Authors are people too… Take Two
Yesterday’s post is not yet complete… So I’ll pick up where I left off.
Peter S. Beagle
If you haven’t already chunked me in the nerd bin, go ahead now. I’m an unabashed fan of sci-fi conventions. Admittedly, I’ve only been to two, and they were both DragonCon in Atlanta. All the same, I had an insane amount of fun. If/when I attend my next convention, I am so dressing steampunk.
But back to the story. Peter S. Beagle, renowned author of The Last Unicorn and The Line Between, was at DragonCon one year during my university sojourn. Having been a devoted lover of The Last Unicorn, both for the touching story and for the wisdom within, I scrounged up my old, battered, every-page-highlighted copy and trekked to Atlanta. When I finally found his booth amidst the many other autograph-signers, I joined the line and was soon introducing myself.
He was gracious and signed my book. He wondered if, when his new book came out, I would want a signed copy of that as well — no extra charge, of course? Oh, and what did I think of these illustrations?
He showed me a hand-made booklet that was filled with beautifully depicted scenes from the The Last Unicorn.
“Is this a picture book for your story?” I asked, flipping gently through each picture.
“No — though I wish it were.” He gestured to a small, timid girl seated nearby. “She drew these, and aren’t they stunning?”
I turned to the girl, and she acknowledged me with shy grin.
“His story inspired me,” she said, her voice barely audible over the din of the convention. “So I drew these for him.”
“And she’s giving them to me,” Mr. Beagle said, his face bright with pleasure. “She is giving her art to me.” He seemed amazed that someone would want to share their creation with him, though he’d been sharing his creations with the world for so long. And, to pay her back, he’d asked her to sit with him and his team the whole day as he signed autographs.
I was, needless to say, touched by his genuine love for this gift from a fan and by the particular attention he gave to her in return.
Oh, and a few months later, my autographed copy of the The Line Between came in the mail.
This story leaves me shaking my head in wonder every time. If you don’t know who Anne McCaffrey is, then I can safely assume you don’t read fantasy or science fiction. Otherwise, you would know this name and probably have read her books.
She is the queen of dragon fantasy, and most famous for her series, The Dragonriders of Pern. If you haven’t read Dragonflight or Dragonsong, do. Now. You will be sucked into the most amazing, most tangible fantasy world ever created.
And, if you have read Ms. McCaffrey’s works, then you can nod your head and say, “Right on.” when I say, “Don’t you wish you had a fire lizard!?!?”
Well, this author’s books were some of my first forays into adult fantasy. I was approximately 13, the internet was new to my household, and Amazon wasn’t yet the dominant life-form for bookstores. I had to rely on my pitiable public library and even more pitiable local bookstore. They had 5 Anne McCaffrey books total (which doesn’t even scrape the surface of this multi-generation, millennia-spanning series), so when I finished those 5 books, I hadn’t a clue what happened next in my new favorite world.
So what did my 13-year-old-self do? I set up an email account (um, and how lame is this? The email moniker was MageSusan. Clearly my mind dwelled in the clouds.), found a contact address for Anne McCaffrey, and boldly emailed her!!
The most famous female fantasy writer plus the first woman to win the Hugo award, and I just up and emailed her. And it was a bad email too. Check it out:
Dear Mrs. McCaffrey,
I really like your books. Menolly is my favorite character, but I like Lessa a lot too. I want to be a harper when I grow up. I cannot find the other books in the series where I live, and I want to know if Menolly and Sebell ever fall in love. Can you tell me? Thank you very much,
And the kind-hearted woman actually emailed me back.
Thank you for your letter. I urge you to find the other books in the series, for I do not want to spoil the story for you. But to answer your question, yes, Sebell and Menolly fall in love. Best wishes,
Unbelievable, isn’t it? She took the time to answer a bratty kid who was too lazy to leave town for a better-stocked bookstore. Merciful heavens, I am still grinning with wonderment and pleasure that The Mama of Dragons wrote me back…
The people behind the pages
And so, this concludes my story-telling. Yet before I go, I’d like to leave you with the ultimate moral of my tales:
Knowing that people enjoy your work warms any person’s heart, and since authors are people too, be sure to let them know when you like what they’ve done. It’s as easy as sending an email, filling out a comment-form, or writing a letter, and I promise the writer will appreciate.
May 28, 2010 @ 12:12 pm
Inspiring post, Susan. Not only is it a reminder to readers that authors are real people, but also to those of us who aspire to be in their shoes…to remember our readers with kind words. 🙂