Wednesday, July 30

Now & Then

A year ago this past weekend, I accidentally met the man who wrote my favorite book. 

* This is an ENORMOUS deal for contemporary writers, as such people are usually long dead by the time we’re born.

It was a weird day . . . or rather another weird day in what had been a weird, gut wrenching six months, really.

There’d been a break-up complicated by a health scare, a break-up the other party and I further complicated by making every rookie mistake two freshly broken-up people can make when they’re so intensely and suddenly lonely.

Meanwhile, in the background, there had been a slew of what I could only assume were signs from the Universe telling me that I shouldn’t be writing, that I should cut my losses, lick my wounds and pick a new dream, a safer dream (although it strikes me as something of an oxymoron when put that way).

Come late July I still had some deep wallowing to do, but I’d been offered work as an event aid at Comic Con for the second year in a row, and as any self-respecting fan/nerd/otaku or local San Diegan will tell you:

When Comic Con calls, YOU GO.

And once I was there, oh, was I in my element.

I had a bigger, more experienced team than the year before and our hall quickly became the well-oiled machine you can only pray for with such a packed venue, leaving me plenty of time to walk the floor during panels and visit with various friends also working or in attendance.

Towards the end of that first day, though, I was really just wandering . . . wandering the way you do when you’re filling time, lest that time otherwise be used to mull things over, things you would have done differently, things you probably should have seen coming, etc.

Then, when I was finally running out of aisles to wander, I saw a unicorn.

A poster of a unicorn, actually, and a very particular unicorn at that.

The Unicorn
Some parts of her resembled a deer and others a swan much more than they were all together supposed to resemble a horse, her large indigo eyes drawn in an anime-style that was only just becoming popular in the United States at the time of her rendering.

I would have known that unicorn anywhere, and I felt myself veer towards the book-stacked table at her cloven feet.

* There are countless such book-stacked tables at Comic Con, and having had countless conversations with the people sitting behind them over the years I’ve been going I don’t remember how this one went nearly as well as I would like, but anyways . . .

I was talking to the man behind this particular table for quite some time, a man who turned out to be none other than Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, arguably the most beautiful and literarily perfect “fairytale" ever written.

Peter S. Beagle
I shook his hand, introduced myself . . . annnd promptly burst into tears, me being me, of course.

Meeting the man who shaped the characters who had made such a profound impression on me as young reader, then again as an English major, and finally as a writer myself was like bumping into an old friend, the kind you don’t bother to hide your hurts and troubles from because you know they know you too well to be fooled.

* I can’t not mention that the very charming, kind and talented Todd Stashwick interrupted my blubbering at some point to offer me a tissue, because it’s Comic Con and there’s awesome and/or famous people all over the place that way.

Todd Stashwick - a man of many hats!
And like an old friend Peter patted my hand and listening intently, and then told me something that stunned me even more than meeting him already had:

He told me not to worry because his greatest worry was that he had peaked too soon, writing the The Last Unicorn at only 26 (my age at the time) and that he would die not having “done enough” since then to be considered successful . . .

* This is a man whose novel has sold more than five million copies worldwide since its original publication, was adapted into a popular animated film, has been translated into at least twenty languages and is widely considered one of the best fantasy novels of all time – and that’s saying nothing of his other works, mind you.

We spoke several more times over the course of the convention, mostly about things you’d expect from writers, how there’s always ways to make money, how we felt obligated to the stories inside of us, our personal definitions of success and so on, but what has stuck with me the most was this:

Whether or not Peter S. Beagle believed he was “successful,” there was not a single instance during which I was speaking with him or his manager that someone didn’t approach the table and burst into tears as I had, or tell him how many times they’d watched the movie as children and how their children watched it now too, or how the bittersweet phenomenon of Lady Amalthea (i.e. the unicorn) and Prince Lír was their first and still yet one of their best understandings of love and love lost . . .

The Old & New
Everyone reading this will take something different away from my experience, and I suppose that's the closest thing to a point I was hoping to make: that success is as much a moving target as anything else, and that it is impossible to look forward at our lives and say now what will be “enough” for us then.

For me this was an invaluably helpful perspective; it made me realize I had been writing for self-imposed deadlines – publish this before you’re 30, publish that before you have children – as opposed to writing for the pure and simple reason of having things left in me to write.

For you I hope it’s whatever you need it to be, an answer to something you’ve been struggling with lately or a nudge in the direction you’ve been meaning to go, or merely even a reminder to breathe and stop believing the worst things you think about yourself and where you’re at in your journey.

You may be feeling down, but chances are you’re doing just fine ;)

XO, Mal


For your daily dose of Mal Adjusted, like me here on Facebook.

No comments:

Post a Comment