Last week, I attended the first lecture of my “Writing the Young Adult Novel” class at UC Berkeley Extension. Although this first class was mainly introductions and syllabus review, one of the teacher’s comments really stuck in my mind – “I always contact the authors of books that I enjoy.” It’s such a simple idea, but why the heck haven’t I thought of it before? Or maybe it’s that I’ve never taken the idea seriously. But why not?! Which author would not like to hear about how much you’ve thought of their work long after you’ve put the pages down? Which author wouldn’t enjoy the satisfaction that someone has actually read their work and treasures some rare part of it? Not only does this increase the positive mojo in the writer world, but it also provides an opportunity for you to create connections.
About three years ago, my essay titled “Becoming a Burner” won the SBCC Student Symposium, sponsored by The Big Read program, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts. The contest was centered on the theme of Fahrenheit 451 and how it reflects our world today. The judge of the contest decided to give the essay to Mr. Ray Bradbury himself at a public reading that he had at the Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara, CA. At the time of his reading, I was out of town and sadly unable to attend. What I should have done was try to contact Mr. Bradbury. It might not have been an easy task, but at least I would have had tried. Instead, I’d sat back, hoping he would contact me like some fifteen year old girl after a second date. What had stopped me from contacting him? Fear. I thought of myself as this young insignificant writer with no fiction publications and a meager interpretation of a masterpiece. I was in my first creative writing class at Santa Barbara City College, and this man had written pages and pages of poetic worlds that literally touched the world. Why would Ray Bradbury want to talk to me?
Now, with the recent news of Ray Bradbury’s death, there are no second chances. Thinking of my teacher’s advice, I realize that I’d forgotten the simple humanity that all writers carry throughout their writing career. Even if I will receive no replies, I will try to reach out to the authors that keep me reading. We are a community of writers and readers that go beyond the glossy dust jacket.