I don't think I've ever written here about my brush with writing royalty.
I was fifteen years old, and a new bookstore was opening at my favorite mall. This was the day of B. Dalton, a place I would crouch behind a shelf and hide from the clerks as I read whole chapters or more of Sweet Valley High. You just didn't do that. Bookstores were places for buying books, certainly not for reading them. We won't even talk about coffee.
But this place was new, and so different. Not only did they encourage you to read the tomes they shelved, they offered chairs in which to do so! And no, it wasn't Barnes and Noble or Border's (see? the world keeps changing still), it was called Rizzoli Books, and it was to change how I thought about bookstores forever. Not to mention, make the habit of seek and hide and read a thing of the past.
A quick google search tells me Rizzoli has actually been around for some 40 years, but in the early 80's, it was big news arriving at South Coast Plaza in Southern California. Big enough that a number of famous authors were scheduled to attend the grand opening. I'm sure a list went out on the advertisements, but I can't recall who was present. Other than one author, that is, one who took the time--and plenty of it--to advise and listen to a high school sophomore as she asked for advice on a writing career.
He spent a good fifteen minutes with me, as others crowded around in a circle, listening, no doubt some harrumphing at the audacity of this brazen girl in Dolfin shorts who dared take up so much of the master's time. No one said anything though; how could they? I asked what I should do if I wanted to be a writer, and this week's tributes prove that the man spoke to me as he counseled others: don't bother with college, he said. Write every day, starting now, he said. Dream big, and don't let anyone stop you, he said.
It was good advice, probably, and I've seen it printed in the local paper and all over the internet all week. I've shared the story with people over the years, and now I know that what he told me, he meant. He spoke from his gut, from his heart, and with the best wishes for the little girl before him who hadn't yet read a word he wrote but had the confidence to blather tales of the stories she'd jotted down herself. And he took her seriously.
I didn't really take his advice. I did go to college, I still don't write every day (though I wish I did!), and those dreams? Well, it took me another 25 years and more to pull them from sleep to waking and I'm still working on it, but they are in the present rather than in the maybesphere. I did use one of his stories in a college prose interpretation, and to this day consider it as one of the best of my forensics efforts, even if I went overtime (dang his good writing! It needed that long pause!), keeping me from qualifying with it for Nationals.
Ray Bradbury died on June 5 at age 91. Thirty years ago I owned his attention for a quarter of an hour. I never forgot it. And I never will.