What is success?

Today, a friend congratulated me on my success of being a published author. Maybe it’s because I’m coming down with a cold, but instead of responding to what he said, I merely stared back. (Belated sorry, Brian.)

“Don’t you feel that it’s been successful?” he asked.

Some more creepy sickie-staring on my part before I sucked in a breath just to let him know I was still alive. However, his comment gave me honest pause. My book, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED, has been available for about a month. I haven’t read any stats about how many books are sold by authors in the first month of their first book, so I ignorantly have nothing to compare it with. Instead, my whole sickie-throught-process made me not worry about what success means to others, but what success means to me.

I decided I love the creative act of storytelling and writing. Being able to do that in itself feels successful. Writing regularly and sending chapters through my critique group on schedule is successful. Completing any project is successful. Setting it aside, starting another, and coming back to the first for a few dozen revisions is successful. But most of all, sharing with kids and teaching them about writing and history feels awesome.

In summary, yes, I feel successful because I completed a project and equally because I get to teach kids. Is my book successful? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

Really Happy and Really Sad News

Two reasons for my l-o-n-g time since no blogging:

1) My children’s book, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED, is now out. It is a middle grade historical fiction, set in the late 1800’s, about a town which became buried by moving sand dunes as a result of clear-cut forestry. The photo at the top of this blog shows the decaying dock pilings from the era, with the “new” (1906) channel markers in the background. Since my 12-year-old MC is a secret knitter, last Saturday, Your Local Yarn Shop in Battle Creek hosted my book launch. It was a success.

About two months ago, I contacted teachers I knew to do school author visits. Teaching about writing, and history, with kids — what FUN! As a former teacher, being in schools and around kids is closer to my first than second nature. So far, I’ve presented in three schools and talked to seventeen classrooms of students, K-4. One teacher friend scheduled me to speak to every class in her school, except the first graders who couldn’t arrange a time that day. I haven’t sold a single book as a result of those visits, BUT… kids! I love their curiosity and willingness to learn. And I feel so happy when they are proud of me for doing something hard. (The book had about 25 rewrites, one exciting, accepting “editor’s call,” which came with a rejection one year later because one seller convinced the group that “no one buys historical fiction.” And now the book’s in print, and on Kindle.)  How well children know the joy of a success. The book and launch and school visits have been a wonderfully wild train ride so far, and a good distraction. I have one more station stop at a school today before I focus on flying off. Literally.

2) The really sad news concerns our son who lives alone, 2,000 miles away. Last fall, the surgeon successfully removed the cancer from his body. During the past four months he went for doctor check-ups with a big A-OK each time. Then, on the Thursday of my first school visit, we received a call from him.  In the month since his last visit, the cancer had come back with a vengeance and had spread throughout his body. Yesterday, he started his first round of chemotherapy, with the port not working, and then poking an IV in one arm, and  not working, so poking his other arm. Today he’s in for 11 hours so the doctors can do tests and fix the port before he does his next round of chemo. Rough start for his poison treatments.

But God’s timing is always right. Our son is in his 20’s, so doctors have given his expected recovery rate a high success. Although he is far from family, he has many friends, and many who work in school districts. In his area, Spring Breaks are at different times, so at least in this first month or so, he will always have friends willing and available to drive him to and from the hospital, and even stay and sit with him. I will fly down at the end of this week to be with him.

And, personally, if we would have gotten his news any earlier, I would have said, “The heck with my stupid book! Family means everything!” I would have dropped my writing project, and there would have been no book launch nor any school visits until who knows when.

So be it trains, planes, or emotional roller-coaster rides, what remains sure is that I know who I am and whose I am. I am certain, beyond any doubt, that God’s timing is always right.