Saturday, January 23, 2010

Professor W can you hear me?

Do you ever have powerful moments in your life that you don't realize the magnitude of until later?  Perhaps it's much later.

I've been thinking about just such a moment, and since things are always clearer when I write, I thought I'd get it out of my head and into a post to see if I can bring it into focus.

It has to do with inspiration, but I don't think it was really an inspirational moment.  In fact, when all was said and done, it was just an aside in an uneventful writing class in college.  A writing class that in the end was just one of many.

I remember Professor W vividly though, for two reasons.  Number Two:  he had a huge crush on me, and Number One:  explained below.

The crush is another story.

Okay, so we were in class one day, and Professor W was talking about the fictional disclaimer at the beginning of some books.  The one that tends to vary a little bit but usually goes something like:  "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental."

It was his next comment that changed my life.  He said, "Which, you know, they only put in there when it's all true."

All my life when I'm in the middle of reading a book I really enjoy, part of why I love it so much is because the characters feel real to me.  I have a knack for getting so immersed in the story, the world around me fades.  When I'm really into a good book, I don't even know where I am or if someone is talking to me.  The characters feel like my friends.

It doesn't matter if the storyline is unrealistic, it's the people that are real.  Remember Omri?  He was in The Indian in the Cupboard.  I was so fascinated with that story when I was young, and wished it was real because it felt so real when I was reading the book.  I even had an old skeleton key, but no cupboard to use it on.  I wasn't so stupid as to think The Indian in the Cupboard was a real story, but . . . I just wanted it to be real.  Somehow, some way, with all my heart I wished that it really happened, that Omri had really lived.  Perhaps he was still alive.  Maybe I could meet him!  Or Little Bear!  When reading the story, it seemed possible.

Something about Professor W's comment pierced all the way into my soul.  In a split second that lasted a length of my entire life thus far of reading books, I thought about each book individually and wondered, "Did it have that disclaimer at the beginning?"  And then, "I hope so."

Somehow, without realizing it, I also thought about it from the other side of the coin.  From my side.  Without meaning to, I thought about how I wanted the chance to put that disclaimer at the beginning of a book that I had written.  I shiver now to remember, I still want it so much, but at the moment in Professor W's class, it was just a passing dream.  I wish I could thank Professor W, even though he obviously had no clue and assuredly wouldn't remember the moment even if I could tell him about it now.  I just want him to know what it meant to me.  I want him to know that, in part, his comment is what is driving me to write my book.

To this day, when I get a new book and I see the disclaimer on those first few pages with the copyright information, I get a ghost of a thrill, and I remember that day in Moreland Hall.  I read the familiar words, sometimes stare for a few extra minutes at the typesetting.  I think about the printing process and imagine the pages coming off the printer.  The little blurb releases everyone involved from liability, but doesn't change the fact that the rest of the words contained in the book are the truth.  The truth may be in disguise or hidden, but it's still there for anyone who knows to look for that sneaky sentence on the copyright page, innocently waiting.  A quiet code.

A secret between the author and me.

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