Monday, September 17, 2007
Never fade away
I had a moment of panic this morning while using my laptop; one of the key caps came loose on the keyboard. Typing in the dark, as I usually do, I could not figure out how to fix it even though I pressed and jiggled and maneuver it into position over and over. I decided to finish typing and take a look later when there was more light and I wasn't so focused on everything but fixing it. After all, it was the V and I don't use it nearly as much as the other keys; it does still have its little V decal firmly in place -- unlike the other keys that are rapidly vanishing. If necessary, I could get along without it. When Nature inevitably shouted at me and got my attention I took the key with me to puzzle over while I was otherwise occupied.
I figured one thing out almost immediately; the cap had a collapsible underside. I was onto something and the tiny metal brackets on the bed of the keyboard began to make sense. (I probably would have made a good engineer -- or maybe not.) I thought I could fix it.
After washing my hands, I took the cap back to the living room and fiddled with the cap a few moments, unsure how to keep the collapsible platform open long enough to engage the tiny metal prongs. I needed more light. Back to the bathroom where I fetched my mini Maglite only to find out it was dead. I needed batteries. To the kitchen where I keep the spare batteries (I'm getting low and must put it on the grocery list), popped out the old, popped in the new, and there was light. First in my mouth and then lying on the keyboard shining in the right direction -- after removing little strands of hair and dust -- I managed to keep the collapsible platform open long enough to fix the cap onto the tiny metal prongs and voila! it worked. The keyboard was restored. Now I could type -- and, as you see, that is what I did. I no longer feel the spongy squish of the little rubber plunger that hid beneath the cap and worked the V, something I was prepared to live with if things didn't work out as I hoped.
I love fixing things: food, electronics, machines, whatever is broken. I don't even mind the occasional home repair; I even enjoy the respite from living in my head so much of the time. But I do sometimes forget that nothing lasts forever. I keep plugging away, doing spot maintenance whenever necessary, and forget that nothing is built to last -- not people and not bad luck, as evidenced by my recent string of good luck.
When I checked the mail a few days ago I had a surprise, a check for second place in Byline magazine's Personal Memoir contest for my story, A Helping Hand. The money was welcome but it was the unexpected win when I had forgotten all about entering my story months ago (along with the requisite fee) that stunned me. At first, I thought it was another contract for one of my articles, but the envelope was hand written and I always send a SASE. Maybe they lost the SASE, I reasoned, but, no, it was something entirely different -- money and congratulations for winning second place.
I shouldn't have been surprised since a couple weeks before I got a letter from Chicken Soup that they were buying one of my stories for another of their books, which was followed yesterday by news that they had bought yet one of my stories for another anthology, this one for the Divorced Soul. That brings the Chicken Soup total up a little more and I have more stories waiting to be judged and accepted. There are now nearly ten books coming out next year either with my name on the cover or included in the book. That's not a bad haul for the year and the year isn't over yet.
I know people think I'm a little crazy when they see me grinning like an idiot and shouting, "YEAH! YEAH!" every time I go to the bank to cash another check for my writing, but it never gets old for me. Every time is like the first time and I feel like climbing onto the highest roof or mountain peak and shouting my news out to the whole world -- at least as far as my voice will carry. For the rest, phone calls, blog posts, and email will have to do and then I'll rely on letters. I have lots of stationery. I never doubted that my words would be read and though some people have done their best to cast doubt on my abilities because there are not more books with my name on the cover, I am still very much a writer. I have always been a writer even when my words remained unpublished and unseen by anyone outside of my family. A writer writes and I have been writing for a very long time and that is something that will never change.
When the measure of a writer's success is counted in dollars and cents it demeans us all. I can name over a hundred writers and poets whose work wasn't published until long after their deaths that were writers despite their lack of credits in print. Think of the thousands of men and women who kept journals of their trek across the plains during the westward expansion whose work has only now come to light in our quest to understand our past or those whose work was consigned to trunks in the attic until someone in their family read what their words and decided to publish them. Where would John Kennedy Toole have been if his mother hadn't fought to see his work published? Dead in his car from carbon monoxide poisoning, another suicide statistic and nothing more. Was he a real writer? Obviously, you haven't read A Confederacy of Dunces or met Ignatius J. Riley.
My recent sales may seem like small victories for someone who has been writing as long as I have, but they're not. They are proof of what I have always known; I am a writer. As nice as the checks and print publication are, it does not change the basic fact that I was a writer long before I was published and will be a writer long after I am gone because my words, saved between the pages of file folders and journals, will never fade away. They will remain, a treasure for some family member or curious child who unearths them wherever they are stored and will be read, whether by one or one million doesn't matter; the words will be read.
That is all. Disperse.