Highest Highs, Lowest Lows
Updated: Apr 8, 2021
When I was a student teacher, my mentor, the inimitable Sylvia Jones said some words to this effect after a particularly difficult day: If you want this job, steel yourself. It gives the highest highs and the lowest lows.
A vocation demands wholeheartedness. Whenever we give ourselves fully, we’re vulnerable. In our work, our loves, our self-expression—we’re moths to the flame.
“Do you think you’re going to have a thick enough skin to do this?” my husband asked me.
“Possibly not,” I answered.
That was my answer a month into the first year I taught. My husband asked the identical question the other night while I growled, cursed, and grumbled over another baffling piece of technology, not revising my second book, and the necessity of hauling my wares to market.
I gave the same answer. Which is to say, I’m nervous about my first author reading, an upcoming blog tour, and Treasure’s launch April 23. I’m hopeful but scared.
“I didn’t think one could ever write successfully and think of how many people are going to buy one’s books. One never writes with one’s tongue in one’s cheek. The essence of success is sincerity, and that is always before one” (Eleanor Alice Burford Hibbert, 1906-1993). Ms. Hibbert wrote as Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr, and Jean Plaidy, among others. I’ll take her at her word and cross my heart.
As a debut author, I run the gambit of morose to giddy thoughts. Up, down, all over the place. I drive my publisher crazy and thank her for her long-suffering encouragement. Today, a friend called about the my first reading. “You’re in [our town’s] magazine!!” My stomach flips.
Days before the release of Where Your Treasure Is, it’s difficult to recapture the private, deeply fulfilling moments I experienced while I originally wrote it. I’m excited about the book being in readers’ hands, but anxiety about promoting and marketing dampens the rapture—only because I’m uncertain that what I’m doing will be to any effect. “Who will buy this wonderful morning?” Oliver sang in the 1968 movie. How do we get into this jumble, where our heart’s offerings are for sale?
What used to strike me as I read my students’ essays was that so many of them truly invested themselves in what they wrote. The shyest or those with the most bravado managed, perhaps inadvertently, to vouchsafe a glimpse of the personality that they never did (or dared to) in class. Certainly, they all wanted a good grade and to pass. Even the most avowedly apathetic student read my comments. They did care what their classmates said as they exchanged papers and compared grades. No one wanted to fail.
Their flashes of brilliance were what made teaching a privilege. There were times when reading my struggling students’ work was like catching falling stars. Their bravery and offerings of self on paper still humble and inspire me. Those students are my patron saints of writing. I remember them as the days hurry on to Treasure’s release.
When I am uncertain and low about my ineptitudes with technology and social media, or the bookseller who isn’t interested, when I worry about sales and promotions or how the book will be received, I turn my thoughts to other writers who are equally hopeful and nervous. I send them my best thoughts and prayers. I remember my brave, brave students, and hope that whatever dreams they have set their hearts to after high school English with Ms. Bunn have flourished. I hope all our dreams do.
Does anyone out there feel the heat on our wings?