Saturday, January 7, 2012

To First Kisses and Beyond


This past fall marked the first time since kindergarten that I wasn’t in school – either as a student or a teacher. I’ve blogged about this some, anticipating what it would be like. Were my expectations accurate? Mostly. Have there been surprises? Definitely.

I had no idea that I honestly wouldn’t miss teaching. Correction: I miss the act of teaching. I miss the crazy moments, like the day a certain student who shall remain unnamed dashed into the room and excitedly informed me that he’d pierced his nipples and would I like to see, followed by lifting his shirt so I could, then asking if it was okay to show me the whole thing on his cell phone. Of course. Your shirt is up over your shoulders. I don’t think the ‘no cell phones’ rule is really an issue at this point. I miss the students and the intensity of watching 185 students go through the angst of being sixteen and seventeen. I really do miss that.

I do not miss: standardized testing, pointless inservices, the inherent male chauvinism of Texas public education ( yes the good old boy system is still alive and well), grading papers for eight hours plus on the weekends. I do not miss parent conferences.

Working for myself has been different, freeing, scary, a pleasure. At first I worked non-stop. I’d write during the day and then write most of the night because I was used to working then, after I’d put in my first ten hours doing the day job. I’m a little less frenetic these days. I know the time is there most days. But I’m also conscious that the work expands to fill the hours. More promotional ideas. More blogging. Most importantly, more book ideas and more projects. When I’ve passed them by Agent Jen, she says go for it. So my days are full. But I like at least the illusion that I’m more in charge of my time.

My novels are full of firsts, too. My own life time of firsts are part of what I draw on when I write. That first awkward kiss from a boy at summer camp just before I turned twelve. I freaked and turned my head and he kissed my cheek and was too shy to adjust and make it to my lips. My first boyfriend. (okay, yeah, he was first chair bassoon in the marching band. Make of this what you will) My first true love and first heart-wrenching break up. The first time I got really, really drunk. The first day of kindergarten. Of high school. Of college. The first time I… well, I don’t have to tell you all of them. But I need all of those firsts to write. I need to put the heart of my firsts on the page for my readers. If I hold it back, the story isn’t honest. And there is no good writing without honesty. My readers know that.

As Janet Gurtler observed a few posts back, some firsts in our writing lives are glorious and others less so. We didn’t get where we are today without that first rejection.

In August I will finish my first trilogy when Anastasia Forever releases. It will be the first book I’ve taken from beginning to end with the same editor, the lovely Leah Hultenschmidt. Here’s to 2012 and all the first that it will bring!

4 comments:

  1. Great post :) And congrats on finishing your first trilogy!

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  2. "There is no good writing without honesty." Amen.

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  3. I don't like grading papers either, especially when the papers are all about the same topic. It's necessary work, but I always feel worn out after reading all those papers; I feel even more worn out when I think of how some students will try to challenge/question/complain about their grade, as some of them do.
    My first kiss was awful and from someone I didn't even want to kiss me. I like what you said about needing all those firsts to write, though. One good thing about fiction was that I was able to "rewrite the first kiss", in a way, so that for my character it was something she could look back on fondly.

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  4. Those great student moments are what I miss about teaching, too. Like you, I can do without the rest. Congratulations on making the leap!

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