We're currently one week away from launch but I woke up this morning to a post indicating that the book had been seen in the wild. The location in question was a Waterstones in London:
The spotter, depending on his reaction, would be the best or the worst person who could possibly do it. He just so happened to be Professor John Wells, the most eminent and influential Esperanto speaker in this country.
John is a former president of the Esperanto Association of Britain and the World Esperanto Association, and the author of the best two-way English-Esperanto-English dictionary, which began life as the Teach Yourself Esperanto Dictionary in 1968, a companion to the original Teach Yourself Esperanto.
He also has a string of titles and accolades from outside of Esperanto. He is Emeritus Professor of Phonetics in the University of London and a Fellow of the British Academy, and has held the presidencies of the Simplified Spelling Society, the International Phonetic Association, and the British Association of Academic Phoneticians. This is a man whose opinion is worth something.
You'll notice I keep referring to him as 'John' and not as 'Professor Wells'. That's because I'm lucky enough to be friends with the man in real life. I might've even danced a little jig when I saw how he'd referred to me in his book Sounds Interesting:
I'm not the only one, by the way. John is my better half's favourite Esperanto speaker. (Don't worry; I think I made it to the top ten.)
We have plenty of John's books in our house so I should be guaranteed a good review, right?
Well, no, not at all. John doesn't know we have these books. And more importantly, John is a man of great integrity and credibility. Like me, he's not the sort to say he likes something if he doesn't. He's also one for precision, the only person I can imagine starting a meeting right on time even if he's the only one who happened to be punctual. Here's an excerpt from The British Esperantist 607 from November 1955, in which a 16-year-old John, who had been learning Esperanto for only three months, points out an error in a previous issue!
So there was no guarantee the book was going to get an endorsement and my heart fluttered when I picked up the phone this morning and Facebook loaded, showing a large image of the book cover with a comment from John above it. I read it and read it again just to make sure:
Phew! I can't tell you how proud that made me feel! And it's absolutely appropriate that the first person to pick up a copy and comment is not only the most eminent Esperanto speaker in this country and a friend whom I greatly admire and respect, but also somebody who was instrumental in bringing this book about.
In early 2016, the Publishing Director for Languages at John Murray Learning contacted John and asked him whether he might consider writing a new update of Teach Yourself Esperanto. I will forever be grateful that John suggested the publisher instead contact me to write it. There was still a lot of work to be done to get a proposal approved and book on the market but that gesture from John was the foot in the door, the response which got the ball rolling. So I think you'll all understand why it means a great deal to me that John has spoken of the book the way that he has and that he kindly sent me a photo of him holding it:
Thank you, friend! I'm so pleased that you're happy with it and hope that you'll be the first of many.