Oh we must hug!" she said. "See you around!"

April 23, 2017

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