Merging the Elements
Meeting your idol
There is nothing quite like the buzz that fills you when you get to meet your idol. Tonight was the third time that I got to witness Isobelle Carmody speak about her books, the third time that I got to speak with her about her writing, and the third time that I have been so overwhelmed by the experience that I was physically shaking from the excitement of it all. However it was the first time that I was able to walk up to her, introduce myself, and have her actually know who I was in return, and let me tell you, that was an experience in itself. For that to make sense I need to backtrack; I’m going to tell you a story.
When I was thirteen years old, I had a friend recommend a book to me. As Obernewtyn was pressed into my hands I never expected that it would become the book that shaped my life and yet that is exactly what it became. From that very first reading, I fell in love – with protagonist Elspeth, the Misfit who was being pushed through her life by fate; with Maruman, the delightfully mad cat who I desperately wanted to know; with gentle Dameon and mischievous Matthew, with enigmatic Rushton, with a whole host of characters who were misunderstood by all around them and yet I felt I understood; with a whole world that explored what it meant to be different, a world that had been created in one woman’s mind. I couldn’t get enough and I read that book, and the three others in the series that were published at that time, over and over again while I waited desperately for the next books to be released so I had more of the story to devour.
It wasn’t the first Carmody book I had read – I can clearly recall reading The Gathering when my older sister was studying that for school. I had read it to help her do her English homework (it was our thing – I would work on her English, she would work on my Math; playing to our strengths and all), and I remember being affected by that book too, though in a completely different way. It has by no means been the last of Carmody’s books that I have read either: my love for her writing has led to owning almost her entire collected works. Obernewtyn was distinct though, for it didn’t just capture my attention. It consumed it. I was completely immersed in that world and all that those books talked about. Every time I read them, I would find more to be engrossed by; I understood why my friend had encouraged me to read them and I set about recommending them to everyone who asked me what they should be reading next.
The final book in the Obernewtyn series (The Red Queen) was released late last year, its launch an event I was so delighted to attend (I will write a separate post about that soon) and to reach the conclusion of the series was both thrilling and bittersweet. To know the end of this story that had been with me for twenty years filled me with emotions that even now, months after I have read and re-read that final novel, I am still trying to process. What happened at that launch is yet another thing I am still working to process and that is what a big part of this blog post is about. I was able to speak directly with Isobelle at that launch, where I handed her a letter expressing just some of what the Obernewtyn Chronicles has meant to me, and explaining that I am actually basing my Masters thesis on her work. This is part of what I mean when I say it is a book that has shaped my life – I am devoting years of very specific study to focus upon it. To my utter delight, she expressed an interest in discussing that further.
That interest led to further communication, discussion about my thesis and the direction in which it is headed, and plans made for a face to face meeting to explore all of my questions. Tonight was not part of that plan; I realised during our discussions that Isobelle was presenting in Brunswick and so mentioned that I would try to get along and see her. I was able to make that happen and upon my arrival made a point of approaching. It was here that introductions were made and my idol genuinely recognised me when I spoke my name. There is nothing quite like being able to say that you have met someone you have admired for such a long time, and that the conversation was not the awkward, stilted conversation of our previous interactions where my emotional state at standing in front of her saw me a stuttering mess. There is nothing quite like being able to say that your idol seems to have recognised something within you that you weren’t even aware longed for recognition – in my case, that my love for this story she has told that has affected my life so completely has been acknowledged. To be told upon my departure that she was looking forward to seeing me again, to know that I am not alone in that excitement is thrilling. Add to it the sheer pleasure of being able to bear witness to the presentation that she gave, to hear her talk about her craft and the processes that she follows when writing, fills me with inspiration. Inspiration for my own writing, for my thesis, for my work in the classroom, for my life. To have this opportunity to know my idol, to understand how she created these worlds that I adore, is more than I could have ever hoped for and it is an experience for which I am so grateful.