FAILING FORWARD, Memoir of a Writer: Chapter 3

Deep down, I am also beginning to wonder if the life of a public school teacher is for me. It isn’t the teaching or the students or parents, it is the politics. I just want to close my door and teach, and it is really too difficult to do that as time progresses.

Please read chapter 2  first!

As the summer of 2001 passes in a blur of disappointment, my resolve to get my book published intensifies.

Then, 9/11 happens.

Watching the replay, over and over, of the falling towers in the weeks after the attacks is surreal and terrifying and sad. It also forces me to face the reality that both my husband and I need to make some major life changes. Both of us have grown disenchanted with our respective jobs. For my husband, he just needs to switch positions at the same company and problem solved. For me, it’s more complicated.

Though I adore my seventh graders, I’m in year three of teaching at a middle school that has a really negative environment with no sign of change. Whether it is complaints about our inconsistent administration or the poor conditions of the building or the overcrowding of the classrooms or that we are one of lowest paying districts in the state, everything is crumbling, and many of us are looking for a way out. Deep down, I am also beginning to wonder if the life of a public school teacher is for me. It isn’t the teaching or the students or parents, it is the politics. I just want to close my door and teach, and it is really too difficult to do that as time progresses.

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At the time, I thought it was the district, that there must be better places to teach. Not to mention, I missed the salty, ocean air of my hometown in the East Bay and The Money Pit was driving us to (almost) divorce). So, I throw my hands up to the universe and cry, “HELP!”

Not more than a few weeks later, a position at my old high school down in Middletown (located on Aquidneck Island, as in ON the OCEAN!) opens up—MID-YEAR! It’s a sign from the heavens, I tell myself and apply immediately.

I get the job and we move to Bristol into a home that doesn’t involve any fixing up. I throw myself even more passionately into the process of getting my book published. I hire a book doctor and do some deep, deep revisions. I pass the manuscript around again, this time to my high school students who give me some more feedback. I rewrite again, and soon it is 2003, and oh—that was quick!

I’m pregnant.

The pregnancy is the second miracle for me, in just a matter of a year, and I feel unstoppable. I feel possible. Dream job. Baby. Why not a book?

The internet becomes my place of research. During my long stretches of searching, I listen to A.M. radio (my favorite, until satellite comes along in 2005) and happen upon a radio show dedicated to talking about books and authors! Remember, doubt isn’t in my vocabulary yet nor is the idea of failure. So, I send out an email to the radio show host. The email is a simple, will you consider reading my manuscript—something every novice novelist does at least once or twice…something I did years and years before as a teen. (I once sent a short story to Paul Zindel because I had gone to summer camp with his son. I never heard back.) So, when the radio show host actually replies with a yes, I take that as yet another sign of miracles. In 2003, I’m not sure how often manuscripts were sent by attachment. So, by postal, I ship out the whole 140 pages and include a SASE, which turns out to be unnecessary because not more than a week or so passes and the talk show host emails me that she loves the book and do I want to be a guest on her show!

I go on a few times, once with two of my students who have read my book. This gave me a little bit of a small-town famous feeling. It was FANTASTIC!

Over the next few months, as I start to move from the nausea phase of the pregnancy into the extreme exhaustion, I attend some local author events with my talk show host friend and meet several what is called “self-published authors”. What is that? I had no idea that something outside the concept of “vanity press” even existed. These women were so fascinating and inspiring…and about twice my age. They mentored me along and encouraged me to research options for self-publishing. Two of the women used a self-pub company called iUniverse.

Remember, I’m pregnant while continuing to still chase pavement for my book. It’s been about four years at this point, so watching these women have book signings and get featured in local newspapers and TV, becomes very appealing.  Coupled with a small fan club of students, I am beginning to catch the bug of Life of an Author.

Things like agents or rejection, things like giving up or failure, they are foreign concepts, and when I see glimpses of it in some of the seasoned authors I will eventually meet at events, I think, “That will never be me.”

How eerily ironic those words will eventually become.Chelsea 3 Days Old

Before self-publishing, I’m still childlike in my dreams to become the next Judy Blume—a phrase used by my radio show friend to describe me.

Me Book 2004

So, just as my eighth month comes to a close, I finish another and final round of revisions so that I can give birth, not once in 2004, but twice. My first baby, a human girl with a full head of black hair and espresso bean brown eyes and my second, a book baby with 110 pages of story.

I’m five years into my teaching career and just a month into my life as a mother when I make another major life-changing decision…

Chapter 4

3 thoughts on “FAILING FORWARD, Memoir of a Writer: Chapter 3

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