Thirty years ago I was in a writing class taught by John Irving. I was a junior in college, The World According to Garp had just come out in mass market paperback and continued to dominate bestseller lists. I was lucky to get into the class: I was an undergraduate, and so a terrible writer by definition. Every other student in the class was far more talented. It didn’t help that I was in complete gape-mouthed awe of him and could barely speak in his presence.
Flash forward to January 2010, speaking to the editor who would buy my book. Do I think John Irving might blurb me, I was asked. Highly unlikely, I think. It’s been three decades. I was not one of the bright lights. He’s taught hundreds of writers at Breadloaf, for goodness sake! He has a policy of not blurbing his students. We can try, I offered.
The editor has a friend who knows Irving. I write a letter to Irving that will go with the galley through the friend, and it brings back memories. I think of him and think of everything I hoped to be someday but had known I probably never would.
He called my editor today. He’s going to try to read the book. No promises – he could dislike it and regret ever having taught my ass – but I will remember today for the rest of my life. I’m crying a little as I write this. Moments like these are the most amazing thing about finally – finally – selling a book.