I met Sir Terry Pratchett once, at a book signing. I was about seven years old, and my mum — who had introduced me to his work — had found out he was doing a book signing at a Waterstones in Milton Keynes. She had driven from her work there, home to our town, and taken me and my sister back again so I could meet him.
The queue, by the time we got there, was massive. Snaking away down the side of the concrete brutalist shopping centre. I was crestfallen, and Mum wasn’t sure what to do. It would take hours of waiting, and that’s not really feasible when you’re a parent of two young children.
Then a very Terry thing happened. It’s not like the stories you’ve been hearing about the man himself supporting young authors, being kind and friendly to trans and gender diverse people. It’s more of an indication of the type of people who read his books.
Another parent near the front of the line spotted me, my sister and my Mum and asked if it was ok if I joined her family — so we wouldn’t have to wait. An instinctive kindness, sharing and making space when you see someone needs a little bit of help.
And so I joined the line, clutching my copy of Truckers. The line moved forwards and ahead of me The Hat appeared. I had seen The Hat inside the cover of every book I had read of his.
Finally there he was. He asked my name, I said I loved his books. He smiled, and wrote inside, handed it over to me. Seconds. Moments. Thirty years ago. I remember them very well.
I didn’t dare look inside until I was back in the car. He’d written in my book. The book he’d written.
To John, an Adult of all Ages. Terry Pratchett.
I was seven, and didn’t initially understand what it meant. But that has always been one of the joys of Terry’s writing, some of the things you read when you were younger, you enjoyed, but then reading again when you were older — you got more out of it. He had the ability to write something that a 6 year old, a 16 year old and a 36 year old could all enjoy in different ways while still being the same story.
On that weeknight in the 90’s, I got the thrill of meeting the author of my favourite books. When I reopened Truckers a few years later, and read the inscription, I understood what he’d written and got a whole new enjoyment out of it.
There’s been some Pratchett discourse this week, as people have tried to claim he believed this, or believed that. His family and friends have settled the argument, so I don’t need to talk about that. I thought I’d write about meeting the man, and how even when signing a book he managed to do so in his own, incredible, style.