I never would have thought of myself as a writer. I dreamed about it when I was young – the next Anne Frank; a great poet, discovered only after death (Emily Dickinson style); the vocabulary and diversity of a C. S. Lewis; the wisdom of Solomon – but since I had no talent, and I was afraid to write anything down for fear of it being read, I filed this dream under fantasy; and there it stayed. When I went to college, one of the first classes I took was Composition 101 – a writing class. I was terrified, the rumors and all. But I loved it! And better yet, my professor said he liked my “style.” Style? I had style? How could someone with no talent have style, I wondered? Besides, my grammar stunk…on this point my professor and I agreed.
Years past and I had long since dropped out of school when I met my husband. He was an artist, a musician, and a writer of music and poetry – lyrics mostly, but still poetry. He read me his work, and the more he read the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I critiqued. The more I critiqued, the less he read and I began to write – lyrics at first.
Then one day a story appeared. Yes, I do mean appeared. I sat down to write, and it began to pour out. Wow! I had a story, a children’s story, and it was pretty good – only minor revisions were needed, it seemed to have come out whole. That was inspiring. I decided to take writing classes: Evening with Emory, Children’s Writers Workshop, etc., and more stories appeared. Some presented themselves with grace, while others were a bit shy, though, with prodding they did manifest. There were impish stories, deformed stories, and stories that just down right refused to come out at all.
But after acquiring a small collection, I felt it was time to take the next step – submission. I submitted. They rejected. A few had comments on them, and one editor even wrote on the rejection slip that it was definitely not right for their company. I thought that was tacky. It was bad enough to be rejected by a form letter, but a form letter with an added hand-written rejection, well, that was just rude. Later on, I learned that anything hand-written on a rejection letter is a good thing, not a bad thing. So I forgave him.
I moved on to try my hand at poetry. It seemed the logical thing to do as my writings tended to have a poetic quality to them. I wrote poetry. It was pretty good, too. Next, I joined a “poetry group.” They liked my poems. Well, at first they liked my poems. But my “poems” didn’t sound like their “poems.”
“Who do you like to read?” they asked.
“Read? You mean poets? Well, I like Daffodils. Was that Wordsworth or Wadsworth? I can never remember,” I replied.
“Read more poets and come back next time,” they suggested.
I began to read more poets. I found some poets a lot of whose stuff I liked – but not all of their stuff; so it didn’t seem to me as though I could truly say I liked them. With other poets I liked a little of their stuff – but not much of it at all. Then I found this poet almost all of whose stuff I liked – even what I didn’t like, I still did somewhat. Anyway, he was from Georgia and modern – which the “poetry group” preferred. He wrote in the fifties, though his work had the feel of the eighteenth century – which I preferred. Sad to say, he killed himself. What can be more poetic than that?
Armed with my pseudo-modern poet, I returned to the fold and announced I had found him. I had found my poet.
“Who?” they asked. But I couldn’t answer…all eyes were on me at that point.
“Who is it?” they inquired again. I couldn’t remember.
Well, I don’t remember his name,” I said, “but he’s from North Georgia and he was a farmer turned English Professor who wrote incredible ballads and they have a society named after him with a scholarship and everything. Oh, yeah, he killed himself. Shot himself in the heart one night after listening to his favorite tunes…tragic.”
“We aren’t familiar,” they informed me.
“I see,” I mumbled. And I did.
From out of that group, which I conveniently exited, I was introduced to an agent. She wanted to see my work. The leader of the ‘the group’ had recommended me. “Me? Are you sure she meant me?” I questioned silently. But I obliged the agent and mailed her my stories (I didn’t dare send her my non-poems). She liked them. So a time was set for us to meet for lunch…her treat!
It was terribly awkward, that meeting. While there, I entertained notions of riches/fame alternating with visions of poverty/martyrdom. These visions, combined with genuine astonishment that someone actually thought my work could possibly sell and the expectation that I would present myself as a level-headed individual capable of intricate literary negotiations, left me floundering, blubbering like an idiot. No, no, that’s too romantic. I was just plain goofy. But in spite of myself, she “took me on,” with minor adjustments to the stories of course. Naturally, I conceded.
Wow, I was a writer! I had an agent, and stories, and everything! But I didn’t feel like a writer. To be a real writer, one has to be educated in the classics and all, with poetry. I never heard from my agent. I thought about firing her, but what was the point? That would have left me agentless. I did go back to college and graduated with a degree in Film with a minor in Writing.
Over the years I’ve blogged a bit and written for online news outlets; and with each writing attempt, I’m encouraged, and yet, with each attempt I’m also afraid. Afraid that I’ll be found out, or worse, that I’ll find out….I’m not really a writer after all.
6 thoughts on “A Writer? Me?”
Barely an hour ago, I was reading how repeatedly, and sometimes brutally, J K Rowling’s Harry Potter saga was rejected by the publishers. Even more ironic is the rejections that were slapped upon her even after the series became a runaway success, when she tried to get her work published under a pseudonym. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was rejected because someone thought it was “not funny on any intellectual level”. Go figure that! Meanwhile, I keep reading your stuff and I quite like what you write. And I just loved the way you poured in an entire journey of a writer.
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It is crazy how so many great writers and great other things people are rejected before they ‘make it.’ Gives all us aspiring somethings hope.
Thanks Uma for your kind words of support. It helps! I’m concentrating on a couple of children’s stories for now so not posting as much. I just sent one out last week…first time in years! Keep your fingers crossed for me. Hope all is well with you and those twins of yours 🙂
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I wish you the best in whatever you do. The twins are passing through a rough patch. But they will be all right eventually.
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childhood…difficult for both child and parent. And it isn’t until we have our own that we understand.
Reading seems to have changed a lot for our fast paced time seeking generation. Short and sweet and hard to beat seems to be all that many can handle.
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It is sad but true. And, getting shorter all the time.
Children’s picturebooks are now supposed to be under 500 words (preferably well under) because kids attention is so short.