So I was tapped by the Executive Director to assist RMB at the conference. It was a task others might have found daunting, but I was thrilled. I knew I was up to the job…that I wouldn’t go all fangirl and embarrass myself or bore her to tears with the tedium of my life. I knew Liz had chosen well because…well…I’ve met many “stars” in my day. I helped James Earl Jones in the green room at the Book Expo while I sat with Amy Tan. I’ve chatted up Jamie Lee Curtis at Starbucks and talked democracy and books with Caroline Kennedy. Let’s not forget my next door neighbor is none other than Katherine V Forest, my old editor and now good friend. So yeah, fan girling isn’t really in my nature.

I’ll talk to anybody.

But not this time.

This time, I had the pleasure of listening to the stories of a woman whose mind at 73 is sharper than mine has EVER been. If we weren’t talking Greek philosophy or the issues inherent in a two party system, we were talking about fox hunting, pets, and the Civil War.

It was an amazing conference for me made that much better by the intellect and story telling of a woman who opened the door for me as a writer years ago. I could have sat and listened to her for hours (oh wait…I did!). She was like my own personal Plato or Seneca or Aristotle on the steps of the agora. She was funny and thoughtful, she asked pointed questions and cut away the fat from any conversation. You had to be your authentic self with RMB because she would never tolerate a phony or wannabe.

In short, she brings out the best of us if we are willing to be that vulnerable.

I was and the things I learned from her will stay with me forever.

The best part of the conference for me wasn’t the panels or the Master Classes. It wasn’t visiting the vendors area or seeing old friends.

It was making new ones.

Like Rita Mae Brown.

She is a mind expanding experience I will treasure like the finest of wines…because the truth is, hanging out with her all weekend has made me not only a better writer, but a better person.

And THAT, ladies and gents, is why she is so special.

Not because she is a NYT Best Selling author who can pick up the phone to chat with Gloria Steinem or Jane Fonda. No, her amazing talent lies in her ability to make you want to be better than you are.

And after a weekend with her, I am.

After hours of conversation I can honestly say, she touched me like no other writer or woman ever has, and I walked away from this conference with a new friend, new found inspiration, and a new lease on life.