Flashback to the fourth grade. The year that Mrs. Lucey died and Mrs. Dexter took her place but none of it mattered because I was in the tall and willowy Ms. Anthony’s class while my best friend learned down the hall. The year we had math together with Mrs. Gillis, a firecracker of a teacher who actually threw a wet sponge at a student and caught him—splosh—right in the face. I have no recollection of his trespass but I can’t forget the noise of that sponge making contact. The year I wrote my first book and mailed it off to an editor with Ms. Anthony’s help.
Laboring over that story of Mr. Merman and his friend Lobster (and yes, it was before Disney’s The Little Mermaid and a century and a half after Hans Christian Andersen’s original). Pecking away at the Apple IIGS keyboard in the corner of the guestroom. My mother helping me type. Printing from the dot matrix printer and tearing off the sides of the continuous feed paper. Addressing and sealing the manila envelope, headed straight from Small Town, Connecticut to New York, NY. The feelings are forgotten. Was I certain of my creative brilliance? Nervous about a response? Even aware of what it meant to submit a piece of writing?
The tender rejection letter was crafted carefully, with encouraging words, written by a kind editor who had mercy on a fourth-grader. Today I remember this because I just submitted a query for an article and I’m certain that while a rejection letter may follow, no tender editor will write me back. I’m no longer 9 and writing in blue ink on my dad’s dot matrix printer. Which translates to no kindness headed my way.
I know better now, what it means to bare my soul in writing. If the piece were in a manila envelope at the end of my driveway, I would have snatched it back already but I hit “send” and my options are gone. In all likelihood, I won’t hear anything and that wound smarts more than the rejection.
I don’t write to be published. I don’t write to be read. I write to write. May I remember that today.