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With Tears In My Eyes: Saying Goodbye To Author Ardath Mayhar
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It was almost three decades ago when I first walked into the dusty little book shop. The View From Orbit Bookstore was really just a tiny little hole in the wall but it had a certain charm to it. A feeling of love and warmth that children today most likely will never experience.

Ardath Mayhar and her husband Joe had opened the small store in a small town not only to try to make a little money to supplement her writing but also to express their love of literature. It was a soon to become my haven from the outside world. I can not express exactly how much I loved that store…and the lady who owned it. Unfortunately, I will never get that chance, Ardath Frances Hurst Mayhar left us on February 1, 2012. Ardath was born in 1930 and passed away just a couple of weeks before her eighty-second birthday.

I had been meaning for quite some time to look her up and thank her but somehow never got that chance. But perhaps I should start where all things begin: at the beginning. I was a young boy that was less athletic than my stepfather wished and far too bookworm-ish to care. I stumbled upon The View From Orbit Bookstore by accident but it was a week later or so when I finally wandered in. Life was much simpler back then, my main goal every summer was to read as much as I could and earn money mowing lawns to purchase those books I craved. The book shop was pretty small and cramped, tomes piled to the ceiling in some places. But the gruff old man behind the desk (Joe Mayhar) could show you to whatever section you wanted and almost recite the entire inventory by memory. I loved it!

It was on my second visit, just a few days later, that I met Ardath for the first time. She had just finished writing Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey and was trying to sort things out in her writing area. I introduced myself and we chatted for almost three hours that day. I was elated to have adult conversations with someone who didn’t treat me like the little boy I was. Two or three times a week my mom would drop me off and I would alternate between searching the stacks for new reads and talking with Ardath.

Over the course of the next couple of years I started to spend most of my weekends there until one day they offered me a job sorting and alphabetizing books in exchange for store credit. It was a match made in heaven, mostly since I spent all my earnings and allowances in the store anyway. When I wasn’t actually working, the conversations were still going on. I learned all about the life of a full time author, which wasn’t as glamorous as I would have expected. She spent many hours having to rewrite what I considered perfectly good work.

While I never became very close to her husband, Ardath became sort of a grandmother of sorts to me. I told her about everything that happened in my life, soliciting advice on virtually everything from girls to research papers (she would never read my papers until after they were graded). I remember talking to her after my first date, she insisted that I bring the young lady by to meet her. Unfortunately, that didn’t go as well as it could have seeing as how we broke up after our second date.

Between the two of them, Joe and Ardath taught me many things. Most importantly was that a love of books can transcend all of life’s problems. To this day, when I’m feeling depressed, I pick up one of my favorite books and leave all my worries behind…for a little while at least. But the other lessons Ardath left me with are more often practical than not. She taught me that you should always write from the heart and dress the story up later. Too often an author will worry about the phrasing of something and lose sight of the point. I may not be eloquent when I put my fingers on the keys, but I mean what I say when I do it.

It wasn’t until much later that I discovered exactly how talented she was. She wrote novels and short stories, that much I knew, but she was also a poet and had been since she was nineteen. And she was nominated for the Mark Twain Award. Ardath won a Balrog Award for a horror poem and was nominated for a multitude of others. She was even honored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as an Author Emeritus a few years back.

She wrote science fiction, fantasy, westerns, historical fiction and even a few childrens’/young adult novels…more than forty books total. And that doesn’t include the numerous short stories and poems! She had a few pseudonyms, especially for the westerns. As she once said to me, no one would take a woman writing westerns seriously. Fortunately, that has changed. After spending more than a decade running bookstores, I did notice that genres such as that changed and progressed. I don’t know if she had much to do with that but she certainly couldn’t have hurt.

I could go on and on about Ardath, like how she introduced me to different book genres, how I got to travel to a couple of conventions and even meet some wonderful authors because of her. But the most important thing I can tell you is that she loved life and loved to write. I regret few things in my life, but not being able to tell her how much she did for that short, red-headed kid is one of them. I never became the great author she was, but I have a love of the art that will never fade. It has taken me more than a week to be able to sit down and compose this. Every time I did, I got too choked up to write. She was once like family to me and has always had a place in my heart. Not just for the things she did for me, but just because she was always a great person. In the end, we are remembered by our actions and words. I will remember Ardath Mayhar both for her writing and for her friendship.

This week I pulled out several of her books to re-read and pass down to my children. If you have any of them, I would recommend the same. If you don’t, then perhaps you should seek them out, preferably at your local used bookstore (it only seems fitting).

With tears in my eyes, I bid you farewell, Ardath…I am a better person for having known you.

2 Comments »

  1. What a bummer. I attended SFASU in the mid-80s and went there quite often. The world is a sadder place without her.

    Comment by Douglas Warren — February 24, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

  2. You are quite correct, sir. The shop closed in ’99. Sad days :(

    Comment by Waerloga69 — February 24, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

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