“Writing has to be a passion and writing is all about love.” –Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury died last week at the age of 91. When a man lives that long and is that famous, a lot of people get to meet him. I was one of them. He came to speak for the Scriptwriter’s Network in 2007. At the time I was Director of Marketing and in change of doing the speaker write-ups for the Scriptwriter’s Network newsletter. I wrote up his talk that day and am reprinting it here as my tribute to an amazing writer:
“Writing has to be a passion and writing is all about love,” Ray Bradbury, the prolific, legendary author told the Scriptwriters Network audience in the Glendale Public Library auditorium on February 10, 2007. “I love movies! When I was three years old, I saw my first film The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I fell in love. Then I saw a dinosaur movie, and I fell in love with dinosaurs. I loved movies so much that I saw as many as nine a week, double features, good and bad.”
But back when Bradbury was growing up, there weren’t that many places to go to see movies, which made Bradbury mad – so mad, in fact, that in 1961 he started a Film Society just so people could see lots of movies. Within a short time nearly 2000 people joined this Film Society. “We bought a theater and showed films there to educate writers. And I did that 45 years ago because I was so goddamn mad that there just wasn’t a place to see enough movies. I love movies!”
In Love with the Glendale Library
The Glendale Public Library is another of Bradbury’s loves. “I didn’t go to college. I went to the library. The library is where I grew up and why I came here today to speak. I love this library and I love this city. The library taught me to write. I used to drown myself in books here and when I had a newspaper route as a kid and got $10 together, I bought even more books. When people asked me, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m becoming a writer.’ I love books, cartoons, comic books, movies, plays, and I love the future. I fell in love with the future during the Chicago World’s fair. It was the future!”
Bradbury began writing stories at age 12. “I wrote stories all the time. I sold my first story for $15 to Weird Tales Magazine. When I was 13 years old I read about the great library of Alexandria and how it got burned, and the how Hitler burned books, and how Stalin burned books, and that’s what I had in mind years later when I wrote Fahrenheit 451 – to make sure books still existed. I literally wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the library with dimes – 10 cents per half hour to rent a typewriter.”
Once Bradbury got published, it led to other things. “When one of my $15 stories got rejected, I turned around and sold it to Mademoiselle Magazine for $300.” Later, because of a tear sheet from Weird Tales, Bradbury ended up being hired by writer/producer, Norman Corwin of CBS Radio. Radio was another of Bradbury’s loves, “I fell in love with radio when I was nineteen years old.”
Financial success, however, took a while: “When I married my wife I had $10 in my pocket,” Bradbury said. “I gave $5 to the minister, but he gave it back to me and said, ‘You’re going to need it.’” When Bradbury’s wife got pregnant, Corwin advised him to go to New York and visit publishers. The publishers kept asking him if he had written a novel, and Bradbury kept saying no — until one of them suggested that he weave all his stories together into one book. And this is what he did, and the finished product became The Martian Chronicles. “I’d written a book and I didn’t know it.” The publisher gave him $700 – and then they asked him for another idea.” And he was on his way.
Love and Moby Dick
“If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to be obsessed; you have to have passion, and passion is a loving combination of many things,” Bradbury said. Because he loved dinosaurs when he was six years old; and because he wrote a dinosaur story; one day John Huston came into his life. “And I loved John Huston. He had read one of my dinosaur stories and ended up getting in touch with me. He asked me if I’d like to write the screenplay of Moby Dick. I said, ‘Jesus Christ, I can’t even read that damn thing. I’ve had it in the house for years.’ Huston told me to go home and read as much of it as I could. So I went home and I told my wife, ‘I have to read a book tonight and turn in a book report tomorrow.’ But, once again, love saved me. I had always loved Shakespeare, and because of Shakespeare’s influence on Moby Dick, I was able to read the book and I took the job of writing the screenplay. I read and re-read that book until it was in my blood and I became Herman Melville. I wrote the last 30 pages of the script as Herman Melville!”
In Love with Ireland
Bradbury also loves travel, and his travels took him to Ireland – and he fell in love with Ireland. “I ended up writing three plays about Ireland – out of love.” He did staged readings of his plays while he was there, and “I realized that my plays were good.” And it satisfied another of his loves – acting.
Multiple Loves All Roll into One
Bradbury ended his talk with this: “Love is at the center of everything. All my multiple loves from all the times in my life have rolled over into what I’m doing now. To be a writer is to be a lover,” he said looking out over the audience. “So you are all lovers, too.
Copyright (c) Sylvia Cary, LMFT. Article originally published in the Scriptwriters Network newsletter in 2007.