Ray Bradbury and Gail Tsukiyama at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference

Speaking of Love

I’m almost 40, but until last weekend, I was a Ray Bradbury virgin. I’d never heard him speak, though he is at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference every year. When I heard that he was speaking on love, though, I couldn’t resist.

You might think that I am merely being provocative with my metaphors, but in the talk he gave Saturday evening, Bradbury himself referred to John Huston and Federico Fellini as his lovers-in the metaphorical sense-and to himself as the world’s greatest lover. Indeed, there seemed to be no difference between the story of Bradbury’s career as a writer and the story of Bradbury pursuing that which he most loved in life, whether it was poetry, dinosaurs, or Charles Dickens. His story was one of continual leaps of faith, of moving forward after the thing most wanted, of the universe shifting time and again-even when odds seemed slim-to support his work.

By Paul Wellman

Gail Tsukiyama

Although she wasn’t as metaphorical about it, author Gail Tsukiyama’s message the following evening was much the same. As the author of Women of the Silk and The Samurai’s Garden told the story of her life as a writer, she highlighted key moments when she had chosen to go with what she loved or with what fascinated her, whether it was sumo wrestling or the details of silk-making. Many times she said things that could have come out of Bradbury’s mouth: “Don’t allow the idea of being published to hamper you. You have to write from the heart.” “You know you are on the right track when you sit down in front of your computer and everything else falls away.” “It’s got to be labor of love.” By the time the talks were over, I certainly knew how I wanted to feel when I sit in front of this keyboard.

You may still be thinking, though, that all this has very little to do with what we usually mean when we speak of love. I’m not so sure. There’s something about loving life that has a way of spilling over into loving others. Leaving the room after the Bradbury talk, I noticed a couple I’ve known for years holding hands-something I’ve never seen them do before. As I drifted by them in the lobby, I heard him say, “Are you ready to go home?” and there was something about the way she answered, “Yes.”

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