Sunday, January 1, 2012

lunch with Ray Bradbury

The first time I met Ray Bradbury was by phone. I was a copy editor for the Los Angeles Times Book Review in 1980 and he was calling to talk about -- well details are fuzzy because I was so stunned to hear his name -- then when he said mine, I about came unglued.

"Nice talking to you, Kristiana. See you soon."

Soon? What! My all-time favorite author of science fiction was on his way to The Times building. Are you kidding?

Turns out he was coming to lunch with my editor, his friend Art Seidenbaum, the occasion his new "book" by Knopf, The Stories of Ray Bradbury. It was a hefty 912-page collection of his short stories, 100 to be exact, and a copy was propped by my black Underwood. A minor digression here: This grand dame of newspapers was still transitioning to Video Display Terminals, or VDTs as we called them. I don't remember anyone yet saying "computer," and a lot of the editors still had typewriters on their desks. Anyway, back to Mr. Bradbury.

Suddenly he was there and Art was introducing him to those of us on the Book Review staff and then -- get this -- we were all in the elevator together, riding up to the Picasso Room where luncheon was to be served on white tablecloths. That day I learned that in many ways famous people are like the rest of us: they chitchat and talk about the smog in LA, they laugh and wonder about the future. And some famous people are really nice to underlings.

Mr. Bradbury sat next to me at lunch. I remember feeling shy and unsure of myself, but somewhere in our conversation I must have mentioned how passionately I wanted to be a writer, because when lunch was over and a waiter was pouring coffee, he said, "Kristiana, don't give up your dream."

I'm still dreaming and yes, there were real Picassos on the walls.


Jensen girls said...

Wow, what a treat to have met and eaten lunch with Ray Bradbury. You are a real writer, so while you are still dreaming, your dreams to date have come true. I hope my dreams come to fruition as well.

Kristiana Gregory said...

I hope your dreams come to fruition, too! Often it's hard not to be discouraged, but as the kind man said, "Don't give up." :)