Here's something a little different. Way back when I was in junior high, my class was assigned to write a letter (this was pre-email, of course) to someone we admired, asking them to recommend a favorite book. I picked my favorite cartoonist, "Sam and Max" creator (now Pixar employee) Steve Purcell, who I wrote care of his comic-book publisher, Comico. I guess I also asked when his next book was coming out? Anyway, I was thrilled when he wrote back! Here's his letter, on the best Xeroxed stationery I've ever seen:
Thanks for choosing me as someone who's opinion you respect. As far as a book that has changed me, I'd have to say "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. Since reading it, Steinbeck has been my favorite writer. I appreciate his believable characters and beautiful descriptions of nature and real comfortable sense of humor (all the qualities completely absent from my work!) It was the first book that ever made me feel something emotionally and after I read it I sought out Steinbeck's other books. When I think back on when I was thirteen, I think I might have found Grapes of Wrath kind of thick and ominous but I probably would have appreciated some of his other totally swell books--Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, Of Mice And Men, and lots more. Anyway, have fun!
PS: Maybe a new Sam & Max book in 1990. Also three page story in Critters 50
That response meant a ton to me and it opened my eyes to the fact that you could actually communicate with a lot of big-time professionals if you just took the time to reach out. I spent the next few years writing a lot of letters to cartoonists and authors and saved all their responses in a little folder.
Also, I took his advice and read Steinbeck, who remains one of my favorite authors to this day. Thanks for everything, Steve!