Last night, I was privileged to be able to go to my son’s school and listen to Ben Mikaelsen speak. Ben’s an author of children’s books (really YA, but they’re incredibly sophisticated for YA books), and he lives in Montana with his companion Buffy – an 800 pound bear.
Ben’s an absolutely amazing speaker, he spoke on his childhood, the people who affected him the most as a kid, and his other life experiences working as a writer. He grew up in Guatamala, during the revolutions (he talked about using sticks to poke the dead bodies on the street)), . Eventually he moved to the US as a functionally illiterate 7th grader, where he was turned onto reading by a librararian.
Ben’s had an amazing life. I loved hearing the backstory behind some of his books.
It was absolutely wild listening to him recount his experiences in Space Camp (doing research for his book Countdown). The story of how he met the only surviving German scientist of the 500 who came from Germany with Werner von Braun (unfortunately, I missed the scientist’s name) was amazing. To paraphrase one part: You know how, when you go to visit people, they take out their photo albums, and show you all the pictures of their trip to Disneyland? “Look – here’s me in front of Space Mountain” “Look, here’s me with Mickey!” “Look, here’s me with Goofy!”. Well this guy opened up his snapshot album and took out the pictures. “Look, here’s me with a V2 rocket. I worked on the avionics for that one. If we’d had just a couple more months to work on it, we could have changed the world” “Look, here’s me with my fuhrer – he did so many bad things, I’ll never sleep at night because of the thigns he did” “Look, here’s me with president Kennedy. Such a shame, he died too early”.
I am so utterly envious of his experiences, I wish I had done half of the things he talked about doing.
If you EVER have an opportunity to hear him speak, go to listen, you won’t regret it.