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What Nerd Could Ask For More?

By Mackenzie Merkel

The English language is something that holds a special place in my heart. Correct grammar and well-written topic sentences really get my engines going. Although to some this may seem unusual, abnormal even - I am not alone.

Many of my fellow AP Language classmates share this passion for all things reading and writing. That is why we were enthralled with the chance to meet (and speak with!) a Pulitzer Prize winning author, Richard Russo.

It all started when our English teacher, Mrs. McBride, announced that eight of us would have the opportunity to read “The Bridge of Sighs” and then meet the author. I do not think she had anticipated our reaction; in fact, I literally jumped out of my seat. We rushed to her desk to pen our names on the sign up list, which turned out to be pointless, since everyone in the class wished to be considered.

That day as I was leaving the classroom, my friend and I were discussing our prospects. I couldn’t stop asking, “Do you think she’ll pick us? What if we don’t get picked?” Both of us were extremely excited.

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Fortunately, we were both chosen, along with six lucky others. When Mrs. McBride gave me the book, I was a little disconcerted by its sheer volume. “Perhaps I was a little too eager,” I thought, wondering how many extra hours reading “The Bridge of Sighs” would add to my already grueling schedule. However, my fears were never realized, and the book turned out to be a delightfully complex and satisfying read.

Finally the big day came, the day we would meet Mr. Russo. I had tried to construct the perfect list of questions to ask, to show Mr. Russo just how attentively I had read his book, and perhaps even to arouse envy in my companions. He would know that I understood his subtle irony. I was even determined to throw in the phrase, “the inevitability of life.”

When our group arrived at the Torrey Pines Lodge, we were greeted by Kelly Colvard and the La Jolla Literary Society, which graciously offers students opportunities like this one

After we introduced ourselves to Mr. Russo, our conversation began. He discoursed on what it is like to be an author, and we, his humble adorers, seemed to have an endless stream of queries for so revered a man.

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I must admit, I never managed to slip in my so carefully formulated phrase. I’m not sure if I came across as highly perceptive, or even discerning. I might have even stuttered.

Personal failures aside, it was fascinating to meet Mr. Russo and gain insight into the life of a professional author. His manner of speaking was casual yet witty; he was instantly approachable, yet at the same time, he effortlessly garnered our respect and admiration. He shared with us interesting facts, for example that he prefers to “binge-write,” or write large portions of work at a time.

I think I can speak for all of us who attended when I say that meeting Mr. Russo was a unique occasion that inspired us all. As I left, I couldn’t help but wonder if someday, one of us would find ourselves in Mr. Russo’s place.

Mackenzie Merkel is a junior at La Jolla High School and is the co-editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, La Jolla High Tide.