I received my first official rejection letter today. But I can’t complain. It’s been a productive year, at least for writing.
As a music journalist I’ve interviewed some of the best artists out there.. I’ve met some top-rate musicians, including Ashley Cleveland and two original members of Double Trouble. I had a chance to say hello again to Grammy-winner Wayne Kirkpatrick, and three amazing songwriters visited my classroom. I also had a story published in a book sold in both Walmart and Barnes and Noble.
To top things off, I scored a personal telephone call from Joe Walsh.
Not too shabby.
As a “novelist in training,” I have works in progress, works in revision, and lots of ideas flowing. I’ve entered two writing contests. I was a semi-finalist in one and received an honorable mention in the other.
The honorable mention awarded me the invitation to submit to the publishing house that sent me the nice form letter with a personal note on it. I can’t say I’m surprised. This particular writing house targets the general market, and its most recent titles conflict with the values of the CBA and my Christian world view. I’m disappointed, but trends change. Maybe another time. I’m just thankful the editor took time to respond.
I’m not a bonafide newbie anymore. (Thank you MTCW and C-YAW groups for helping me learn the craft.) I’m far from an expert, but I know enough now to decide whether this is a dream I want to pursue. Do I have what it takes to follow this dream? Am I ready to turn the page to Chapter Two?
I finally asked myself why I’m doing this. Why am I pouring so much into dream that may never launch?
Life’s been especially tough since my mom passed away a month ago yesterday. I’ve been in a haze. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything, especially if it has had to with words. I haven’t felt like talking to anyone or being around anyone. But thanks to the words, patience, talents, and kindness of a few special people–I don’t even think you realize who you are, I’ve been able to find mine again.
And I know I can’t not write, and I know why I must write. I write for a lot of the same reasons why I teach.
I’ve worked with kids who abuse, kids who have been abused, kids who love no one, kids who worship Satan, kids who worship their boyfriends/girlfriends, kids who are homeless, kids who are parents, kids who have attempted suicide, kids who have completed suicide, kids who go on to murder, kids who become victims of murder, kids who have overdosed, kids who have died in accidents, kids who have become famous, kids who remain nameless during their four years of high school, etc.
I don’t teach kids so they can learn about nouns and verbs. I teach kids so that they know someone loves them—for real.
Once I tutored a kid after school. He wasn’t a favorite among his other teachers or his peers, but we got along.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked me one afternoon. “Why are you helping me?”
“Because I have someone who loves me, and I can’t help but show that love,” I said.
“You mean you’re a Christian?”
“You can’t be a Christian,” he replied with a look of amazement. “You’re wearing pants.”
I grew up during a time when what I call the “moral church-going majority” set the rules for the norms in our society. In order to fit in, to be loved by “the church,” I thought a person had to wear certain clothes, listen to certain types of music, keep certain hair styles—even have certain colors of skin. I broke a lot of their norms, and so did my friends, but I knew in my heart of hearts that those outward things didn’t matter. God saw what was on the inside. I wanted to share that message with other people like me who could see through the hypocrisy. I wanted to tell others that God really did love them no matter what.
When I became a teacher, I became somewhat of a “bridge.” I became a “safe place” for the rebel kids to land. I offered kindness when others offered disdain.
Quite a few of these kids became curious about what “I had,” and they followed me to church. Some of them found what they were searching for.
Several years later when I started writing for magazines, I wrote about contemporary Christian music. I met lots of artists, and my experiences working with the industry allowed me to build a “bridge” to the music kids I worked with. Kids who wouldn’t step foot in a church went with me to concerts because the CCM music sounded a lot like their music though the message was different. They listened to the words, and some of them believed what they heard.
Today I don’t listen to a lot of Christian music–not because I don’t like the message. I just don’t prefer the current trend of music style.
I listen to country, blues, and classic rock. Why? I don’t have a hidden agenda. I just like it. To my surprise, God has used that interest too. Now instead of interviewing CCM artists, I’m interviewing country artists and classic rock artists who play mainstream music but devote their lives to God. God is using them as a “bridge” between Himself and their audiences. Pretty cool. (There’s a possibility that I’ll get to meet and say hello to one of the headliner artists at Bonnaroo in June! I am sooo excited!)
Even though my creativity has taken a hit and I don’t feel like writing, I know I can’t stop writing. The stories are still running through my mind. It may take some time for me to get my footing again. I am so far from perfect. I wonder how I can encourage others when I’m so imperfect myself. When people look at me they don’t see a beauty queen, a millionaire, a turbo-charged brainiac, or Mother Teresa. I hope they see someone who loves tenaciously despite her personal imperfections. And I hope that’s the part of me God can use despite my flaws.
Today there is no “moral church-going majority.” Anyone can be “accepted” by some group or another. Almost everything is tolerated. I wonder. Can God still use me as a bridge? I don’t have grandiose dreams of becoming the next Stephanie Meyer or James Patterson. I just want to write the story I’m carrying in my heart. Maybe my story can be a bridge.