I've read the annual Writers of the Future anthology every year since I discovered it in high school. It's a fantastic anthology of cutting edge new fiction from yet-to-be-discovered authors.
That's the most amazing thing, really. That the authors featured in the anthology are still technically novices. They haven't achieved commercial success and are, as of yet, unpublished.
It was in the WotF anthology in 2002 that I discovered the work of Patrick Rothfuss. He included a single chapter from a book he'd been working on for years, and that short chapter took the grand prize for the yearly competition. It was fresh, riveting, and promised what would be a stellar novel to be published in the future.
So when I saw his first book, The Name of the Wind, at a Borders store a few years later I bought it immediately. I read it in spurts when I could find the time, devouring every fantastic page. To my surprise, though, the chapter he'd won the WotF competition with was nowhere to be found in the book; this was instead a chapter from the second novel in the series.
When that novel, The Wise Man's Fear, came out I bought it immediately in ebook format (I didn't want to wait for Amazon and Borders was out of stock), took an early day off work, and read the entire thing in one sitting. It was glorious!
I can count on one hand the number of authors whose work I thoroughly enjoy this much. London, Faulkner, Hemingway, Follett, and Rothfuss.[ref]Luckily, the latter two are still writing![/ref] So the opportunity to see one of them in person at a reading is something not to be missed.
Last night, I joined about 800 others at the Newmark Theater downtown to hear Patrick talk about his latest novella. We heard some fantastic music, listened to the first few pages of the book read aloud by the author, and laughed together at some truly insane jokes and commentary Mr. Rothfuss has written - I am neither dead nor too big to matter, but hope one day to write a book worthy of one of his reviews.[ref]I only hope it's better received than Roald Dahl ...[/ref]
Seeing an icon from a distance is one thing. Meeting them in the lobby before they speak is something else. Being able to realize the person to whom you look up is human and, like you, struggles with human things is inspiring. It helps remind you that yes, normal people can be just as successful.
It also makes me want to write again.
Who do you look up to who you might be able to meet or at least see speak in person? How inspiring an experience would that be for you and your career? What's holding you back from making it happen?