I just sent a cold email to Austin Kleon, asking if I could track him down in Pasadena for a "totally non-awkward" hug. This is what the digital age has done for introverts: we can reach out, nicely, from our trembling seated positions to those that we would like to appreciate. It could be an email. It could be a letter. They owe us nothing, but we receive the tingle of optimism for what might be.
It's good to offer something to those you admire, other than a hug. It could just be a story about their impact. "You have made a difference to me, and here's an example of how." A real story is better than just a thank you, but even those are okay. After I sent a letter to Natalie Goldberg thanking her for transforming my approach to the writer's life, she sent me a postcard back from New Mexico. You never know what delights await.
Important side note: it's not good to ask for free advice (though if you do, put it FIRST, not after a whole string of buttering-up platitudes which ultimately make them suspicious of anything you might send in the future). It's definitely not good to ask to be mentored. Mentorship from a stranger is a fantasy that never works out well for anyone.
As to Austin? We shall see if he responds, positively or at all. In the end, I can feel good with the message that I sent, even if it goes into the ones-and-zeroes ether.