Many moons ago I attended Brigham Young University. The year I was a senior I went to see a student play on campus. It was not only acted by students but it had been written by a student. I don’t remember a great deal about it now except that it was about Moses, and Moses had all the same doubts and questions about the existence and nature of God that I did.
I was absolutely stunned. I had wrestled with God for years and here was someone expressing out loud all the things I felt. I had to tell someone. But there wasn’t anybody. I had never expressed all these feelings and doubts aloud because I knew nobody who would listen and understand and not give me a little lecture on the mystery of God’s plan or some such.
But I had to tell someone. Who would understand? Who could I talk to about how much this play meant to me? And then it came to me. He would. The author of the play.
On investigation I learned that the play had been written by Orson Scott Card, and he was no longer a student at BYU. He was on a mission in Brazil. (For those of you who may not know, young Mormon men are encouraged to go on two-year missions for their church when they reach the age of 19.) I managed to get the address of the mission and I sent him a passionate fan letter in care of its headquarters.
He wrote back! I was astounded. He seemed so godly to me; I must be so far beneath his notice. He had actually had a play produced! It didn’t occur to me that he was a few years younger than myself, barely beginning his writing career, and might not (yet) be getting 60,000 fan letters a year.
His letter was very kind and I treasured it. And then, somewhere in the multiple moves that a young person in college makes (home for the summer, back to a different apartment; off to Maryland for that first post-college job; back home to go back to college ... etc. etc. etc.), I lost it.
I lost it.
I have searched for it off and on for years. Even today as I sit here typing this, I pause to look around the room and think, “Is there a box somewhere? In the garage? In the basement? That I haven’t looked through?”
Years passed. I saw him occasionally at science fiction conventions or writers’ conferences. I even got his autograph on a book or two. And then a few years ago, he came through my town on a book tour. I went to hear him, and then got in the long, long line to get my book signed. I had plenty of time to think about what I would say to him when my turn came. We could all see him up at the table at the head of the line. He spoke a little to each person before he signed their book. He was kind; he was amusing; but there were so many of us in line. And then I remembered my fan letter.
When my turn at the head of the line finally came, I handed him my book, and then I said, “I wrote you a fan letter once.” I told him about the Moses play and writing him on his mission. He looked up and a reminiscent smile grew on his face.
“I remember that letter,” he said. “It was the first time I’d ever gotten a letter praising my work from someone I didn’t already know.”
And he signed my book, “To Susan, my first fan.”