When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak. I really loved it. So, when I was 10 or 11, I was quite surprised and iintrigued to learn that Mr. Sendak actually lived only a ten minute bike ride away from my house.
Now, naturally I was tempted to pedal my bike up to his house and up his driveway, knock on his door, and introduce myself. I pedaled past there on my own several times. His driveway wasn't that long, and I could see his front door from the road, but I never got up the courage to do it.
An older boy who lived two doors up the street from me worked for Mr. Sendak as a handyman. I thought about asking him to get me in to see him, but I never got up the nerve.
Now in the summer, a couple of my friends and I used to ride our bikes a couple miles to a little market over the New York border (I would never let my children do this, but sadly it's a different world today) to buy baseball cards, candy bars, and soda. This would have been in the mid-70's.
We could go one of two routes. The longer route went right past Mr. Sendak's house. The shorter route followed a horse trail for part of the way, bypassing the stretch of road where he lived. I usually lobbied to go the long route in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous writer/illustrator.
Of course, I never saw him--until one day. We rode our bikes past his house. Nothing. Down the hill and around the bend into New York state...and there he was. He was walking up the road with his dogs, coming home from a walk.
"Hi," I said as I rode by.
"Hello," he said. And that was it.
Not much, but for me, it was everything.
A couple years later, I remember telling my mother that I wanted to write children's books. I remember saying something like, "Maybe I should ask Maurice Sendak for some advice."
My mother, probably with visions of her 13 year old son accosting the poor man on one of his walks, stammered out something about him probably not wanting to be bothered by a teenager asking advice.
That kind of put me off, so I never did try to ask him. It was probably for the best, because I was thinking about stopping him on the street (I'd seen him a couple other times after that encounter). That would not have been cool.
Strangely, the idea of writing to him never occurred to me. Maurice Sendak was too real to me. He was right there, less than a half mile away. You didn't write to people who were so close. But that's also what made the idea that I could be a children's writer so real, too. Maurice Sendak wrote books for children, but he was real to me. I'd seen him walking his dogs on the street.
That made the belief that I could live my dream all the more real to me, too.