I was going to start this blog post with “A few months ago,” but then I realized it was more like a year ago. How time flies. Anyway, sometime in 2017, we’ll say, I went to a library book sale, and picked up a couple of brand-new looking books by a favorite YA author, Caroline B. Cooney. They are For All Time and Prisoner of Time, books in her Time Travel series.
(I’m a little confused about reading order. The Time Travel series seems to be all the series branding it has, but they aren’t numbered. Her books are usually marketed as having “companions” rather than sequels, which I find interesting. I guess you could pick up any one of them and read it, since she usually reminds you of past events during the book, but I still think it’s best to read them in publication order.)
(Gosh, I’m going to be like Robin McKinley’s blog with all my parenthetical statements and footnotes today. I can’t help it. You’ve been warned.)
I haven’t read these books yet because I need to get the other books in the set, but I was flipping through one lately because I needed to decide measurements for a paperback of Cupid Calling,* and For All Time was handy, and the size I wanted to consider.
This sent me on a wave of nostalgia about Caroline B. Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton…
This sent me on a wave of nostalgia about Caroline B. Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton and its sequels, of which there is one that I haven’t read yet, as I happily discovered. The premise is that a teenage girl sees her own baby picture listed as a missing child on her milk carton at school. (Do they still put those pictures on milk cartons? I’m not sure.) Can you imagine? The idea intrigued me. I read this book when I was about fourteen, plus the first sequel that came out over the subsequent few years, and later saw a Kellie Martin movie version.
When I was sixteen, she released the third book in the series, The Voice on the Radio, and had a signing and talk at a local Borders bookstore. (That gives you an idea of how long ago this was.) We didn’t usually go there, but my mom took me, and I remember feeling embarrassed because most of the girls waiting in line were little.
(I still don’t understand this. At the time, Cooney was known only for YA. I don’t know why 7-10 year-olds seemed to make up the majority of the attendees at this signing. They shouldn’t have been reading the books, in my opinion. They’re not the audience for the subplot of hormone-driven teenage romance. Even at my age at the time, I was kind of embarrassed by Reeve and Janie’s attraction to one another, though they’re probably tame by today’s standards.)
I think she must have given a little talk about her writing and her life. I remember her saying that kids would write to her and say “Dear Caroline B. Cooney,” instead of “Dear Mrs. Cooney,” or something like that. Then we lined up for autographs.
I got up the courage to tell her that I wanted to be a writer, too.
So there I was, feeling like a dork, with my mom in line with a bunch of little girls. When we got up to her table, I had her sign my copy of The Voice on the Radio, and she said that she had a daughter with a similar name to mine (Sayre, which was a spelling I’d never seen).
This was not the first time I’d met an author who signed a book for me, but it was the first time since I’d decided that I wanted to write. Time ticking, and conscious of others waiting behind me, I got up the courage to tell her that I wanted to be a writer, too. She asked me what I was writing. I told her that I was writing a sequel to The Chronicles of Narnia, which now that I think about it, I was not still doing at the time, but I had started one when I was twelve or thirteen. I didn’t finish it, and it will never see the light of day, of course. (I was writing myself into it in true Mary Sue fashion. We didn’t have fan fiction then, or I didn’t know about it.) I probably also mentioned a fantasy about dragons that I was working on.**
She treated a young girl’s dreams with respect…
I’ll always be grateful to her that she didn’t scoff or tell me that I couldn’t publish my Chronicles of Narnia story because it wasn’t my intellectual property. Instead, she said something positive, like that was an admirable challenge. I don’t remember the exact words. I just remember that she treated a young girl’s dreams with respect, and encouraged me to keep writing. She gave my endeavor enough weight to memorialize it in her inscription to me:
Meeting a “real live author,” akin to a celebrity in my mind, left a big impression on me, obviously, since I’ve never forgotten it, never-mind-how-many years later.
I hope that one day I’ll be the author at a signing who can support the dreams of a young girl who comes to my table, telling me she’s writing a story of her own. I’ll tell her not to give up. To keep writing. She’ll hear enough voices telling her she never will. I’ll tell her she can.
I know the value of a book signing.