Sunday, May 18, 2008

Terry Brooks and the Llama

Two memorable things happened to me this Saturday.

Memorable Thing #1: Terry Brooks emailed me!!!

Let me explain why this is cool...

In 1983 or thereabouts, after I'd reread the Chronicles of Prydain for the bajillionth time, my mom introduced me to the fantasy and science fiction shelves in the adult section of the Northboro P
ublic Library. One of the very first books I read from those shelves was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I loved it. Magic! Adventure! Ordinary people triumphing against impossible odds! This was a formative book for me. The Sword of Shannara and others like it hooked me on the fantasy genre for life.

In 1997, I had a chance to meet Terry Brooks. He was doing a signing at the MIT Coop Bookstore, which was just down the street from me at the time. I remember circling the shelves multiple times before I'd gathered up enough courage to approach him. Once I did, he was phenomenally kind. He talked to me for about forty-five minutes about writing and the writing business. This conversation happened at a critical time for me. I had just begun to seriously pursue publication, and meeting a Real Live Author of his caliber and hearing both practical advice and words of encouragement... It had a huge impact on me. For the first time, my impossible dream felt possible.

Just last month, at NY Comic Con, I had the chance to meet him again and to say thank you for his kindness all those years ago. He inspired me exactly when I needed to be inspired. As a thank-you, I gave him a copy of Into the Wild. I didn't expect him to read it. I just wanted him to know that he made a difference in my life.

Saturday morning, I checked my email and saw an email from Terry Brooks with the subject line "Into the Wild". I think I shrieked. In the email, he said he'd read my book and wanted me to know how much he'd enjoyed it... Okay, I have to share with you one of the sentences:

"It was charming from beginning to end, a wry and cleverly conceived story about fairytales and their place in the lives of the characters who lived them."

How cool is that?!?!?!? He read it! He liked it! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! I printed out the email and ran to read it out loud to my husband, who was mid-shower at the time. And then I called my mom, the person most directly responsible for my love of books in the first place, and read it to her. She said now she's going to reread his books... At which point it came out that I'd kind of absconded with all the family copies... Oops.

Memorable Thing #2: A llama sneezed on me.

Let me explain why this is not cool...

A llama sneeze is not the delicate "choo!" of a cat. A llama sneeze is not even the boisterous "AHHH-CHOO!" of a portly man. No, a llama sneeze is a thunderclap accompanied by a splat.

You see, a llama sneeze is projectile. It involves little bits of chewed-up carrot plus a gooey yellow-ish substance not unlike the slime from Ghostbusters. While you're distracted by the unexpected thunderclap of the sneeze itself, this charming concoction is flying at you at high speeds.

I was standing five feet away. I would've been safe from a cat's sneeze. I would've been safe from a portly man's sneeze. But I was not safe from a llama's sneeze. In fact, I was spattered from head to toe. Orange bits clung to my hair. Spittle dripped down my jeans. Around me, othe
r zoo visitors were laughing.

From a safe distance away, my husband said, "You lead a very odd life, you know."

As I wiped the llama goo from my face, I said, "Terry Brooks emailed me."

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At 10:33 AM, Blogger tanita✿davis said...

Hee! That's right. Stick with the important thing. Never mind the llama spit...

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Erin said...

*grins* You rock, Sarah. I hope I can meet YOU someday!!

At 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Terry Brooks. Wow.

Hey my copy of Sword of Shannara has that same cover... unless you've some how stolen my copy.. (note to self, must make sure S of S is still safely tucked away.).

I bet llama sneezes are a lot like camel sneezes, not that I have any experience with either, I'm just hypothesizing. You could find a camel and get a comparison.

I still haven't gotten over the Terry Brooks thing.. Wow. You are so cool. (I mean you were cool before, but now.. well.. your superstar-secret identity-cool.)

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Faith said...

Is that the llama that sneezed on you? He's got a big snarky grin on his face. I'm guessing he thought it was hilarious.

Way with the coolness, too, to be getting kudos from Terry Brooks.

At 7:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

You obviously haven't met my younger cat (the one who steals my boots). He could medal in an olympic sneezing contest. Seriously, I think he's in training or something. No llama could outdo him.

Wow on Terry Brooks. You have inspired me. My goal now is to one day have YOU read something I wrote and send me a praising email. Which is unlikely unless I put energy into fiction or you start reading about tumor suppressors. Or perhaps I could name a gene after one of your characters...The Wild does seem to overgrow kind of like a cancer....Hmm....

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Tadmack: Maybe that should be my new slogan: "Never mind the llama spit."

Erin: You're so sweet! I hope I can meet you someday too!

Marsbarn: The zoo did have camels, but I didn't get close enough for a comparison... I was quite close to a giraffe, which was cool and not nearly as messy.

Faith: That's not the actual llama, but all the llamas did start pointing their hooves at me and laughing. If I were still my high-school-self, I would have been mortified.

Cathie: I can see it now: the Great Sneezing Showdown, Llama Versus Cat.


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