Many years back, when I was a precocious young lad, my father devised an ingenious method of education and torture – you’ve heard of edutainment? This is tortucation – or it might have been for some other kid.
When I got in trouble, my punishment was not a simple grounding. Instead, I had to read a book and write a book report. At home. Had to. The horror.
I was allowed to choose the book, but my dad got veto. I wasn’t such a fan of writing then, but I already enjoyed reading. The writing… well, you can see where that got to. I was already a reader, I don’t think anything in the world could have stopped that. I had a good system and a lot of encouragement to get me into books. But if ever there were a fundamental set of moments in my life that turned me into a reader, this is where it started.
While I got to choose many of my own “punishments,” on occasion my dad would pick out a book and tell me that was the one I was going to read. It was a test. He’d pick out books he already knew, and ask me questions about them, to see what I was getting from the reading. Often enough, I was getting the story, but not the subtext. I needed to be persuaded into understanding that – I won’t lie, it took years.
But through this process, I was introduced to many of the greats: Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffery, Harlan Ellison… and somewhere among them was Terry Brooks. And of all the authors that attempted to cross the line from the “dad’s authors” camp into my own favorites, Terry was one of the few who truly won me over with his brand of fantasy.
When people recollect their favorite stories, when they get glassy eyed about a story, like they’ve been there – like they’ve lived there… for me, that was Landover, the magical land in Magical Kingdom for Sale – SOLD.
I’m not going to get into the story. I’m not even going to persuade you with anything but the fact that I love it. It was MY Harry Potter… long before Harry would ever figure out his legacy. It’s a series that I have never finished, mostly because I didn’t want it to end. But after last night – close to twenty-five years after that first introduction – I feel like I should finally finish it. I feel like I owe Mr. Brooks that much.
I met Terry Brooks tonight at a signing in one of my favorite places – Schuler Books, Eastwood. (There’s nothing wrong with the Okemos one, I just prefer Eastwood.) He read us a bit of his latest work, he answered all the questions we had to offer. He was charming and down-to-earth and just everything we all hope our idols will be.
And if you have ever met one of your heroes, you know that everything you think about while you are watching them, everything you think about when you are in line, everything you want to say – it’s gone when it’s your turn to say anything. Maybe you are better than me, but I stammered out a thank you. It carried all of the words I wanted to say, and whether he heard all that or not, he still seemed appreciative.
Then I did something I had been debating since I parked my car.
I brought a bookmark. One of my bookmarks. On the front was the House of Thirteen cover, and on the back, I wrote something (in the car, where I left most of my wit and courage).
I wrote: “Terry – Thank you. For a lifetime of inspiration.” Then I signed it.
I handed it to him and stammered out something about hoping it’d be worth more someday. He looked at it, then he said thank you to me.
We talked for a quick second, he asked where he could find my books, and he said he’d check me out. I got a photo, we shook hands, and that’s where my moment ended. Even if it was just banter, I appreciate the hell out of it.
Seriously, Terry Brooks, thank you. For the twenty-five years of wonder you have instilled in me. For being part of a great and wonderful pantheon that I strive to one day join.
For being you. And for doing what you love.