Recently Peter Mayhew, the actor who famously played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films, passed away at age 74. This hit me pretty hard. Who am I? I am just a nobody, but I got to work with him for a couple of years on a project. He was my literary agent. He changed my life.
He’s a had a couple of health scares since I first got to known him and there have been times in his life when he has been forced to be in a wheelchair, but that did not keep him from living a full life. At least from what I knew of him. I met him through my friend, Bill, in 2016. My husband and I talked Bill into cosplaying Gungi, the young Jedi Wookiee, and I have no idea how my buddy managed to get in contact with Peter Mayhew. But he did and even got an autographed picture from him. But Peter wasn’t just a movie star. He cared about people and the world around him. He started a foundation to help people in need called the Peter Mayhew Foundation. And he was a writer.
I am a writer, but no one ever believed in me. My high school teacher complained that I wrote like Ray Bradbury, she hated Science Fiction. My high school boyfriend read one of my manuscripts without permission and told me he hated it. In college I never felt comfortable with my fellow writers and the courses never seemed to make me a better writer. I submitting manuscripts to publishers and always got a xeroxed response of no thank you. Being a novelist was like being a fine artist. You were meant to starve and succeed only after you were dead. Becoming a novelist was a battle I had no idea how to fight, so I set it aside to focus on things that would put a roof over my head and food on the table. When I lost my job in 2008?….I think…(It was a horrible place where I did three people’s jobs and got paid for one not to mention that the people didn’t care about me), I started painting again since I was stuck at home. I also started writing again because my friend, Laurie, mentioned something called NaNoWriMo, which is a writing event that happens every November. I gave it a try. I wrote a story about a kid that went to a school for Knights. No outline. Just free form spilled out of my heart and mind. I shared it with my husband and our best friend Bill. They both liked it, but every writer knows that friends and loved ones will always be kind about art projects. For some reason Bill wanted to show it to Peter Mayhew and I said alright.
This was the start of my friendship with the man who created what a Wookiee should be.
He really liked it, and we discovered that we had some interests in common. He wanted to know if I had an ending for it. And I said no, and that I was currently working on a Star Wars story. Remember the story of a kid going to a Knight’s school was done without any planning. I wasn’t sure how to end it. Still don’t. But the Star Wars story had been outlined for the upcoming NaNoWriMo event. Why write a Star Wars story? Well, I have loved Star Wars ever since I saw the first movie as a kid. I’m a big Darth Vader fan. I liked him when it wasn’t cool. Trust me, I got some strange looks for liking Darth Vader. I even tried to explain that he was one of the main characters like a hero but not one. I was a kid.
So once I had my Star Wars story written and edited a couple of times to make it readable, I let Peter Mayhew read it. After he read it, he asked if he could be my literary agent! No kidding. I was excited and shocked all at once. I kept wondering if he was messing with me, but I was told that Peter had a reputation for being a straight shooter. No bullshit and he would say it like it was. Also, why would a busy person like him waste time on a person like me if he didn’t think I had potential. You see, it was hard to believe because no one had ever been a mentor to me or ever taken an interest in the projects that I worked on. He had me do a few things to set up my work to help protect it. He also explained how the Star Wars Universe actually worked. People don’t submit stories to them, they contact writers and tell them what to write. Only one writer had done what I wanted to do before in the Star Wars Universe. He actually wanted to introduce me to her.
He worked to find me the right people to work with which seemed to be an uphill battle. He finally asked me if he could share it with his old friend, whom I call the Decision Maker. Peter wanted to know what his friend would think of the story. The Decision Maker liked the story and said he would help try and find editors and a publisher. You see, stories that are part of a franchise have to follow certain rules set up by the owners. I had several friends suggest self publishing, but that would not work because my work was set in the Star Wars Universe. I have read many of the novels and comic books that are pertinent to the situations in my stories as well as seen all the movies and cartoons numerous times. So when you see authors that say they had helpers do research, well, I did it all on my own. It’s time consuming but a labor of love. I did not want to let down Peter or the Star Wars fans.
Unfortunately, Peter’s health was not the greatest and he had mentioned to me that he wished to retire but was willing to see my story get published. He was still very busy doing comic cons and movie stuff he couldn’t talk about. So when I say I knew him….I knew him not as much as I would have liked to. He was a busy guy and I needed to be patient. I felt uncomfortable sharing with people that he was acting as my literary agent because I didn’t want to disappoint people when I couldn’t get them autographs and so forth. This was a professional type of friendship. Then it came to the point when his friend the Decision Maker agreed to take on my project while Peter recovered from some surgeries. The Decision Maker was my “temporary” literary agent. Both men have given me guidance and have done their best to navigate through the Star Wars Universe, which has become quite complicated. Now that Peter is gone, I guess that means the Decision Maker is my literary agent. I hope he doesn’t mind. He’s also a very busy person.
I’m not going to give up on what Peter and I started. I will make him proud of me. I will be worthy of his faith in my skills as a writer and story teller. I just need the publishers to treat the Decision Maker with more respect. I don’t have any control over that. The entertainment world is not a simple place. Not sure it ever has been.
So that’s how Peter Mayhew changed my life. I am still a nobody, but I don’t feel as much like a nobody inside anymore. I know that he and the Decision Maker liked my book. They believe that it is worthy of being part of the Star Wars Universe.
I know that I am not the only person that will miss him and many of you reading this will feel the same way. It is my understanding that Peter’s family wishes that instead of sending flowers to them that making a donation to Peter’s Foundation would be appreciated. Make Peter’s last action on Earth be to bring more help to others in need. I think he would like that.
G. Winkler ©2019
PS – I know this was not written very well, but it was written more for me than anyone else. I just needed to say that I cared about him since I felt I had to keep his name secret because I don’t think I could have deal with people asking me to try and get autographs and so forth from him.