After my fifth grade teacher told me that I could be a writer, I immediately set out to be one. I worked hard at my craft. Okay, granted my first novel was written with colored pens, sometimes every other word was a different color, and the novel was only 30 ruled pages long, but still. At the age of ten, I sat down and taught myself to touch type, using a book borrowed from the library and my mom’s 1939 typewriter, the one with the sticky D and E keys. You know the one. Amazing how many words have D and E in them.
Then I sent my stuff out, certain that what I wrote would be admired by all and sell my work for oodles of dollars, say $25 (hey, I was 10). Some kids waited for the toy they’d collected cereal box tops for, but I waited for acceptance letters. I haunted the mailbox and received horror instead of happiness—rejection letter after rejection letter.
I’d complain to my mom, who’d say sweet encouraging words. Then I’d repeat the entire process. I repeated the process through the age of 10, then 11, then into the ancient age of 12. Write, edit, submit, receive rejection, WHINE. Repeat. Mom’s words remained sweet, but got fewer and fewer, until one time when I was ranting about how I’d been writing and submitting and failing FOREVER (well, two years is, when you’re 12), and she snapped.
“Enough,” she said. “I can’t stand it anymore.”
“Me, neither,” I said. “My life is filled with horrors.”
“Well, then – if it makes you miserable, why do you do it?”
“Because it’s what writers do.”
Mom put her hands on her hips. “Then, if this new thing doesn’t sell you need to stop. Enough already. You got one more chance.” With that she stormed off, leaving me speechless, but not wordless. I already had an article in mind for Seventeen, which took essays from those 17 and under. That afternoon I sat down and wrote “Too Many Suds” and sent it off.
They bought it, for $25.
When the envelope came, Mom was with me. She was as surprised and delighted as I was. And then she said to me, “I figured you’d get a rejection, realize you were a writer, and keep writing. You’d just stop whining. This is almost as good.”