Sarah had a great post a while ago about going bright red and stammering when she got to meet an author she admires. I had to leave a comment saying that I have experienced exactly the same awe and mention having a book signed by Richard Holmes and saying not a single word. The silly thing is that, for once, I actually had a good number of reasonably intelligent questions I could have asked him. I was in Edinburgh to do some research on travellers after Robert Louis Stevenson in the Cevennes amongst whom Richard Holmes stands out as most perceptive. But the front of a long queue in a tent at a book festival just didn't feel like the right place to start a conversation.
Actually I've just looked at the book he signed for me, Dr Johnson & Mr Savage, and it says "to Lesley", so I must have managed to stammer out my name at least.
And now that I think of it, my experiences of meeting authors have all been rather underwhelming. At the Salon du Livre in Bordeaux a few years ago, during a deserted lunchtime, I strolled past Alain Robbe-Grillet, gazing vacantly over a pile of books and obviously available for conversation. But I walked on by pushing Z. in his pushchair, because despite several years of study I couldn't think of a single intelligent phrase on the subject of the nouveau roman.
There have been others: Michelle Roberts, Janice Galloway, Kenneth White, Bernard MacLaverty. ... I cannot report on a single witty remark, or even a coherent comment, issued from my lips in their presence.
My mum, on the other hand, was recently in a restuarant and found herself at a table next to a double Pulitzer prize-winner. She tells me they had a very enjoyable conversation.