Ray Bradbury died yesterday at 91. He was a prolific author and claimed to have worked to write 1000 words a day. As a blogger, I’m lucky to write a couple hundred and certainly these few are not as imaginative or well-crafted or significant.
Every year we do a Bradbury Slam in class after reading Fahrenheit 451. The students are to emulate, mock even, the writing style of Ray Bradbury. It has always been a highlight of the year. A couple of years ago, one student wanted to send his slam to Bradbury. He felt particularly proud of it and thought that he had a real connection to Bradbury’s sensibilities. It wasn’t difficult to find Bradbury’s home address and we sent it off. Bradbury was already in his late 80s.
Months and months went by and, of course, no word. In fact, it was the following fall at school that my student came running up to me. He held an ad for a Bradbury conference in his hands. At its top was a very, very shaky handwritten note, nearly illegible. It read, “Keep on writing, Thomas.” And it was signed, “Ray Bradbury.”
And that was all the critique Thomas needed. The fact that a well-respected author even bothered to write him back spoke volumes. This was Bradbury’s grace and generosity of spirit. He was a man filled with the desperation and exuberance of a writer, his vocation also committed to encourage and inspire others to the craft. Still reading and responding to his personal mail, he knew full well the encouraging power his response would have on Thomas’ fledgling desires of becoming a writer. Bradbury didn’t come from the “ivory tower” yet was one of the most well-read people on earth (the allusions alone in Fahrenheit 451 are enough to make your head spin), because his desire to grow and learn and communicate came from his very core, his very essence. That’s the genuine heart to which Thomas connected. That’s the heart to which most young artists aspire.
Rest in peace, Ray, but not too much. We still need you to keep on inspiring all of us to embrace our most creative selves.