BY MARTHA POUND MILLER
It was 1988 and I lived in Phoenix, sweating over my job as executive director of the Arizona Society of The American Institute of Architects. One of the things the architects wanted me to do was bring in a top-notch speaker to give them all a kick in the pants. Who better to inspire them than my favorite writer, Ray Bradbury, whose stories I read to my children until they were old enough to read them themselves?
So, during a visit with a good friend in Los Angeles, I talked her into driving me to the Beverly Hills address I’d gotten out of the phone book. Yes, in 1988 that sort of thing was still possible.
She drove me to a surprisingly modest California bungalow style dwelling on a pleasant street lined with tall trees. I took a deep breath, got out of the car and went to the front door. A teenaged girl, who I assumed was one of his daughters, answered, and when I asked for Mr. Bradbury, she told me he wasn’t there. Disappointed, I left a business card on which I scribbled a note inviting him to speak to the Phoenix architects.
To my great surprise, he called me at my office and we made arrangements. A few months later, when he addressed the architects, he spoke about his love of architecture with such enthusiasm and depth of feeling they were mesmerized.
Afterward, several of us took Ray to the rooftop lounge of a hotel across the street. There, amidst the chatter, Ray Bradbury and I became friends. And when he came to Phoenix or Scottsdale again for book signings and lectures, he called me to meet him for a beer or a sandwich. He knew I was an aspiring, struggling writer, so our discussions were all about the craft. After our lunch one February afternoon, I rushed home and wrote down what I could remember. Just the other day I ran across those notes.
“Never read a novel in progress to your critique group,” he said. “It can kill it. For that matter, don’t read it yourself, or it takes away the mystery, the provocativeness and excitement. Let your intuition give you its treasure without interference. Then put it away for a month without reading it.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself about your writing. Go easy. Be nice to yourself. Listen to the voices in your head. If they talk to you in the morning, listen to them, then jump up and go write down what they said.
“Stories and novels should be like love affairs: mysterious and seductive. Don’t tell all. Never sweat at it. Unless you’re making love."
Always smiling, always enthusiastic, even bombastic, he charmed people everywhere we went. A clerk in the store where he bought Halloween trinkets looked at his credit card as he was paying. Her eyes bulged. “Are you Ray Bradbury? I mean are you Ray Bradbury?"
He smiled and said yes.
Almost swooning, she said, “I can’t believe I met you.”
“And I met you,” he said, dispelling any awkwardness she or I might have felt. He was that way with everyone: ebullient, happy, and warm. That’s how I remember him.
Once when we were talking about writing, he referred to it as “a divine madness." In his world, that was exactly how he saw it. And in the years since those days when we met occasionally to talk about that divine madness, I’ve never forgotten his great love of life.