I am in a bit of a state of shock. I’m high on pure adrenalin and awe.
Tonight I met John Marsden.
It was less than a month ago that I ranked him (in this post) as the very first in a list of people I want to meet, people I consider heroes.
And then yesterday I found out I had a chance to do exactly that, and today…well…I did it.
It’s hard to explain just why this man is so important to me.
John Marsden is the author of The Tomorrow Series, comprising of 7 books, the first of which is titled Tomorrow, When the War Began. The first book, and indeed the rest, are arguably the most famous and successful Australian books of all time. Many of my American readers will at least be familiar with them. Marsden has written over 30 books in total and I have read many of them. He is my main writing inspiration. He introduced me and many other teens to truth in writing.
I am a true fan girl. When I recently redesigned my study, I was able to bring my books back out and specifically allocated a shelf for teen fiction. Marsden dominates.
That box set has been out of print for about 10 years I’d say, maybe more. Seven years ago it was my first every ebay purchase, after months of looking, days of waiting, and hours of sweating over how to “snipe”. I think I spent about $120 on those babies when I barely earned $150 a week….and it was totally worth it 😀
And there is more. Another row of teen fiction sits behind this, where Marsden again outnumbers the others. They are currently piled on my desk since I hauled them out to pick a lucky autographee.
So yeah, I’m a fan.
The talk he gave was phenomenal. He is funny, eloquent without a hint of snobbery, and just plain intelligent and insightful.
Tonight I was given a simple tip on how to read Ulysses. I was told of the importance of status to almost every story one could ever read or write, whether we see loss of status, gained status, maintained status, fought for status…whatever. I was inspired to teach. I was inspired to learn more. I was reminded that the best ways to learn are to watch, to listen, to deconstruct, to break rules, to nudge aside convention. I was taught that language is to be played with. I was taught that stories are everything. On the surface I’ve forgotten some of things he specifically said already but they are stuck with me now and I know they will come back to me when I utterly need them, sitting here at this desk writing, reading, learning.
Last night I sat down with my collection and chose one to be signed. Part of me wanted to take them all and knew some people would do exactly that. But something told me to just take one, to be kind to him and to not embarrass myself if we were only allowed one anyway. Most importantly I think I wanted to come away with just one special prize I will cherish forever.
I did think of the Tomorrow box, perhaps taking a white permanent marker, but instead settled on Dear Miffy.
Dear Miffy is, to my knowledge, the raunchiest of Marsden’s books. It contains alot of strong language, alot of teen sex, and hard subjects. It is written from the perspective of a teen male who has little eloquence and holds many, many character flaws. It is not my favorite of Marsden’s work, but it is by far the work of his that I admire the most. If the right young men pick it up it has the potential to save them. At the very least it would convince any teen that there is fiction out there written for them, that is relevant to them, with nothing held back.
When I chose Dear Miffy to be signed, a part of me did do it to have a unique artifact. Not many would choose it. But my bigger motive was that I wanted him to know that it is more appreciated than he realises.
Of course when it was my turn, I said none of this. I have never been so lost for words or so shy. Old insecurities of not coming on too strong to people came barrelling back in. But he was SO great. I handed him the book and he smiled. He told me he hadn’t signed one of these for a while and I laughed and said I thought that might be the case. He then told me a story about the last one he did sign which was for a grandmother, who had bought it for her three year old grandson no less! Apparently the name ‘Miffy’ was meaningful to the little boy, or it might have even been his name, I can’t quite recall. We both had a chuckle and he told me he told her she should maybe wait a few years to give it to him. I eventually did manage to say to him that when I read it I had never read anything so real, so uncensored. Such words in no way conveyed even a smidge of what I meant to say or what he means to me, but really, what words would?
And that’s really it, I still can’t get my head around what happened tonight.
I met my hero and I know one thing for sure: I make good choices in the people I look up to.