Chapter Two

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?”

I smiled.

“You can’t be a Christian,” he replied with a look of amazement. “You’re wearing pants.”

Hmmmmm.

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.

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13 thoughts on “Chapter Two

    • I’m still a work in progress, but I do learn from the MANY times I mess up. My dad impressed upon me to stand up for the underdog, so I guess that’s why it’s important for me to try to understand where people are coming from. 🙂 Thank you for reading. I know you didn’t have to, so it means a lot that you did.

  1. Hi Beautiful Tee,

    When my Mom died in 1983 (she was 51) it was sudden and catastrophic for me. The years that followed were the worst in my life and I didn’t think I would ever get over it. I found myself doing things and taking risks that I could’ve never imagined. If I could do anything over, I would’ve “forced myself” to talk about it more and socialize. Maybe even get some counseling.

    How wonderful that you are not a “Cookie Cutter Christian.” I know you are used of God and bring more people to Him through the eloquence of your example. Every time I read one of your posts I can’t help feeling “She gets it.” We are to love the unlovely.

    I’m so sorry about your rejection letter, but guess what? It is *their* loss. Plus, I think you are in very good company. Continue thinking your stories and loving all. I know someday I will be seeing you on the New York Times best seller list.
    Kuby

  2. I’ve been blessed to get good news with a lot of my writing. I wondered how it would feel to get a rejection letter, but oddly enough I’m not devastated. I just feel it’s part of becoming a “real” writer.

    Sometimes it feels awkward because I guess I don’t fit the cookie cutter mold. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, and the word “bridge” has just been coming to my mind over and over.

    When I feel down, God sends encouragers like you. THANK YOU for being so wonderful.

  3. sorry about the letter. God can put a bridge wherever he wishes to build one. As far as cookie cutter goes….well…. the last word was “mold.” no business messing with that

  4. You are my bridge. 🙂 I think about you everyday. I hope the school year has gone well, and chaos has been at minimum…well your minimum.

    Writing has put my name everywhere on campus. People I don’t know start to recongize me. I can’t really shake my quiet nature, but it’s not so evident…sometimes 😛

    The Board will take us seriously now that we have printed our fourth and final issue of the year. I have learned some InDesign in a crash course which led me to create three of the four sports pages.

    Words do hold power. You taught me that. Now, I’ve clearly seen how they can change a community.

    You are my bridge. I may cross it, but I’ll never stray too far from it. 🙂

    • You words really mean a lot to me. I am very blessed to have you has a friend and as a former student. I hope that you’ll never stray too far away because you provide me with lots of inspiration and encouragement.

  5. Beautiful post! It’s one of those pieces of art that causes you to pause and contemplate.

    I’m sorry about the letter…. I pray God will open a door of opportunity in His perfect timing.

  6. It’s so strange. I don’t feel bad about the letter at all. I think I’m proud of myself for not feeling bad. I’ve learned so much. I have met some really amazing writers who have shared their paths to publication, and they assured me it’s normal to have to work hard for success. (Thank you Kaye Dacus.) I probably would have been devastated this time last year, but today I just want to work harder. By the wya, than you for being so kind to read my blog. I don’t take that act of kindness for granted. Your encouragement is a gift!

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