I'm Serious. But before I tell you about a Wonderful Review that landed in my mailbox this week, let me explain. An accolade is positive reinforcement. I know, that's basic child psychology, but it doesn't stop working when you get older. Kids need to be told when their work is good, or when even some of it is good. ("Yes, Joan, you did write a one hundred word run-on sentence, but your story was original and funny. Let's just work on punctuation, shall we?") It certainly works for me. In fact my editor quite often talks to me like that. Of course, for a writer a nice fat royalty cheque would come a close second to an accolade. An accolade won't help pay the rent, but it might show up just in time to give you a shot of much needed writing confidence. Those of you who write (or act, or paint, or do a teenager's laundry) will appreciate how much love we need in order to continue the work we do.
Let me drift from the topic slightly, before I get back to my Wonderful Review. About twenty five years ago, maybe more, something happened that still makes me cringe when I think of it. I was auditioning for a professional theatre company in Vancouver. Along with a number of other hopeful actors I had to present two monologues - one modern, one Shakespearean. For the Shakespeare I chose Puck's speech from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' that begins, "My mistress with a monster is in love."
Please feel free to picture me cavorting about the stage like a spritely imp, or is it an impish sprite? Anyway, the casting dirctor wore a stone face throughout (a bit like an angry Aztec god) as I mugged and pranced and did my Puckish best. After it was all over he made a few notes and dismissed me with a 'thank you." That's when I did the unforgiveable. I asked, "How did I do?" Yes, even after all this time I shudder at the memory of my needyness. I can't remember what he said, because it wasn't really an answer. I slunk away feeling very un-Puckish. Puck, of course, would have turned him into a goat!
I later discovered that this casting director had reduced others to tears. One young woman, hoping to be cast in a musical, was actually in the middle of singing something when she was dismissed mid-note.
I never heard back.
So you can see how important an accolade is to me, and my latest bit of encouragement appeared in the Winter 2009 edition of Canadian Book News. A lovely reviewer, teacher-librarian, named Ellen Donogh, heaped glowing praises on 'Josephine's Dream,' both for my story and for Chantelle Walther's illustrations. In fact she said it was sure to be featured in celebrations of Black History Month. From her lips to librarians' ears!
A miracle is something that happens when you need it most. I got that line from the old movie 'Moses' starring the late Burt Lancaster, and I believe it. Would Hollywood lie?
I was in the middle of yet another re-write of my latest manuscript, and feeling unworthy to put pen to paper - or fingers to keys. In other words, my mind was full of doubts, instead of plot twists. Should I turn my attention to another story? There's no shortage of them on my back burner. I even began to consider packing it all in to deal with the pile of my teenager's socks that waited patiently, yet stiffly, by the washing machine (what does he do - take off his shoes to wade through wet concrete?) - until this lovely review appeared. A miracle just when I needed it (thanks Burt Lancaster). Now I believe I could conquer the world.