(Me with two of my authors in Florida, Kat and Ryan. I'm the short one.)
I've been putting names to faces for over a month now. It may not be the first time, but it is absolutely amazing. There are no words to adequately describe what it is like to work with someone online for years and years, to be so attuned to each other in a team without meeting...and THEN, to meet.
It is one thing to fill our chatter with work talk and know each other on that basis. Even reading each other's books is a doorway into the soul, but it is still at a certain distance between author and reader, or author and publisher. It is another thing entirely to walk beside someone, to observe their quirks, snuggle their pets, learn how they drive, eat, socialise. In many ways it is the fulfilment of what went before; it rounds out that partial picture we have seen through our screens, darkly.
Getting closer to the issues we knew about but had not seen in the flesh. Tickling their kids, chatting with spouses, discovering what their taste in music is like to live inside, how fast they type, how their homes are laid out and decorated, how they relate to those around them. Note to self: Do NOT mimic mannerisms, even out of curiosity. It can be quite disconcerting! I guess I'm fascinated by how a real person differs from their online persona, just from the limitations of the Internet experience.
I'm not dissing the Internet at all. Most of the time, it's all I have. But I am definitely loving the strangeness of moving from that to reality, of letting the environment sink in and getting used to being in the actual presence of people I have known from afar. I'm not surprised that conferences are so overwhelming for many, as this transition effect is multiplied.
Of course the goodbyes are all the harder when we don't know how or when or even where we will meet next. Yes... thank goodness for the Internet!
For more thoughts in this direction, please see the companion blog post, Circle of Life, at Speculative Faith.