It wasn't until a literary agent contacted me this past summer, that I realized having a book with my name on it as the author is something I've actually dreamed about at one point or another in this short life of mine.
We've come up with a few ideas and she's asked for a few things from me (one of them being posts from this blog). So, I'd organized and was getting ready to send them out, when I decided I would put it all together with my idea of an old-timey version of book editor/author relationship. I imagine that we already have a back and forth, snail mail relationship going (which, we don't... this is just the beginning and I don't imagine she'll dig out an old typewriter to fulfill the fantasy).
I admit, I often like to pretend I live in another era. Mostly to escape the idea that we live with so much technology. I like the old typewriters, record players, vhs machines. There's no cut + paste, no photoshop, no fonts, just the keys, a pencil and an eraser.
And it took me back to a time that I used to keep in touch with the author, William Wharton (his pen name). I was 18 years old and had just finished reading Birdy. Then I read Dad. When I couldn't stop, I went to the library and checked out A Midnight Clear and any other book with his name on it.
I wrote the first letter to him purely as a fan. After that, it was all friendship.
We wrote to each other over the next 3 or so years. His, always typed his because he didn't think I'd be able to read his handwriting. Mine, always hand written because I didn't own a typewriter and a computer wasn't even part of my world yet. I eventually travelled to meet him, his wife and his son at their beach house on the Jersey Shore. Thinking I was rather clever, I brought him a small coffee mug from Fishes Eddie, with a tiny image of a pen and a quill. We had lunch at the house and then walked to the beach. I could hardly believe I was sitting side by side with the man that had written some of my very favorite books. He was as cool as could be. When I said goodbye to everyone, Mr. Wharton and I agreed we'd get right on the stick and drop a letter in the mail to each other. But he also wanted to encourage me to keep writing to his son, Will, who was single. He wanted to see him meet someone nice and, at the time, it seemed I would do just fine.
I love the idea of waiting for a letter. Sending your thoughts and feelings out into the big spanse--totally relying on the US Postal service to deliver it to the right spot. Then, waiting, waiting, waiting for a response. I wrote a lot, a lot, a lot of letters back in the day... and I have a hugemongous box in my parent's attic that shows me lots of other people wrote back, too.
In fact, this past Christmas I got into that big box and found some of W.W.'s letters to me. I took one with me because I wanted to get back in touch. I thought he'd get a kick out of me being in the ole 'paper biz' and trying to put a book together. It'd been years and it never even occurred to me to look him up online and see what was new. When I finally did, I found that he'd passed away just two years ago. I kicked myself for letting time go by.
When I next go home, I'm going to pull out all the letters and photos and piece together our conversations. He was quite a man.
Quote from NYTimes Obit:
When Kate (his daughter) met the man she would marry, The Guardian reported she called her father to ask, “What is love?”
Mr. Wharton was paying for the call, so he kept it short. “As far as I can tell,” he said, “it is passion, admiration and respect. If you have two, you have enough. If you have all three, you don’t have to die to go to heaven.”