It is funny how things happen at times. Have you ever felt like someone from above is sending you a sign? Or maybe that an ancestor is sending vibes from beyond? Or pure lucky coincidence that plainly and undoubtedly speaks to you? Serendipity, maybe, knocking at your door.
So, I don’t know how to explain it. But I have a feeling I shouldn’t try. Some things are better to leave unexplained.
See, I sent my first book, Tristan Wolf, to a contest organized by a local group of writers. I really wasn’t expecting to win, honestly. Not because I don’t think my book is good enough, but because I’m well aware that it doesn’t fit some industry standards about audience. But I was drawn to the contest anyway because of their low entry fee and the promise of feedback by a “real writer”.
So, “what’s a real writer?” you might ask. I also call them ‘erudite writers’, the kind of writer that knows a lot. The ones that know the rules and thrive by them. The ones that teach others how to write and can smell the lack of a comma from miles far. The ones that have published several books and have sold more than my modest two-hundred-some copies.
I’m always trying to improve my craft and learn from the advice of others, so an opportunity to hear what the judge would have to say seemed priceless.
When I received my score sheet/feedback form, I, of course, had not won. I already knew that, so I wasn’t disappointed.
The score wasn't too bad. She must've liked (somewhat) my book because she gave it mostly G’s, which stand for Good. I didn't get a single N (Needs work). She gave it an F for Fair when it came to the ‘well defined audience’ question, but I already knew that. She rated it E for Excellent in the art, design and overall look of the book. But it bummed me when she gave it an F in the 'plot resolution' area and she explained that she was slightly disappointed by the ending.
I can’t lie. My heart felt crushed by that 'F'. I always thought the ending was the best part. At that moment I considered making a new edition of the book, and I thought I should call my editor to have her take another look, accommodating the suggestions of this judge. I was doubting my work, my writing and the choices I’ve made as a writer. What do I know, after all?
That’s when, just like in the movies, fate came to my door. Well, it was fate in the shape of the postman. And now it is when it gets interesting…
I was in my front porch with a large white envelope in my hands. The sender was a school I had visited a week before. How did they have my home address, though? It’s not in my business cards or website, of course. Sure I had sent them a letter once, so probably the teachers saved my address, I thought. But still, I was surprised.
When I opened the envelope, I found several letters written by third, fourth and fifth grades children, telling me how much they had enjoyed my book, how they appreciated my visit and how Tristan had inspired them to write and read. Some of them even mentioned how the twist ending was their favorite part of the book.
I smiled as my eyes filled with tears, reading one by one those notes that had a touch of love, candor and wisdom. Would those kids ever know how much their letters mean to me? Would those children ever realize that they have also inspired me and encouraged me to keep on writing?
Who do I write for then? I write for children, and when you write for children, there are some things that grownups don’t understand. Just like The Little Prince’s drawing of a boa constrictor eating an elephant. But children get it, and that’s alright.
I’ll keep on writing for children and feeding from their advice, imagination and sincerity. I certainly don’t write for judges, although I would like to earn their respect. I’ll continue to listen to advice from grownups, though, sometimes they—we—make sense, but I won’t let it crush my heart.
So, what strange universe force made that letter appear on my front porch when I needed it the most? I don’t know. But I’m listening.