Laurie Notaro at the Columbus Performing Arts Center

“We’re all friends here,” famed author Laurie Notaro said last night to a giddy crowd of multi-aged women. And I believed her. After reading every one of her books, I do feel like she’s my pal. Laurie made her first trip to Columbus as part of the Thurber House Evenings With Authors series. She read excerpts from her new book Spooky Little Girl, which was released nationwide on Tuesday, as well as portions of her forthcoming essay collection.

Laurie’s warmth and easy smile immediately reminded me of Annabeth Gish. She was gracious and lightning-witted. Instead of talking to us, she was confiding in us. We were all in her attic with a towel shoved under the door clutching a pack of contraband cigarettes. There was only one other time in my life that I got to see a favorite author, so this was big. The flutterings in my stomach trumped those of winning a bagged goldfish at the state fair. “I’m freaking out right now,” I kept whispering to my boyfriend.

You know how they say guests on The Daily Show shouldn’t try to be funny, because their “jokes” will tank that much more epically against Jon Stewart’s? Laurie could pull it off. She recounted Ambien hazes and familial absurdities. She lamented underappreciated Halloween costumes, such as Anna Nicole Smith in clown makeup, Ann Coulter eating a baby sandwich and characters from What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? My boyfriend, who has never read any of Laurie’s books, was the evening’s loudest cackler.

In person, you see Laurie’s strength. She nurtures her fans and respects her role of sidesplitting neo-feminist. During the question and answer session, she awarded askers with homemade tin bookmarks from a baggie in her purse. Each woman prefaced her question with heartfelt remarks about how Laurie’s books have inspired them. I didn’t ask a question or stand in line to have my copy of Spooky Little Girl autographed. That would have resulted in blushing, sweating, stammering and (very) possibly fainting. Instead, I took with me Laurie’s mantra about writing. She said that she writes quickly and doesn’t look back, so as not to kill her natural magic with scrupulous rehashing. Which was some sage advice from a true friend.