I can't remember for sure who was the first author I ever met, so here's a sample of ten authors I've had the privilege of meeting over the years, and some of the helpful things I've learned from them:
1. I met Tomie dePaola way back in 1984, when he graciously signed my tattered copy of The Clown of God and showed me how warm and friendly an author can be, even after a long day of book signing.
2. Nancy Carlson visited the elementary school where I was teaching in 1985 and took time from her lunch break during a very busy day to look at my illustrating portfolio and give me encouragement.
3. After I had my first book under contract with a local publisher, I met the amazing illustrator Trina Shart Hyman who offered her warm congratulations, then assured me that there were other publishers who paid their authors and illustrators a lot more than the company where I had started (and she was right!).
4. My friend author/illustrator Barbara Knutson and I began our careers at the same time. Her untimely death at an early age is an ever present reminder to make every day count.
5. During a week-long workshop, M. B. Goffstein showed me that everyone has a story to tell. Through her kindness and nurturing, she coaxed an amazing story out of every one of her thirty students. Several of us went on to get the stories we had written during that week published as books.
6. The following year I took a week-long workshop from Allen Say who wasn't afraid to be blunt with his comments ("You have some talent, David, but you've got to get a lot better."). It was an honor to be treated like a professional.
7. I was in a writing class with the prolific Judy Delton for many years. She wasn't one to beat around the bush either. "David, you're trying to write Great Literature when what you're really good at is writing humor." She was correct. She showed me that writing humor is no less worthy than writing Serious, Deep Meaningful stories. I couldn't have written my first novel without her encouragement, and I'm proud to have her name on the book's dedication page.
8. I met Sid Fleischman when he presented me with the SCBWI humor award named in his honor. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, receiving an award from an author whose books I had loved growing up.
9. What a thrill to meet the paper engineering wizard Robert Sabuda when he asked me to sign one of my books for him! He also gave me this helpful advice (which I don't always remember to follow): "Don't use a Sharpie for book signing; the signature fades in fifteen or twenty years." What a good feeling to think that someone would want to keep one of my books for that long!
10. For the past two summers I've taught at Jonathan Rand's Author Quest writing camp. The young writers who attend, our next generation of authors, remind me that writing can be joyful and fun. That's why I wanted to be an author in the first place, but I sometimes I forget that. Thank you, campers, for what you teach me.
P.S. And I did learn to attach a photo to my blog posts after all!