How is it possible to have a dream come true and not even realize it at the time?
I was talking to a library group yesterday about writing and my novel, The Trouble with Grits, when it hit me. Let me explain.
You see, I have always loved words. I learned to talk early and to read early, and I just adored books. Somewhere along the way, I discovered I also loved to write.
In the fourth grade, I wrote a short story and decided it was pretty good and I just knew it deserved to be published. I set about finding a publisher, certain that I was about to become the world’s youngest rich and famous author. I sent my manuscript, handwritten in pencil, to the only publication I could come up with at that tender age, and awaited my coming fortune.
What actually came was my first rejection letter. The Times Picayune very gently and kindly informed me that they were a newspaper and did not publish fiction. Although they wished me well in my writing career, I took it hard. I was not discovered; I was rejected. So, I swore off writing.
After a bit a wallowing in abject misery, something a dramatic artsy-type child revels in, I rallied. You can’t keep a good nine-year-old down, after all. To make my comeback, I sent a quarter and the back of a Kellogg’s corn flake box off in the mail to get a set of watercolor paints. I would be the world’s youngest rich and famous artist.
Well, that didn’t work out either, so I just accepted my fate as an average kid in elementary school and played Barbie dolls and climbed trees.
I did maintain my love of reading, however. One day, as a young teenager, I was in the Hattiesburg Public Library, where I spent a lot of time, and I looked over and noticed a volume of Mark Twain sitting on the library shelf. A light didn’t shine around it and a chorus of angels did not sing, but that book did somehow stand out. Something rose up in me and I thought, That is what I want. One day, I want a book of mine to be on a library shelf. I wasn’t dreaming about fame and fortune, I just wanted something I wrote to impact someone like Mark Twain’s writing impacted me. I wanted someone to read my writing and laugh, or cry, or smile, or just be provoked to thought.
Now, I was not writing anything at that time, and I didn’t pursue fiction writing for many years. In truth, I completely forgot that moment until I was talking to the group in the library at Mount Olive, Mississippi. As I was getting ready to read from my first novel, I realized that my dream from long ago had come true. I had a book on library shelves. And I hope someone reading it is moved to laugh, or cry, or smile, or think.