Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Who did you have a crush on in high school?

Ha! I am so not answering this question. Could still be incriminating.

But I will tell you about the massive crush I had on Christopher Paolini when I was a freshman in college. That's close enough to high school, right?

Here's what happened. . . .

It was a cold and snowy day in Provo during the second semester of my freshman year at BYU. I probably should've been doing homework or something productive like that, but instead I wandered into the bookstore, to my favorite set of chairs. For those who know the BYU bookstore, I was at the top of the stairs on the ground floor, facing the Twilight Zone. I think they've turned that area into a developing place now. Or a place where you can print and copy things? I'm not sure.

But ten years ago--gosh, I'm old--there was a nice line of pleather and wooden library chairs, conveniently close to the food in the Twilight Zone and the YA and middle-grade fiction books on their shelves, and mostly hidden from view by the religion reference shelves in front of you, where you could sit and read undisturbed for hours and hours on end. And that's what I did. Often skipping class to do it. [Disclaimer: Kids, this is not recommended behavior. You should really go to your college classes.]

Anyway, one day I was perusing the shelves and I saw the coolest cover. It had a dragon on it! And not just any dragon. This one was looking at you with an arresting expression. That was the beginning.

Then I sat down to read. I opened it up. I read the title page. I saw the fonts. And I started the Prologue, "Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world." As first sentences go, this is a pretty impressive one. Knowing what I do now about the publishing process, I'm not sure if those were actually Paolini's words. Many authors, while great writers, are terrible at first sentences. Regardless, the words accomplished their purpose. I was hooked.

And it only got better. The way he described the stars. His sophisticated word choice. I was entranced. I read and read. Eventually I came back to the real world, left the book in the bookstore, and went home. I was too cheap to actually buy books back then.

I'm not sure when I discovered that the author was my age. He's only a few months older than me, actually. And those words I loved were ones he wrote as a teenager. I'd say he wrote them while he was in high school but he finished early and then decided to spend a few years writing before college so that he wouldn't be abnormally younger than his classmates.

A couple of years later, I actually met Christopher Paolini. It was awesome. I went to hear him speak at a library or theater or something up in Salt Lake. I had to skip class again to go, but it was worth it. And he signed my books. By that time I'd caved and bought the first one--in paperback so it was cheaper--and received the second one in hard cover as a Christmas or birthday present.

It was a little weirder to have a crush on him as a real person rather than an ephemeral-author-type person. But I managed because he was charming and nerdy and passionate about his writing.

At that point I had no authorial aspirations. I loved to read, but I never wanted to write a book myself. I generally thought people who called themselves writers were weird. (We are.) And I wasn't at all interested in joining their ranks.

But fast forward another few years and I was a full-fledged, published writer, with aspirations that would've made my younger self groan. That was when I started fantasizing about meeting Christopher Paolini again.

It would be at a writing conference or some other publishing event. We'd be on a panel together because we'd both written bestsellers. (Well, he's already done that. But whatever.) And we'd have the liveliest discussion and afterward we'd go out to get dessert or something because I don't drink. And then we'd keep talking for hours and we'd discover that we were both homeschooled as children and that we have so many other things in common. (Only I wouldn't really be discovering some of this because I already know it from reading his author bio. Shhh.)

And then we'd both have to fly home in the morning and go back to our solitary writing lifestyles. But we'd keep in touch through epically long emails. That's how it would be.

Will be? Who knows? I guess I should probably just focus on writing that bestseller for now. :)

But sometimes when I'm feeling particularly sentimental or what have you, I go into a bookstore where my books are sold and I pace out the distance between where my books are displayed and where his are on the shelf. I did it last Saturday, actually. This time they were only about six feet apart.

What's six feet in the grand scheme of things?

Just saying.

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