THE ROADS I’VE TAKEN
the roads I’ve taken
have made me who I am — it’s
not bad to be me
LIGHT IN THE FOREST
light in the forest
another of God’s artworks
will someone see it?
They bring people joy
When Stan Lee, creator of Spider-man and the Fantastic Four, was a kid, he wrote his hero, Floyd Gibbons, who went on adventures and wrote a column for the Chicago Tribune. Mr. Gibbons wrote him back, something that truly impressed the young Stan Lee. Working at Marvel, he encouraged fan mail and he often wrote fans back, either in person or on the pages of the comic books he wrote. Mr. Lee says, “I wanted the fans to feel that they were part of the Marvel family. If I received a letter that started ‘Dear Editor’ and was signed, I don’t know, ‘Charles Smith,’ I would write back, ‘Hiya Charlie!’ I wanted it to sound friendly and I signed all my replies ‘Stan,’ not ‘the Editor.’ I think it worked because when I met fans at conventions, they came up to me as though we were old friends. ‘Hi, Stan, how are ya? I’ve always wanted to meet you.’” Actually, it was Mr. Lee’s creations that got Marvel Comics fan mail. He says, “Before the Fantastic Four, we hardly ever got fan mail. Occasionally I might get a letter from somebody that said, ‘I bought one of your comic books and one of the staples is missing. I’d like my ten cents back.’ I would tack that letter up on the bulletin board and say, ‘We’ve got a fan letter.’ But after the Fantastic Four came out, we started to get genuine fan mail. At the start, a lot of the letters were written in pencil. After a few months, they were written in ink. A few months after that, we were getting typewritten letters and the return addresses were high schools and colleges.”
Richard Barthelemy, the voice coach and accompanist of Enrico Caruso, was French, and the French have a reputation for having a certain regard for a good turn of praise. A high-society woman once sent opera singer Enrico Caruso a very nice gift, which pleased him. Mr. Caruso sent back a souvenir, and he asked Mr. Barthelemy to compose a nice letter to accompany the gift. Mr. Barthelemy did compose the letter, and soon afterward the high-society woman invited him to lunch and said to him, “I have a favor to ask you, for which I desire secrecy. I am going to have you read an extremely charming letter from Monsieur Caruso in which he begs me to accept the lovely souvenir here. I want to thank him, and I’ve thought of you for that. Would you do me the pleasure of composing an answer to his letter which would have a true French turn to it? I’ll recopy it and send it to Monsieur Caruso.” Mr. Barthelemy did compose the letter.
In 1980, Joan Jett received 23 rejection letters after sending out tapes that included “I Love Rock ’n’ Rock,” “Do You Want to Touch Me,” and “Crimson and Clover”—three huge hits. The letters said, “No good songs here. You need a song search.” Fortunately, Ms. Jett printed 5,000 copies of the record, sold them, printed 5,000 more copies and sold them, and eventually landed a recording deal. She wonders, “Do they just throw these tapes into a bin of music, ’cause they don’t have time to listen? And if they do listen, it’s kind of scary that someone could hear three top-ten hits and miss them.”
While she was in high school, Tamora Pierce wrote a story about a kids’ birthday party. She wrote the story out neatly on pencil on 3-ring binder paper and submitted it to Seventeen magazine. The magazine’s editor, Babette Rosmund, wrote Tamora a nice letter telling her about how to submit manuscripts (typed, and in a professional format). She also encouraged Tamora to keep on writing. Tamora appreciated such a busy woman taking the time to write her a helpful letter. Later, Tamora became a very successful writer of young adult fantasy literature.
Jerry Spinelli, the author of Crash and Wringer, got many, many rejection letters when he was a young author, but he did not give up. Every time he finished a novel that no publisher would publish, he wrote another novel. Mr. Spinelli once noted that during his first 15 years of writing, he made only $200 from his writing. He also recommended that publishers send rejection bricks instead of rejection letters, noting, “Decades of work should not be able to fit into an envelope. You should be able to build a house with them.”
Young people’s author Richard Peck has received many letters from the readers of his books. Some are funny, as when someone wrote, “Our teacher told us to write to our favorite author. Could you please get me the address of Danielle Steele?” Other letters are serious; for example, someone wrote to him about Remembering the Good Times, a novel that recounted a suicide and educated the readers about the warning signs of suicides. The person wrote, “The only trouble with your book is that I didn’t find it in time.”
Karyn McLaughlin Frist edited a book titled “Love you, Daddy Boy”: Daughters Honor the Fathers They Love. Just as the title suggests, the book is a collection of reminiscences of loving fathers by loving daughters. The title comes from the way Ms. Frist’s father signed his letters that each Monday he wrote to her when she was in college: “Love you, Daddy boy.” Her friends used to ask her, “So what did Daddy-boy have to say today?”
Playwright and actor Peter Ustinov had many occupations, including at one time being Rector of Dundee University. Unfortunately, he once received a letter addressed to “The Lord Rectum of Dundee University.” Such an error gives one pause, and Sir Peter later said, “And that is how I have seen myself ever since in moments of self-doubt.”
Early in her career, Audrey Hepburn attended a Screen Actors Guild at which Marlon Brando was present. She was in awe of him and said hello, but after that they did not speak to each other. Forty years later, Mr. Brando wrote a letter in which he explained why he had not spoken to her. He had been unable to speak because he held her in such awe.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
“Methinks I long to see it,” said Candide, with all imaginable simplicity.
“You shall,” said Cunegund, “but let me proceed.”
“Pray do,” replied Candide.
She continued. “A Bulgarian captain came in, and saw me weltering in my blood, and the soldier still as busy as if no one had been present. The officer, enraged at the fellow’s want of respect to him, killed him with one stroke of his sabre as he lay upon me. This captain took care of me, had me cured, and carried me as a prisoner of war to his quarters. I washed what little linen he possessed, and cooked his victuals: he was very fond of me, that was certain; neither can I deny that he was well made, and had a soft, white skin, but he was very stupid, and knew nothing of philosophy: it might plainly be perceived that he had not been educated under Dr. Pangloss. In three months, having gambled away all his money, and having grown tired of me, he sold me to a Jew, named Don Issachar, who traded in Holland and Portugal, and was passionately fond of women. This Jew showed me great kindness, in hopes of gaining my favors; but he never could prevail on me to yield. A modest woman may be once ravished; but her virtue is greatly strengthened thereby. In order to make sure of me, he brought me to this country house you now see. I had hitherto believed that nothing could equal the beauty of the castle of Thunder-ten-tronckh; but I found I was mistaken.
“The Grand Inquisitor saw me one day at Mass, ogled me all the time of service, and when it was over, sent to let me know he wanted to speak with me about some private business. I was conducted to his palace, where I told him all my story; he represented to me how much it was beneath a person of my birth to belong to a circumcised Israelite. He caused a proposal to be made to Don Issachar, that he should resign me to His Lordship. Don Issachar, being the court banker and a man of credit, was not easy to be prevailed upon. His Lordship threatened him with an auto-da-fe; in short, my Jew was frightened into a compromise, and it was agreed between them, that the house and myself should belong to both in common; that the Jew should have Monday, Wednesday, and the Sabbath to himself; and the Inquisitor the other four days of the week. This agreement has subsisted almost six months; but not without several contests, whether the space from Saturday night to Sunday morning belonged to the old or the new law. For my part, I have hitherto withstood them both, and truly I believe this is the very reason why they are both so fond of me.
“At length to turn aside the scourge of earthquakes, and to intimidate Don Issachar, My Lord Inquisitor was pleased to celebrate an auto-da-fe. He did me the honor to invite me to the ceremony. I had a very good seat; and refreshments of all kinds were offered the ladies between Mass and the execution. I was dreadfully shocked at the burning of the two Jews, and the honest Biscayan who married his godmother; but how great was my surprise, my consternation, and concern, when I beheld a figure so like Pangloss, dressed in a sanbenito and mitre! I rubbed my eyes, I looked at him attentively. I saw him hanged, and I fainted away: scarce had I recovered my senses, when I saw you stripped of clothing; this was the height of horror, grief, and despair. I must confess to you for a truth, that your skin is whiter and more blooming than that of the Bulgarian captain. This spectacle worked me up to a pitch of distraction. I screamed out, and would have said, ‘Hold, barbarians!’ but my voice failed me; and indeed my cries would have signified nothing. After you had been severely whipped, I said to myself, ‘How is it possible that the lovely Candide and the sage Pangloss should be at Lisbon, the one to receive a hundred lashes, and the other to be hanged by order of My Lord Inquisitor, of whom I am so great a favorite? Pangloss deceived me most cruelly, in saying that everything is for the best.’
“Thus agitated and perplexed, now distracted and lost, now half dead with grief, I revolved in my mind the murder of my father, mother, and brother, committed before my eyes; the insolence of the rascally Bulgarian soldier; the wound he gave me in the groin; my servitude; my being a cook-wench to my Bulgarian captain; my subjection to the hateful Jew, and my cruel Inquisitor; the hanging of Doctor Pangloss; the Miserere sung while you were being whipped; and particularly the kiss I gave you behind the screen, the last day I ever beheld you. I returned thanks to God for having brought you to the place where I was, after so many trials. I charged the old woman who attends me to bring you hither as soon as was convenient. She has punctually executed my orders, and I now enjoy the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing you, hearing you, and speaking to you. But you must certainly be half-dead with hunger; I myself have a great inclination to eat, and so let us sit down to supper.”
Upon this the two lovers immediately placed themselves at table, and, after having supped, they returned to seat themselves again on the magnificent sofa already mentioned, where they were in amorous dalliance, when Senor Don Issachar, one of the masters of the house, entered unexpectedly; it was the Sabbath day, and he came to enjoy his privilege, and sigh forth his passion at the feet of the fair Cunegund.