Since we’re somehow about to embark on four weeks of top ten reads, this week’s That Artsy Reader Girl topic feels really appropriate. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting this year, and while that hasn’t really shown up the actual books I’m reading, it’s definitely steered what I’ve been drawn to. These aren’t in any particular order, just what came to me as I was writing!
first time meeting Maggie
I can so clearly remember the first time that I ever met Maggie Stiefvater because I was an utter wreck. I’ll never forget, I think the third time I met her, that she told this story about how, when she was introduced to her favorite author, she just stared blankly at her head like holy shit you’re a real person, and that’s 100% what I did for Maggie.
I went with an old friend to see her, but that friend was determined to have a long dinner beforehand. It was tempura, too, which I hate–why the hell do people deep fry vegetables, it makes no sense–and we ended up missing the entire talk that Maggie gave. I was so pissed, but we managed to get in line to have our books signed, so it wasn’t all a waste. The friend tried to make me leave at some point, too, because we ended up at the back of the line, so we were one of the last people to get our books signed, but this was during the Wolves of Mercy Falls era, and nothing could have convinced me out of that line while I was holding Shiver to get it autographed. And I said not a single word to Maggie, but instead just stared at her head in shock.
driving to Connecticut to see Rachel
This one was probably as bad, and I’m so glad that I’ve gotten over my fear of meeting “famous” people because they’re just normal like us, and heck, I’m probably as cool as many of them. But, when I met Rachel Brathen, I was still a wee thing, and it was terrifying to see her in person. I still can’t believe that she came from Sweden to give a talk and do a book signing in Connecticut, but alas, I also drove eleven hours in one day to take one of her yoga classes in New Jersey, of all places.
first time reading The Silmarillion
I know, this is so lame, but it can’t be helped. For years, my father led me to believe that The Silmarillion wasn’t worth anyone’s time, that it was poorly written and beyond difficult to get through. Others in my life who also liked LOTR were of the same persuasion, so I just never read it, and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally said enough. I wanted to read more Tolkien, so I picked up The Silmarillion, and I loved it so much that I read it again the following year and hosted a readathon.
reading To Love and Let Go
This should have probably gone one up, but we’ll leave it here since we’re going in order of my chaotic brain. I knew that Rachel Brathen’s To Love and Let Go was going to hurt, given that it was mostly about the grief of losing her best friend, but nothing in the world could have prepared me for the emotional exhaustion that I underwent while reading it. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to read it a second time. It was truly phenomenal, but it wrecked me.
Oh, this is a good one, and I promise that you’ll see Marge Ryan’s name in my first ever published book someday because she is the reason why I’m still writing today.
When I was in the fifth grade, Mrs. Ryan was my English teacher, and she used to give us half-written sentences that we were meant to finish. A few of them caught my fancy, and I asked if I could take my work home to expand upon them in a paragraph. Obviously, she was delighted, and she said yes. One thing led to another, and that paragraph was definitely not enough, so I wrote a page. Along the way, I discovered a character that I wanted to write about, so I wrote an entire book. The next day, I brought in my neatly typed book–betcha it was Comic Sans–and asked Mrs. Ryan if she wanted to read it. Being the incredible teacher that she was, not only did she say yes, she asked me if there would be more once she was finished.
I ended up writing an entire series for that character, though the only thing I can remember is that her name was Elizabeth–it was my favorites back then, and still one of my favorites today–and that Mrs. Ryan read every single one. When she was finished, she asked if I would be interested in a meet the author Q&A in front of the entire fifth grade, and my shy, introverted, get me away from everyone, no nonsense self said yes? Somehow, though I remember absolutely none of it beyond that it happened.
first time finishing writing a book
I can’t remember if this was Alex Hart or Rónán. I think it was Rónán? It took me ages to write Alex’s story, and even when I was writing it, I knew that I would never publish it, so I’ve never honestly considered it a book to be finished. But Rónán was truly my first work of original fiction–Alex was born of fanfiction and just reshaped–and it took me months to write it. The first iteration of it was, like, 60k words or something, nowhere near the length it needed to be for a high fantasy epic, but I’ll never forget the joy of having my dad bring home a freshly printed and bound finished copy.
I’m baffled that this one isn’t top of the list, but I was trying to stick with reading memories until I eventually just diverged predictably into writing ones. I actually wrote an entire post about the process of getting published for the first time ever, and it still remains one of my proudest moments, receiving the email that asked if I’d be interested in taking part in a short story collection.
first time reading Red, White & Royal Blue
This is as dumb as The Silmarillion, I know, but this is almost on par with seeing Call Me By Your Name for the first time. I just didn’t know. I had no idea what I was getting into, and discovering that they were not only gay, but basically fanfiction gay was just mind-boggling. I’ll never forget one of the times that Erin was visiting, and we were trying to think of a gay movie to watch, and, all of a sudden, I remembered that she hadn’t seen CMBYN, so I raced us into the living room, ran around the house to check that everyone was down for bed, and proceeded to cackle at the look on her face as she, too, realized what it was. It was the same with RWRB. I almost read it in a day because I was so overwhelmed with joy at having found something so close to the thing that I loved more than anything.
discovering my friends wrote fanfiction
And, on that note, it’s bizarre to me that people just talk about fanfiction now like it’s not something we’re meant to hide in the closet. (Ha.) We never talked about fanfiction in my day, to the point where Erin and I circled around it for months before one of us finally admitted it. Technically, my AO3 username is pretty easy to find, but I don’t talk about it ever, and it’s not something I think I’d give out without being prompted because fanfiction was so taboo when I was growing up, and so many people did it in secret and under several different usernames so nobody could track them. But discovering that my friends wrote it is definitely one of my fondest memories because it drew us together even more.