Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sun Salutations

By Amy

This week I sent off an essay to the New York Times Magazine’s Lives page. It’s arguably the most prestigious forum for an essayist, a goal I set for myself many years ago after reading Jay Allison’s story one bleary-eyed morning. This piece crystallized the purpose of writing for me. It’s a perfect essay, if such a thing exists. All these years later, I continue to be haunted by it. It’s made me want to write one equally flawless.

Technically, his wasn’t for the Lives page, About Men I think. Semantics. He reached for and grabbed the brass ring. That’s what I’m doing, reaching. My submission will almost certainly be rejected, a month’s silence will be the only notice I receive. But it feels good to stretch, doesn’t it?

Years ago, I told my husband, a newspaperman, I wanted to be a writer. I submitted my first essay to the Boston Globe; this was before I understood the benefits of simultaneous submissions. Having been in the business a while, he knew better than to expect me to do well. Think of it as a hobby, he said. Though he meant those words to somehow shield me from rejection, instead they galvanized me. So days later when an editor from the Globe called to say they were running my essay, my husband was the first person I told. Since then I’ve had many other essays published, freelanced news stories and features, a regular column in the Globe, I even had a couple of radio essays produced by Jay Allison himself.

There are still people in my life who don’t believe in me, who perhaps think I’m too much like them to be a writer, not quite the type who could get a novel published. But what’s relevant is I don’t feel that way. I’m pushing myself up against everyone’s expectations, stretching, reaching for goals beyond my skills of today to be a better writer tomorrow.

A few months back I was at a reading, chatting up an author whose reviews you’ve undoubtedly read in recent months, he and his adored book are everywhere, and we were talking about Lives. He has several books published, the most recent I expect will win major awards, but he said his goal is to get a Lives column. It’s that constant striving, the desire to be better, that improves and informs each successive book of his.

So my advice is to reach far and wide, higher than you’ve ever imagined possible for someone such as yourself. Not as a matter of being a malcontent, but to stretch beyond whatever box you or someone else has confined you to.

Then someday perhaps you’ll snatch that brass ring and say, What next?

19 comments:

Therese said...

I wish you all good luck with your essay--maybe it won't be a month of silence at all, but a phone call like you got from the Globe!

And I agree, stretching past our established abilities and achievements is the way to grow, both artistically and professionally.

Fingers crossed for you!

Lisa, Amy, Hannah & Lynne said...

Thank you, Therese. The essay I submitted is the most revealing yet, it's about the most shameful incident of my life. Talk about risk.

We shall see...

Amy

Melissa Marsh said...

What a great post, Amy. I feel like I'm stretching myself now, too, and it feels great.

Good luck with the essay!

Lisa, Amy, Hannah & Lynne said...

Good to hear from you, Melissa, and thanks for the good wishes. A good stretch makes the mind just as limber as the body; I'm so pleased you feel the same. Hope you'll share your successes with us.

Amy

Larramie said...

A wonderful post, Amy. And my fingers are also crossed because I'd love to read an honest, "almost" perfect essay.

Ghost Girl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ghost Girl said...

There are still people in my life who don’t believe in me, who perhaps think I’m too much like them to be a writer, not quite the type who could get a novel published. But what’s relevant is I don’t feel that way.

You go, Amy! I know exactly how you feel. I've said it before, but most of my family has no idea that I write for the very reason that I need to focus and allow myself to grow rather than be dragged down by the constant rejection, criticism, and dismissal of those people. I do this for me, not them. I have only myself to look to for satisfaction and I will continue to strive even after my 29th book is published with honors (see--positive thinking!).

I do believe in myself, now. I can take rejection from editors and criticism for other writers. It's a professional growth experience. But I have to separate that from the nay-sayers who only dig at me personally, who have no idea whatsoever of what it takes to be a writer.

I have my first acceptance from a major children's magazine and a request for my WIP novel. I'll keep doing those mental calisthenics! STRETCH...

Good luck, Amy, and keep on stretching!

Mary Ann

Lisa, Amy, Hannah & Lynne said...

Larramie, thanks so much. It's such a pleasure seeing your post here; daisies figure prominently in my novel.

Mary Ann, ya-hoo!!! Congratulations on the story and the request. Let us know where you're going to be published. I'd love to help spread the good news.

Amy

The Writers' Group said...

I love this post. And the great thing about being in a supportive writers' group, is that when one member stretches, it's contagious. The rest of us want to stretch, too. A bit like a yawn, but even more refreshing. Thanks Amy.
Lynne

Larramie said...

You've totally "hooked" me, Amy, with,"daisies figure prominently in my novel." I'll anxiously await to learn more.

The Writers' Group said...

Larramie, I hope you have the chance!

Ghost Girl said...

Thanks, Amy! My story "Abe and the Magic Lantern" has been accepted by Cricket Magazine. I've sent revisions to my editor and am waiting the final ok. It will probably be a couple of years before it's actually in print, but I'm on my way...

My WIP is in the revision process now, though ever so close to ready. It's the best writing I've ever done and I really hope the editor who requested it will want to keep it.

Thanks for all the encouragement you guys offer and the witty and informative posts.

Patry Francis said...

Very inspiring, Amy. I've tried "Lives" a couple of times myself. It's still a goal...

The Writers' Group said...

Hi, Patry. It's good to set the bar a little higher each time. I'm sure you'll soar over it.

Michelle Zink said...

What a day-brightening change from what we usually hear - don't expect too much, the odds are against you, no one really makes a living writing.

I'm all for hope and the expectation, really, that if we work hard and never cease honing our skills, we WILL reach that brass ring.

Yay hope!

The Writers' Group said...

Michelle, I love your attitude! Talk a bout a day-brightening change! I'm with Winston Churchill on this, "Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up."

Amy

Elle said...

This is probably the most inspiring thing I've read this year. In a world full of naysayers, it's hard to stay 'striving'. Your experiece renews my quest for that brass ring. Thank you!

The Writers' Group said...

Elle, what a kind thing for you to say! You reach!

Amy

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