New York Comic Con and the Author Meeting That Changed My Life

15 Oct

There’s a cause I can get behind

This weekend was New York Comic Con, the second biggest meeting of Nerd Culture in the country (the first being San Diego’s Con or what I call The Big Show). This wasn’t my first Comic Con but it was the first one I went to on the non-professional day, i.e. on Saturday with all my geeky brethren.

So here I am, geeked out:

I’m wearing matching purple tights and my docs but you can’t see those.

Just kidding. I wear that Sandman t-shirt all the time.  So we headed through the trade floor, checking out all the Spidermen and Wolverines and Banes and Batmans. I counted at least 7 Banes and a surprising number of Zeldas. And of course, The Doctor with his Tardis:

Brilliant!

And his most feared enemy:

Exterminate! Exterminate! Exterminate!

There was a ton of stuff for the Walking Dead (which I need to read) including a mob of zombies that tore through the trade floor so quickly I didn’t have time to snap a picture (Sorry, Rob!)

Brains!

I’m not really sure who these guys are but Jay photo-bombed them like a Boss.

One of these things is not like the others.

There were cars…like the DELOREAN and the freaking BATMOBILE!

When this thing hits 88 miles per hour you’re gonna see some serious….

Holy Vintage, Batman!

And yes, that is Marty McFly in the background.

So we headed off the trade floor, down to the Artist Alley because Fiona Staples, who draws for Saga one of my favorite comics, was signing and drawing. As we were waiting in line, I noticed another table to my right. A name. An image. And just like that I was 10 years old again, laying down on the carpet, a bowl of popcorn in front of me, my best friend Dan with me, staring up at the television watching a movie that would become so familiar to me, so ingrained in my very DNA that years later, I would recycle themes, images…harpies….for my own writing.

It was Peter S. Beagle. The man who wrote The Last Unicorn, a book I adored as a child and the impetus for a film that I watched repeatedly:

And there he was, just SITTING there like a mere mortal. I pointed it out to Jay as we were waiting in line.

“Go,” he said. “I’ll save your spot.”

“I can’t….I”ll cry.”

“Well don’t do that. He’ll think you’re crazy.”

Time passed. The line didn’t move. I watched people go up to Mr. Beagle and shake his hand, talk to him.

“Go,” my husband said.

I shook my head. I couldn’t. I couldn’t move. See the thing is to me Mr. Beagle was C.S. Lewis. He was Jim Henson. He was Madeline L’Engle. He created something that shaped my entire childhood, something I still carry with me, all these many years later. And he was just SITTING there.

“Go.”

I shook my head. My line still hadn’t moved.

“Come on,” Jay said, taking my arm and bringing me over to the table. There were two girls in line already. I got in line. I got out. I got back in. I could feel the tears creeping up. I told myself to calm down. I told myself it would be fine. Deep breaths. Tell him what he means. Tell him thanks.

I spoke with his agent. Had I known, I would have brought my old old old copy of the book. (See photo above). Why didn’t I read the program? I thought cursing myself.  I bought the graphic novel for him to sign. I stepped up. I put out my hand. I said:

“Hello, Mr. Beagle. It’s an honor to meet you. I can’t tell you what your story has done for me. I just recently got my first novel published and it was your book that made me want to tell stories. It was that film they made of it that made me believe. Why the Red Bull, Mr. Beagle? Why Schmendrick? Mr. Beagle, thank you. If it weren’t for you, I don’t think I would be a writer now. I hope you know how many lives you have changed.”

Except I didn’t say any of that.

I said this:

“My name….Ally….*sob*…I wrote….published…*sob*….first novel…if  it weren’t for you….your book….*sob**sob*sob*

Yup.

And the amazing Mr. Beagle, took my hand in both of his and he told me about the first time he met a  writer he loved and how he fell apart. He told me what it was like writing The Last Unicorn, how many times he nearly gave up, how his wife pushed him to finish and then I cried some more, thinking of all those nights on the couch, after all the rejections, how Jay just kept telling me to finish Lizzy’s story.  No matter what, finish her story.

He commented on my Sandman t-shirt. Told me that Neil was lovely. That it had been a long time since they had seen each other.

I nodded. I wiped at tears. I just kept saying “thank you.”

And I don’t know if I’ve ever meant those two words more. This man, long ago, wrote a story, that resonated with a little girl, that planted a seed, a desire to be a storyteller too. I’m not there. I know that. I’m just starting out. But it’s a path that Mr. Beagle set me upon long ago, when with a flashlight under the sheets, I read all about the Last Unicorn.

So even though I could barely speak then, thank you, Mr. Beagle. You changed my life.

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6 Responses to “New York Comic Con and the Author Meeting That Changed My Life”

  1. oscar ducks October 15, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    A lovely story. Thank goodness you had the courage to talk to him. I couldn’t do that. And more when all my heroes are dead

    • ally malinenko October 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

      Patos, it was amazing and terrifying and then more amazing. Truthfully he’s one of the last writers from my childhood that really made an impact that is still even around.

  2. jervonyc October 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Everything about this is so wonderful. I remember, as a kid, being obsessed with the books of John Bellairs (most notable for having Edward Gorey-drawn covers) and writing him a fan letter, only to receive a letter 2 months later from his publisher telling me that he’d died a few years ago. This is a much better story.

    • ally malinenko October 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

      Oh Jer! That is such a sad story. I agree this at least has a much happier ending. Though I certainly learned a lot about my inability to keep my cool and not break down into an 8 year old sobbing fangirl. Needless to say, I walked away from the conversation changed for the better.

  3. picturemereading October 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    I can’t even tell you how awesome it is that you met Peter S. Beagle! As well I am a HUGE Neil Gaiman fan so props for the Sandman tee!

    • ally malinenko October 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

      Me too! I love Gaiman, especially Coraline and Anansi Boys. Peter Beagle was so incredibly nice. It was an honor to meet him.

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