Kage Baker was perpetually surprised at the sheer numbers of people who liked her work. In high school, she was one of a circle of young literary hopefuls, who idolized our English teacher and wrote reams of questionable material that they shared among themselves.
Kage, shining like a young swan in a flock of chickens, wrote more reams and better bad fiction than any of her classmates. Soon no one but Kage was writing anything at all outside of class, and many deathless friendships ended over who got to read her stories first, and fall in love with her heroes … Kage was flabbergasted at the whole brouhaha and characteristically retreated from her fans.
I, a year younger than this nascent salon, came in at the end of the whole yeasty mess. Soon, I was the only audience Kage had left. During my senior year, she was writing from home, in the crumbling tower atop her mother’s house, and sending me manuscript pages every school day via her patient sister Anne.
In short order, this developed into Kage’s private writing system. She spent most of every day writing, in whatever interesting hovel we were then inhabiting in the Hollywood Hills. I read and critiqued everything in the evenings; then Kage would rewrite it. Again and again and again, until it satisfied her and she sent off into the world. When one story failed to sell, she simply started on a new one. One day, the latest effort came back marked NOT A REJECTION (thank you, Virginia Kidd Agency!); and after I dissuaded Kage from throwing it into the creek below our house (we lived in Pismo Beach by then), her career never stumbled again. Although she was never a New York Times sort of success, she was nonetheless drowned in admiring letters and emails – she even had a stalker for a while, which was temporarily a dreadful mess. She laughed about it, though.
By the time Kage was in her final days, the letters were still coming in; though by this time, they were sympathies and condolences as well as admiring accolades. I read them to her as she lay drifting in and out of narcotized sleep, and she was just as amazed and grateful at their numbers and sentiments as she had been in the beginning. One in particular moved her – a letter from a young widowed mother who had read Kage’s stories to her two daughters, and wanted to thank Kage for not making every ending fairy-tale perfect: because sometimes people don’t come back, and sometimes one is left alone, and yet people manage to make happy endings anyway.
“Oh, goodie,” Kage whispered when I finished. “Someone got it.”
That gave her enormous joy and satisfaction – that someone got what she was saying. And even that so many others at least thought they did. She drifted off to sleep that night in great content. I sat up for hours and then slept on the floor beside her bed, so I could hear her if she called in the night. That was the darkest time of my life, personally, but her dying was a long afternoon of light and comfort to Kage.
So that was good.
Now, Dear Readers – I am not the writer Kage Baker was; and right now I have to buckle down and get to work trying to get some things published. But, like her, I stand amazed right now at the number of people who like my own stuff and have said such kind and heartening things to me. I will be thanking each of you one by one, in the near future; But for now, for tonight, please take my gratitude and love as given, and know how you inspire me to not give up. Kage’s talent was a blazing phoenix; mine is a little moth, silhouetted dimly against her great light. But thank you, all of you Dear Readers, who have been willing to watch that little moth dance and risk getting ash-hued scaled gems off its dusty wings.
May the sweet Spring night enfold you all in joy.
Don’t underestimate your writing skills, m’dear. They are considerable. You have one skill Kage did not: you are able to pull a reader in and talk to them individually – or so you texts read. That is no small thing, and you seem to do it without effort.
I am of the opinion that you are an excellent writer. I often feel as though I’m sitting next to you and listening intently to you speak when I read your blog posts. Although I don’t know what your voice sounds like, it resonates in my mind very clearly. Keep well. ❤