I am an extremely lucky person. At times when I am feeling particularly magnanimous, I would even say that I am blessed.
I live in an existence where I am surrounded by books. I own books, I can download books electronically, I have a library nearby where I can not only check out books but also request books that are not on the local shelves. Sitting at my computer, I can read any number of published works for free, in any given genre, or order books that I wish to own and have them delivered to my front door.
And living in this day and age, I have unprecedented access to others. I can text my kids at any time and expect a timely reply, no matter where they are or what they are doing; I can ask my husband to pick up milk on his way home without calling him or breaking into his day. I can interact with others casually without leaving my house. I can surf the ‘net and at least get a cursory understanding of any given topic, and through social media I can be exposed to so many new ideas, new sensibilities, new sights, sounds, thoughts, that it sometimes makes my head spin.
And I have unprecedented access to people I admire; specifically, in my case, to authors I admire. It takes little effort to learn about them: simply access Wikipedia, or often, the author’s own website. It is a simple thing to obtain a bibliography of their works, and follow through as desired. Many of them have an online presence: websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the like.
And this is where I feel like I hit the apex of this accessible luck: tangible authors.
Tangible authors are those who have, for me, transcended their published works to become “real” (rather than the idea of “the author of _____”). They are the ones who invite their readers to know them as people, authors who share their processes, their wit, their thoughts, their interests and their lives with those of us who seek them out. I don’t mean those who merely publicize their works or appearances, but who maintain a public persona through a robust and active online presence.
I realize that the term “tangible authors” is a bit lacking. We tend to think of “tangible” as being “perceptible by touch” which lends itself to a tactile understanding. But these authors do touch me, intellectually, emotionally, even though we may never meet (although I have been lucky – blessed – to have actually met a few of them). I may not “know” them, we may never share a cup of coffee or mug of ale, but they do allow me to know them beyond their works alone.
Some of them are authors that I greatly admire, and was delighted to find them online, sharing their lives with others: Jacqueline Carey would post pictures on Facebook that she took of walks in her Michigan landscape, adding for me a depth to the sensorial beauty that she weaves into her books. Patrick Rothfuss’s blog is wonderful, warm, amusing, and shows such an abundant love of life that shines in his accessibility and altruistic endeavors. J. K. Rowling astounds in her often gracious and sometimes deftly worded tweets. John Scalzi’s abundant wit on Twitter and in his blog often keeps me in stitches on any given day. Wesley Chu’s enthusiasm in his postings is downright infectious. Robin Hobb will chronicle her periodic scavenger hunts, where personalized copies of her books are surreptitiously hidden all over the world, gems for the finding. Melinda Snodgrass shares on Facebook her love of her horses and of equestrian dressage, as well as her friendship with other authors such as her Wild Cards partner and neighbor, George R. R. Martin. Mary Robinette Kowal goes beyond her wit and charm on Twitter and Facebook to link back to an active journal where she not only shares her thoughts, but even asks for feedback on works in progress and invites perusal of her research posted on Pinterest; she also founded the delightful “A Month of Letters Challenge” which she championed by not only setting up its framework and website, but also by replying to participants who sent her letters with a handwritten response. And the King of Social Media, Neil Gaiman, has pretty much written the book (get it? “written the book”? /snicker) on keeping up a relationship with his fans across virtually every online platform.
And there are plenty of others, who I got to “know” by reviewing their works, and through admiring their writing (and sometimes, sublimely, by having them respond to those reviews), was delighted to glimpse them in deliciously candid ways: Kameron Hurley, Victoria Schwab, Daniel Abraham, Guy Gavriel Kay, Cherie Priest, Linda Nagata, Corey Doctorow, Peter Newman, Benjamin Percy, Dave Hutchinson, Paolo Bacigalupi, R. S. Belcher, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Ellen Datlow, Catherynne Valente, Scott Wilbanks…. I could go on and on.
I’ve probably lost you by now. I don’t blame you, I do tend to ramble on uncontrollably when I am enthused by something.
But how can I tamp down my delight at seeing another picture of Cherie Priest’s adorable pup (“Greyson would never eat something terrible and dead that he found in the alley UNLESS he could fit it in his mouth.“) or reading of Melinda Snodgrass’s efforts with Donhador, her new horse, or realizing that N. K. Jemisin is SQUEEEEEE-ing because Steven Universe is finally back or that Myke Cole is humbled when one of his all time literary heroes publically thanks him? Golly gosh, they are “real people”, just like me! Very talented people, people I greatly admire – but genuine, real people, just like me.
Tangible authors. I get to experience so many of them, whenever I want to flit in and visit them. And you know what? You can, too. They are all right out there, yours for the experiencing.
Aren’t we incredibly lucky?
~ Sharon Browning