"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who knew?

You all know I write a newspaper column, right? Most people consider it an "Erma Bombeck" style of humor essay, which doesn't offend me in the least since I loved Erma and even share a birthday with her. You can read some of my columns here.

I've been writing the column since March 2005, describing the ups, downs and quirkiness of life at the Carline house. It's been an interesting job. Every week I tell some tale about Marcus at school or Dale and I trying to have a conversation, but I rarely get any feedback about my essays. Were they good? Did anybody laugh? Is anybody reading them?

(Tapping microphone) Is this thing on?

Four years later, I've started to get noticed. People I meet around town tell me they read my column every week and enjoy it a lot. It's such a reward to know I'm not writing into a void. Still, I consider my essays to be frivolous little excursions into one family's life. You know, a mom's story about getting her son to do his homework, or a woman's tale of getting her car repaired. Not exactly hard-hitting news.

Then, this weekend, that perception changed. I was at the end of the year banquet for my son's high school soccer game, sitting at a table with two couples I didn't know, chatting about our kids and the latest budget crisis, etc. At the end of the evening, one of the women moved over to the chair next to mine and said, "I want to thank you for all those articles you write. My son is two years behind Marcus, and I feel like you've prepared me for everything he's gone through."

She pointed out an article I had written specifically about the transition from elementary school to junior high. I was a little dismayed by the extremes at the time: we had gone from a very supportive, feel-good elementary education, to an environment that rivaled most universities in the degree of "sink or swim" independence, and lack of involvement from the teachers. When her son went into junior high, she knew how to be pro-active, just from reading my humorous take on Middle School Survival tactics. People do tell me they like my columns because they see themselves in my situations, but who knew my sassy writing would actually help someone?

Her remarks were the high point of my weekend. I've written my column for four years, and will probably continue, as long as I enjoy it and my editors keep me around. I remember, after the first year, thinking I was a pretty good writer now and why wasn't I getting more noticed? Now, I look back and see how much I had to learn and to grow, both in my skills and my reputation. And I feel that I'm truly ready to be a successful author, as well as a "famous-in-my-own-backyard" columnist.

What about you? Did anyone else think they were ready for the next big thing, whether it was a book deal or a work promotion, only to realize there were still some lessons to learn? What did you do to be ready to take that step?

1 comment:

Karen from Mentor said...

Nice Gayle,
There are probably THOUSANDS more out there that just haven't run into you in person yet, or don't want to "bother" you with their own story. Nice that you had that feedback.

If you get a chance this week, poke your head into Laurin Whittig's blog..I'd love your take on dialog and how you handle it.


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