Wednesday, June 9, 2010

3: Last Year, and the Year Before

Part three of a series.

The whole while, you’re still teaching. You write a book about some kids who find out their teacher is a witch, and really it’s wish-fulfillment because you want to be the kind of teacher with a magic wand to fix things.

You wish you could fix more things. You report the bruises to the social service. You hold them when they cry. You send the pregnant ones to the nurse. You wish they’d listen to you when you tell them they’re making a mistake. But they never do.

You work hard on revising the new novel. You spend all Christmas break with highlighters and colored pens and go word-by-word, line-by-line with critique notes and everything else.

You’ve written this one for publication. You’re convinced it will succeed. You did everything right.

But the story isn’t there.

It’s roundly rejected.

You seriously consider giving up.

You’re good at teaching. In your first year, there were a half dozen new teachers. You and one more are all that’s left. You stuck with it. You have a good reputation at school—fun, but tough. You have all your lesson plans made. You don’t have to stay up all night to grade or plan. You can roll up in the morning and do a whole day easily. You’re not as exhausted as before.

When you get home, you try to open your door with your classroom key. You do this often. Home and class are almost synonymous.

You go to a retirement party for a woman who has worked at the school for longer than you’ve been alive. You imagine yourself at 65, retiring from the school.

You’ve been working at school for 6 years. You invest in a retirement plan. You settle in for the long haul. You work for one full year to get your National Board Certification. You know when to let a kid sleep through class, and when not to. You don’t give homework because you know they won’t do it. You know exactly how long it takes to read a story, or write an essay. You don’t need backup plans any more.

Some of the kids call you “mom” and you realize it’s a compliment.

You start writing something else.

When you finish it, you decide: if this one doesn’t go anywhere, it’s time to quit. You can’t do better than this. You don’t want to be a bitter old lady who never achieves her dreams. Better to not have any dreams at all than broken ones.

You tell yourself you don’t care if you fail, but you do. You tell yourself it’s not failing if you give up, but it is.

You’re afraid to send this one out.

If it fails, you fail.

You send it out anyway.

You start preparing to be a teacher, just a teacher.

You get some rejections.

Then you get interest. When you get an email that an agent wants to call you next Monday, you and your husband go out to dinner. You keep telling him, it may be nothing. It's not officially an offer, just interest. It will probably not go anywhere.

On Monday, you get an offer. By Wednesday, you’re lining up agent interviews. The next week, you sneak out during your breaks, sit in your car with a notepad propped up on your steering wheel, and take notes on agents.

You’re juggling being a teacher, while at the same time clutching your writing pen.

And you realize.

This is it.

30 comments:

Miriam S. Forster said...

YAH!!!

Seriously, you're giving me chills here, Beth.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

YAY!
Honestly, your story is amazing, I had the ity bits of teardrops in the edges of my eyes. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad to get to the happy part. Your story reminds me of Jay Asher's. He was going to quit if his last novel didn't make it to publication.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing your inspirational story. Glad to hear that your juggling and sticking with it has paid off--in all areas of life.

Christine Fonseca said...

love this...

lotusgirl said...

tears still in eyes. This is wonderful. I love that I was here for this part. Favorite line: You send it out anyway. It's your determination and professionalism that made all this possible.

Melissa said...

I felt all choked up this time. I can't even write a comment because I feel so overwhelmed with emotion.

Kristi Helvig said...

Awesome!

Jamie Grey said...

I really just want to thank you for posting this. I am still blinking away the tears. Of happiness of course :)

PJ Hoover said...

Yay!

Misty Waters said...

OMG, that was soooo great! You are brilliant, ma'am!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Not only is your journey amazing, the way you've written it is. You inspire me beyond what I can tell you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I absolutely can't wait to read ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.

Tere Kirkland said...

You're living the dream, Beth!

Thanks for sharing.

~Tere

Demon Hunter said...

Awesome. :-D More!

Emily Casey said...

Maybe each of us, as writers, needs to reach that point where we know this is the best we can do. Putting our best out there is the scariest thing in the world because what if it still isn't good enough?

Thank you for sharing this. You are truly an inspiration.

Casey McCormick said...

YEAH!!!!!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Ah! I'm getting goosebumps all over again, just reading this. Have I told you lately how happy I am for you?

Not just because you're awesome (you are) and because you're publishing YA SF (which rocks), but because you share and inspire. That's (awesome)^2. :)

Kay said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm just beginning the journey you are on with a commitment to write at leas two hours a day this summer on my first novel. I'm still trying to breath my way through the panic attacks that hit every time I sit down to write, but I am writing.

Michelle said...

Wow! Nice to see someone going through the same struggles AND succeeding in the end. Thanks so much for posting this. It gives us all hope!

Janet Johnson said...

Love the post! That must have been so awesome. Hurray you didn't quit!

E. Arroyo said...

I could feel my heart pumping and tears welling up. Good for YOU!!! and thanks for posting this side of things.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Yay. Loving the posts. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat here. :)

Crystal said...

What a journey you've been on, Beth! I, too, got teary-eyed reading this. You are TRULY INSPIRING! WOW! I'll be linking to this post soon . . . You SO deserve this success, Beth! :)

Kaylie said...

I'm behind on my blog reading, but when I read this post, I had to read every word of the two previous ones as well. Such a compelling failure/success story. It's nice to know someone else goes through the same trauma and still gets there eventually.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Yay--I love getting to the happy part. (Don't get me wrong, the other parts have been amazing. But the happy ending is the best part) :)

Christina Farley said...

Oh I'm having so much fun reading these!

Corey Schwartz said...

Okay, had to bring out the tissues on this one.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, I got chills at those last few sentences. That feeling must've been amazing.

prashant said...

He was going to quit if his last novel didn't make it to publication.
Banner Advertising Network India

Android developers said...

Interesting post. Thanks for the share.
Android apps developer| Android development| Android developer|