I don't know where this memory came from. There is no association of ideas behind it, at least not as far as I can tell. All I know is that I was in the shower tonight, after I'd just finished exercising and jogging, and the next thing I knew, I started thinking about Vivian Schurfranz.
I hadn't thought about her in many years. I don't know if many of you even know who she is. Maybe I should go back in time a bit.
I first started professionally submitting stories to magazines when I was in my first year of high school. However, I'd been writing a loooooong time before that. Yet I'd never seen it as a career back in those days. I just did it because I didn't know what else to do with myself.
Junior high (or middle school, as they call it now) was the first time my teachers noticed that I liked to write a lot. That's when my English teachers really started encouraging me. Around then, the school had a speech therapist, and I was told to see her whenever I could. They sent me to her because they thought I had a speech impediment. I didn't, not really. I just didn't talk to people I didn't like, which meant I kept quiet for the most part when I was at school. She was the first one to help me improve my vocabulary, and she was also one of my earliest readers. I remember sending her stories even after I'd gone on to high school, at least until I learned she was no longer a teacher at my junior high school.
But never mind that. She and the rest of the English department did something rather interesting: they invited a real life author to speak to the students at my school. In fact, the teachers all went out of their way to get me to personally meet this writer. Her name was Vivian Schurfranz.
If you do know who she is, you're probably baffled by my response to her. She wrote books primarily for prepubescent girls. I grew up to write some pretty twisted shit. This doesn't track, right? Well, it does, in a way. I had never met an actual writer before, and getting to talk to her changed my life. It helped me realize that wanting to be a writer is a completely valid thing.
More importantly, she was a real-life, actual writer who WANTED TO READ MY STORIES. I sent her some of my work, and she responded very favorably. She was the first professional writer to encourage me on my path, and that is an incredibly valuable thing. I wonder if I'd be where I am now if I hadn't met her, if I hadn't received her kind words so early in my life. She would probably be horrified by what I've done with myself (after all, she read my stuff when I was writing detective stories geared toward young boys), but I think she would take some pride in knowing that she helped a young writer bloom into . . . well, I don't know what I am today. I'm something. I have fans. People want my autograph. So I'm something, I know that.
So to my fellow writers, I say this: if a kid comes to you with stories he or she wrote, encourage them. Even if there's something off about the li'l 'un. You never know.
PS: Vivian also gave a speech at the local library and held a signing. I didn't realize it until now, but she was the first author to ever sign a book to me, AMANDA, THE CUT-UP. I know, I know, it's so weird to think of me as owning that book, but I really enjoyed it. Thinking back now, I'm pretty sure that's where my obsession to get all of my books signed began. I still don't know what that means, though.