Confessions: When I hid from Ursula

Sometimes, I’m an idiot and I regret things…

One of my more acute (but only terrible to myself) regrets, is of the time I ran and hid from Ursula K. Leguin. Don’t know her? Go read everything she has written. She is amazing.


I was working as a facilities maintenance worker (read: JANITOR) at the downtown Seattle Public Library on a night shift. Although the job was hard physically, and made me constantly tired it also had some pretty amazing perks – books. Everywhere. And lots of them. One of the areas I kept clean was the science fiction department and YA section. I would devour books on my breaks, sometimes barely remembering to eat just so I could finish a book and pick up another one. It was during this time that I discovered one of my other favorite short fiction writers Ted Chiang along with the exceptional Ursula K. Leguin.
On one particularly special Friday evening at the library, Ursula K. Leguin had been a guest speaker and had just finished her talk with a full audience who had given her a hearty and rousing applause. It was a little after this that I heard people walking towards the back-of-house portion of the auditorium where there was a little dressing room for library guest speakers. She was coming back there, probably to grab her things. I was back there too, rinsing out a nasty mop-bucket after a clean-up from a notoriously disgusting first floor public men’s room. (You don’t even want to know what I cleaned on a regular basis *shudders*)

When I heard she was coming I took off in the opposite direction.

I told myself there was a carpet that needed to be vacuumed in the children’s office right away because they had had cupcakes with the sprinkles on them and you know how those get all over the floor. Not to mention they had black carpeting which made everything show and it couldn’t possibly wait.
Of course I was lying to myself.
I was terrified.
Terrified that I would see Ursula K. Leguin and she would see me: the sweaty, tired-of-working nights, dreaming-of-being-a-writer-but-never-brave-enough to-try-Janitor.
So, I hid and didn’t stop vacuuming until I was sure she was gone. Then I went back to rinsing the mop bucket and cleaning the rest of the bathrooms, trying my best to pretend I wasn’t angry or sad that I just missed my once in a lifetime opportunity to meet her.

In the years since, that regret has never ceased to prick at me. And as I pursue my dream of being a writer it makes me even more sad that I did this.
The regret isn’t so much that I passed up an opportunity to shake her hand or maybe take a photo with my favorite author, the remorse is that I didn’t want to meet her because I was afraid, and ashamed of who I was. How prideful is that? It’s just so…lame.

And as a story teller, I throw books across the room that end this way-yet there it is, a crappy anti-climatic ending.

Just promise me this: if you ever get a chance to meet your Ursula, don’t run away out of fear. Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are. Be sweaty, be tired, pull off your rubber gloves, proudly offer Ursula your hand and live without regrets.




Filed under Uncategorized, writing

4 responses to “Confessions: When I hid from Ursula

  1. That’s the thing…there’s this whole other person hiding inside the people we see every day. Everyone has a label they wish they could shed. You were never defined by your job scrubbing toilets, but for a time, you let it define you. Thank you for being brave enough to confess.

    • Great thoughts! I think you hit on a very crucial point, Chrisy, and that’s the danger of defining ourselves by what job we do – or don’t do, or how many things we have or how we look. There are too many people for us to love and too many tears to wipe away and hugs to give. And these are the things that I think more clearly define who we are.

  2. J.S. Bangs

    I got to meet LeGuin at a con a few years ago. I did not run away from her (thank goodness), but I did sort of babble at her in a fannish hero-worship sort of way. That was nearly as embarrassing, but ultimately I’m glad I did it. Getting to tell her that she’s the reason I became a writer was important, even if we both felt a little uncomfortable during the conversation.

    (I was uncomfortable because I’m a huge dork, BTW. LeGuin was lovely and gracious, just like you’d expect her to be.)

    • J.S. Bangs,
      Thanks for sharing your story. And kudos to you for not passing up the opportunity to be a ‘huge dork’ in front of your favorite author! I will always wish I had.


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