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Who I Wish I Could Be

Brace yourselves. I usually whine about how hard it is to answer some of the topic questions, right? Not this week.

Which writer in all the world did I secretly (or not so secretly) wish I could be? Easy. Andre Norton.

There are books by other authors that I wished I’d written. Several of Robin McKinley’s books fit that bill. So do some of Anne McCaffrey’s and Charles de Lint’s. And while I admire all kinds of writers and envy the ever-living heck out of their writing skill, Andre Norton is the one author I wanted to be. To this day, I still have this tiny voice in the back of my head urging me to live up to her example.

51-PycaTtxL__AA160_Andre Norton began publishing in the 1930s. At first, it was YA adventure and even a few westerns. But when that upstart, hack genre, science fiction, got started, she jumped in with both feet. She wrote and published over 70 years. By the time of her death in 2005, she had over 300 works published. SFWA inducted her into their hall of fame. She was awarded Grand Master of SF in 1983. in 1998, she won the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. All great stuff to aspire to.

Those are all the impressive, but ultimately dry facts about a woman whose books affected me deeply growing up. I suspect most of us remember being lonely from time to time. Especially as kids. Maybe the fact that I was born a complete and hopeless geek in a time before anyone even had a word for what was ‘wrong’ with me made it worse. But it was pretty common for the other kids to ditch me so they could go do whatever they were going to do without the odd duck in their midst. Yeah, yeah, here! A tiny violin. Let me play you the whining song of my people. It retrospect, it was a good thing. Turns out the neighborhood kids were larcenous. I grew up without a police record. And when I got left behind, I made up stories that occasionally involved their messy deaths.

Then one day, when it was my cousins and sister who ditched me, my aunt Betty pulled out a box of well loved paperback books. All by Andre Norton. She handed them to me. I started reading. And suddenly, I was reading stories about strong, determined women – often isolated, sometimes the last of their kind – always people who don’t belong anywhere, but who manage to carve out a sense of purpose and belonging.

I want to have the longevity in publishing and the story-telling skill that she had. I’d really like to be as prolific, but I have a long way to go on that. But most of all, I want my stories and my characters to have the kind of impact on someone that hers have had on me.

I’ve given up wanting to be Andre Norton. I’m happy being me and writing the stories I’m driven to write, but everything I write – maybe the fat that I write at all – is due to that first, dusty box of books that made me realize that strength doesn’t often come from running with the crowd, but in going it alone on your own path.

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