I was lucky enough to meet Cheryl Della Pietra, the author of Gonzo Girl on October 27th. I read her book for my literary journalism class and, honestly, I loved it. The novel is based on Pietra’s time as Hunter S. Thompson’s assistant. Hunter S. Thompson was an American writer who wrote about politics, his own life, and oh, you know, just the mass amounts of drugs he took and alcohol he drank.
Pietra read from her novel and answered questions from the audience. People asked her about her time with Thompson, what inspired her to write the book, how long it took to write and much more. She even told us about how Thompson left his iconic bucket hat in the limo she was in and she took it. To this day she still it. When the Q&A was over, there was a brief book signing. Because I brought my own copy, I had her sign it. I thanked her for coming to Saint Joe’s and for signing my book, then I walked away. I felt a little star struck. I never had an author sign a book for me before. Unfortunately, my favorite authors are dead: Ray Bradbury, Harper Lee, Charles Bukowski and Ned Vizzini.
For some reason though, I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like, ‘here’s this amazing author only a couple feet away from me and all I’m going to say is thanks for stopping by?’ I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. At the same time, I had no idea what I would say to her. What hadn’t she heard already?
I went back to the table and said “Hi, I was just here like 5 minutes ago, but I just thought of a question and I was wondering if you could answer it?” She agreed. I asked her if she remembered where she was when Hunter Thompson died. Thompson committed suicide in 2005 and often people remember where they were and what they were doing when someone who was important to them died, such as Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy or Princess Diana. She thought about it and said that she was working in a spa at the time when her husband called her to tell her the bad news. I said I was so sorry that she found out that way. I also told her in a way I knew how she felt. Ned Vizzini, who wrote It’s Kind of a Funny Story, committed suicide in 2013 and it took a toll on me. Vizzini encouraged his readers to always find a better solution to their life problems; quite simply he wanted his readers to live.
She asked if I ever reread his work and I told her that I do. I read the last page of It’s Kind of a Funny Story when I feel upset. We discussed this for a little while and I noticed that her books were being packed up. I thanked her again and told her to have a good night.
I gained two things from this experience: 1) I have a signed book! As an English major, this is basically a dream come true. 2) I learned that there are sometimes second chances and you should take them as soon as you can. If I wouldn’t have gone back and talked to Cheryl Della Pietra, I probably would have regretted it. However, now I have this awesome story about how I talked to an author about dead people! It was definitely a weird question. Maybe I should have asked her something more normal, but I didn’t. If it really made her uncomfortable she didn’t have to answer my question and I wouldn’t have been offended at all. However, she didn’t mind. So, take the risk! I don’t have a statistical answer to the incredibly irritating question ‘how often do you get a second chance?’ but I can tell you that second chances sometimes do happen. Don’t let them get away.