Thursday, January 23, 2014

Silly Rabbit

I've been reading "Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey" lately. I received the book as a Christmas present along with the accompanying artwork by Michael Whelan. It's a heartfelt glimpse into the life of one of my favourite authors.

"Dragonwriter", signed by artist
Michael Whelan
It's been teaching me a little more about McCaffrey, often many things I did not know because I moved on from the fandom quite early in my 20s. But from the perspective as a writer, one of the things that did not surprise me was her dedication to working with up-and-coming authors.

I knew she had worked with Writers of the Future, and had taken it close to my heart that in the year I'd turned my hand (and first ever science fiction story) to entering, she had been a judge and would have read my story. That was enough for me to know, and I lived on that buzz for a very long time.

While reading Dragonwriter, I came across a discussion of her work with young authors, WotF, and her writer friends in association with these things, including Algis Budrys. After reading this particular essay, I decided to pull out the paperwork from my WotF entry for nostalgia's sake. I have a certificate from that year - 1999 - as I got a highly commended (though I'm not sure how because now I look back at the story its a little twee), and letters from the judging committee. Looking back over them was a revelation about my growing ability...because it was there.

Now here's where it gets really stupid. I was so focused on the idea that Anne had read my story (and that I hadn't won...hey, I was young and really egotistical) that I really hadn't soaked in the feedback letter that came with my certificate .

It was a personal letter from Algis Budrys, with compliments on my writing, suggestions on how to fix the story, and the desire to see more of my work in the competition.

Can you believe this? I've had this correspondence for fifteen years now. I must have glimpsed over the letters (I do this with rejections, thinking that if I read it quick enough it won't hurt) and simply filed it away without thought. I didn't even register the name signed at the bottom of the letter.

Certificate from Writers of the Future,
Honourable Mention, 4th quarter, 1999
I feel really foolish and ungrateful. Budrys died back in 2008, and I didn't get the chance to thank him for his kind words, even if it had just been a short letter or email.

I realize I did this at the time because I was going through a massive crisis of confidence. I quit writing not long after that - not because of the rejection, but because I got Fake Geek Girl'd out (a story for another time).

I've had a letter telling me I'm good from one of the greats for all this time, and I didn't realize it until now. It's weird and gratifying at the same time. I'll make it up to Budrys soon, and read some of his work.

Those 11 years in between made me a different writer. But silly rabbit. You were better than you thought to begin with.

No comments:

Post a Comment