February 26th, 2008

book and glasses

Paying it forward

When I was fifteen, they brought a Real Live Author into my school - this was back at the castle in Wales (yes, I went to school in a castle in Wales, it's called Bodelwyddan Castle for those who are interested and no it hasn't been a school for a while now, I just got lucky) and the library was a glorious old dark-wood-panelled room, great arched multi-paned windows with slightly imperfect glass looking out over the gravel path and the great trees outside which were slipping into an early autumnal twilight gloom when the author in question arrived. She stood there in front of us and told it like it is - warts and all - the waiting, the frustration, the blood and sweat and tears, the way an idea struggles mightily in the hands of first the author and then multiple publishing professionals before it sees the light of day - and through it all the light of angels was in her face and it was obvious how much she loved it all anyway, and how lost she would be if she didn't have it.

I think that was one of the seminal moments of my life. Watching a writer talk about a writing life, and thinking, "Yes. That. I want THAT." And then, almost as an afterthought, "Perhaps some day I can make someone ELSE feel this way."

Fast forward almost thirty years.

The library is very different - part of what is almost a brand new out-of-the-box school, a bank of computers on one side, its furnishings modern and economical, its windows looking out on a concrete courtyard. There are kids in the library, on rows of chairs, spilling onto the floor when the chairs ran out, sitting bright-eyed and alert, an author speaking about writing sitting in front of them.

Except this time... the author is me.

I visited a middle school while at Radcon earlier this month, my first real school author visit, and spoke to some 90 6th graders and then after that another 45 or so 7th graders about writing in general and my own books. At one point a polite and precocious 13-year-old sitting on the floor raised his hand, and when I told him to ask his question, he said gravely,

"I don't have a question, I have a comment."

I said, "Okay...?"

"When other authors come here they can't stop talking about their own books," he continued. "You don't do that. I really appreciate it."

Afterwards, when I was done, he got up and came over and stuck out his hand to be shaken and said,

"It was a pleasure to meet you."

I don't know what his parents are doing but they ought to be giving parenting classes.

Today I received a latter of reference from the librarian who arranged the event - and she has included a page of 6th-grader testimonials with it.

One of them thought my accent was "awesome", bless his (or her) cotton socks.

But here's the three that took me back to that fifteen-year-old girl in the gathering twilight listening to her life unfolding before her with a whisper of promise and pain:

“When she talked about the writing process it really helped me.”

“I am not a fantasy type person until [she] came to EMS and told me all the details that make a story marvelous.”

“She really inspired me to start writing my own action/adventure books.”

One day, once upon a time, I dreamed that one day I would live the life of words, and that I might pass on the love of it to others.

And now I have.

I could have used something good to cling to right about now - and the Gods heard me cry out for it. The Gods are kind.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Oh, my. This is kind of... special.

There's a video up at YouTube. It's nothing special as and of itself, just a slide show of family images set to a nice Spanish piece of popular music - pictures of a life - something that a friend might share with a friend in this electronic age in lieu of a postcard or a letter.

But beside it is this comment:

Para mi queridisima Jin-Shei Ana María una amiga del alma que aunque
vive lejos,en Uruguay,la siento cada día más cerca.

I ran that through Babelfish, just to make sure I was getting the sense of it - the translator mangled it in predictable ways, but the gist of it translates as

For my queridisima Jin-Shei Ana Maria a friend of the soul that
although lives far, in Uruguay, I feel every day close more.

There's a real pair of Jin Shei sisters in this world.

One of them lives in Uruguay, for heaven's sakes.

I think I may cry.

(Oh, the video is here, if you really want to go look)