I fidgeted in the swivel chair -- the 'good' chair, the teacher's chair -- twisting it back and forth by swinging my crossed leg up and down. Mostly unfamiliar faces stared back at me, except one or two I've known since their toddler-hood. But then, the whole high school felt unfamiliar. Odd, considering all the days I spent there not so long ago.
I spoke to the faces about writing, even though I know all of these kids could teach me a thing or two about writing. Ms. D taught my kids AP English and AP Literature, and I often subbed for her. She's very thorough.
But they listened politely and even asked a few questions.
Still, after ten years or so of annually reading my published essays to Ms. D's junior AP English class and giving them my tired tidbits of writing advice, I think it may be time to retire.
You see, Ms. D always introduces me as a 'published author' and while that's true, it's been a long, long time since I had anything published.
I'm not counting my newspaper articles. Those barely felt like writing - they weren't a part of me in the same way my essays are. (No offense to any newspaper writers out there.) And my blog - well, I just push a button! No approval but mine necessary.
Of course, it's been a long time since I actually submitted anything anywhere, and if you want to be published, it helps to submit your work. Your chances greatly improve!
It's just ... well ... I feel a little silly sitting up there hanging on to past glory. While reading A View from a Catwalk, it hit me I was just 31 when I wrote it, ready to set the world on fire with my writing.
Here I come, world!
That was 21 years ago! Wow. I discovered setting the world on fire with your writing is a lot harder than I thought, especially when you're just an above average writer at best (lots of rewrites requiring lots of time,) coming off of 13 years of shiftwork and your dream of being a stay-at-home mom with your three precious babies is coming true.
Along with Tom, they were the pot on the front burner that needed the most attention, and writing was pushed way to the back, right next to completing my college degree and hitting garage sales because we were now a broke, single-income family.
My most recently published essay is In the Aftermath of a Car Crash, about the head-on collision that nearly killed Tom back in 1998, and it was published eleven years ago in 2000.
Eleven years ago!
It's not that I haven't written since then. I was very disciplined the year following Tom's accident - with a published essay to show for it - until the computer hard drive crashed, imprisoning several short stories, the first few drafts of two books and ideas for more. (I wasn't quite as disciplined about backing up my work, unfortunately.)
Tom salvaged some of it, but I haven't had chunks of dedicated writing time like that since that year. We started on our house, the kids' schedules got busier... and whoosh! here I am sitting in front of a class reading something I wrote more than a decade ago, because I have nothing newer that's been published ... or even completed anything enough to submit anywhere.
Sounds like I've already retired, doesn't it?
But I'm not giving up on finishing and submitting my books or stories or screenplays someday. And I might not even give up my annual 'author' spotlight, if Ms. D asks me back again. Even if my credentials are getting dusty and my writing tips are ho-hum, I think I'm still very qualified to speak on never giving up on your dreams. I can vouch they keep pretty well on that backburner for a long, long time.