Sunday, August 6, 2017

On everything

To add to the "big break" post below, the student writer did indeed sign a contract. May the publisher-bidding wars begin! This girl is on her way to a very new life--or at least through a very exciting door.

I'm inspired and a teensy bit envious. I'm in search of my own new door, one that sparkles in the way the start of my fervently wanted careers once did. I don't yet know what my new door will look like, how hard or easy it will be to turn the knob. Maybe I can polish up the careers I already have. Get my own students book deals or jobs or simply help open doors they hadn't considered--maybe (hopefully) I already have. 

Present time concern: I woke up this morning thinking about pocketbooks. Not dreaming of them, but rather seriously considering if I had one to match the outfit I would wear on Thursday (see photo below) This is a strange concern for me, because when in doubt, I grab the backpack and that's that. But it's also not unusual that at this particular time I'm thinking of outfits and matching this and that's, because I'm traveling to a time when these things super-obsessed me.

On Thursday eve, I'm attending a high school reunion. I'm not the reunion type, simply because I always fear I don't have much to show for myself (my self esteem plummets to those hazy not-so lazy days) and I'm not the rah rah rah type--but, then, that's not exactly true. Once upon a time I was. And when people look beyond my librarian glasses and love for hard-cover dictionaries, after they say "you were a cheerleader?!" they see my go-team smile which hasn't washed off in, well, 40+ years. And it will be right at home at this very specific get-together, a cheerleader reunion.

When I first saw the invitation, I was overcome with dread (high school self-esteem). I "rented" a grandchild (friend Debby's adorable little one), pulled myself together (along with the cute outfit that has no matching pocketbook), and got into it. I created a late sixties playlist--Dionne Warwick, the Beatles, the Supremes, Fifth Dimension, Herman's Hermits, the Temps, and the list of all my favorites goes on.

What felt two months ago like an event I couldn't possibly attend has taken on the warmth of nostalgia and reminiscence. Who will I see? I imagine, once insecure girls, too, who've grown into themselves. Who will I be? Proud of who I've become (leaning in that direction) or aware of my flaws? (Uh uh.) 

High school is the door I'll stand before this week. I'll turn the knob and step inside. I'll likely wear the yellow skirt and top that has no matching pocketbook. And no one will care.
(I'm second from the top right, the one with the fold through her face.)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On someone else's big break

I have the chills. I'm not sick, just super-excited for a CUNY student whose life is about to change in ways she can't imagine. And I'm remembering too when the possibility of fame came knocking at my door, via the exact same vehicle.

My friend and colleague taught a children's lit class at Bronx Community College this summer. Her students, many of whom are immigrants, wrote books informed by their childhoods in their home countries. Katherine kept telling me about one book about a parrot who flies to New York from the Dominican Republic, seeking America's fortunes. As the book moves along, one thing leads to another, and mangoes enter the scene. When I closed my eyes, colors popped behind my lids--orange, red, blue--I began to dream about going to DR, the heck with the U.S. (for more than mangoes, but that's another story).  

Well, Katherine must have seen brightness, too. She contacted a writer at The New York Times and told him about her class, the stories, especially the one about parrots and mangoes. He saw color, too, I'm certain. Because an article about the young woman was in yesterday's "Side Street" column.

"She's going to get a book deal," I said with confidence. And today--one day later--Katherine called me. "You're a genius!" she said. "A top NYC agent wants to represent her!" Not a genius, just been there, and I know the power of the Times. But still, I get a wonderful onset of the chills. Lovely little pin pricks tickling my arms, my scalp. How great for the student. And, too, for community college students, so many of whom don't see glitter ahead.

Deep sigh. Pen to page. Fingers to keyboard. Show up. Every day or as often as possible. Not just at the writing but for myself. Whatever the creative impulse. Many years ago, when my call came, I wasn't ready for the agents. It wasn't because I hadn't shown up for the writing--I had--two three times a day, and when I was on fire and had the time, all day. But my inner work--the fixative that writing served me--hadn't yet solidified. 

Agents. Book deals. They're not part of my dreams anymore. Writing time has been replaced by the gym, the precious 40 minutes on the elliptical when I put on the headphones, tune out and sweat. For the past month I've noticed that I get that runner's high, or at least, am emotional and physical putty all day. Why stir my well with words, when they always find their way to something inside, not-yet-fixed?

An RSVP to a family wedding sits on a shelf near my door. I haven't seen these cousins in years; they likely think I won't go. I'm in conflict. It's the first time since the election I would be at political odds with a sea of people. It's a traditional ultra-orthodox affair--something to experience, engage in, respect. I want to rise above that which blocks me. Or at least, put it aside. It's the "right" thing to do. But I'm not quite sure.