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Allison's Letter to Anne McCaffrey
By Allison Strom
Genre: Non-fiction Level: High School 10-12
Year: 2004 Category: Letters About Literature

Dear Mrs. McCaffrey,

Six years ago, when I picked up a book with yellowed pages from a box stuffed away in our basement, I wasn't looking for what it ended up giving me. You see, it was the title that got me: Dragonsong. Even at the tender age of 9 or so, I had learned what it meant to have a social life, or not to have one, and I leaped at any opportunity to lose myself in another world. For whatever reason, I opened my first SciFi/Fantasy book, though I wouldn't have known what that meant at the time, and began my own journey as I excitedly read of Menolly's.

Despite the fact that I remember few of the exact details of the plotline of not only Dragonsong, but the whole Harper Hall Trilogy, I can still sit back and remember the feeling of awe that swept through me as I finally discovered a place where it was okay to be me. It was okay to be different and out of the social loop, to not quite understand why other girls my age were so interested in Lisa Frank and boys. It was okay to, every weekend ? and sometimes, more often ? to let myself wander around in a place not of this world; at that stage in my life, mainly Pern. The summer after my fourth grade year, the year I read Dragonsong, my family packed up and headed west into the middle of nowhere: Minot, North Dakota. I can remember my mother and I crying, but for entirely different reasons: she was sad because she was leaving her friends, I was sad because I was leaving the house we had lived in for four years. My closest friends ? my books ? were coming with me, so it was nothing to bawl about.

Looking back on my development as a reader, and as a writer, I run into embarrassing exaggerations on my own part, evidence that I wanted to transform myself into a "tortured artist," so to speak. Some people, those that know me, at least, might tell you that I pull that charade off pretty well, but all of my acting adds up to very little when I must confess to myself that I'm a hopeless romantic. Every once in a while, I desperately need to go back and read a novel so worn and used that it barely stays together anymore just to watch the characters grow and change and come out being exactly like I knew they were going to; some people require comfort food, I just require my books.

I mentioned before that I was unaware at the time I read Dragonsong, what it would give me. Then, just a little girl in love with fairy tales, I was enchanted by the fire-lizards dancing around on the cover. Now, I realize that that small volume was the door to a vast and satisfying genre of books. Because my first dabbling in what most people lump together as the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre was with your books, I had the marvelous opportunity to branch off into either, distinct category. I began with backtracking Pern's history, and read Dragonsdawn and a few of your novels concerning the Primes, then I read into Pern's future and followed the stories of the characters I'd been introduced to in the Harper Hall Trilogy. I read through most of the rest of the Pern novels, too in love with that lonesome planet to move onto anything else. I think I tried once or twice, but the feeling like I was betraying all the Weyrs and Holds of Pern always drew me back.

Finally, the day came when there were no more novels for me to read. At least, none that I wanted to read. And there, when there were no more Pern books to read, was the real gift that Dragonsong gave to me: I had to stop reading your books and move on. I had to discover a new world to have adventures in, new characters to love, new pains to suffer, new joys to behold. I had to grow as a reader, and as I did, I discovered that I wanted to emulate those authors that I read: I wanted to write.

To this day, one of my greatest dreams is to write a novel. As I've matured, I've come to realize that though I borrowed your Pern, and Tolkien's Middle Earth, and a dozen other authors' worlds to lose myself in, that's all I was doing: borrowing them. And though I still continue to borrow those worlds, I want to have one of my own. Maybe someday someone will want to borrow my world.

Sincerely Thankful,

Allison Strom

10th Grade
Chugiak High School, Eagle River, Alaska
Teacher: Martin Lang

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