When I was little I began telling stories. I told them to anyone who would listen. One of my biggest fans was my mom. She encouraged me. As I grew up, I continued to play with words. I didn’t become serious about my writing until I was a divorced mom of three, returning back to school with no idea how to make a new life. A professor introduced me to Alison McGhee, who guided my path to Hamline.
When I took my mom to an Alison McGhee book signing, I was beyond shocked when she raised her hand and asked, “Do you hear voices, too?” Alison’s response, “Are you two related? Yes, she’s fine, she’s just fine.” That one sentence meant more to my mom than any of my own reassurances. A simple sentence gave me permission to let my voices whisper their stories to me, and I plowed forward on this new adventure.
Fast forward to graduation from Hamline’s MFA program and my time under the care of such amazing faculty, people who understood and supported. I also walked away knowing I had the full embrace of a community that would continue to grow. This community fed my voices and my passion for the words. I kept writing, I sent my book out into the world. I received plenty of rejections but it never worried me. I garnered hope when an agent asked to read the entire novel. I waited, but never heard a thing. I even wrote to ask if they had received the novel, and still heard nothing.
My voices wavered, a bit, but my personal cheerleader kept cheering, so I plowed forward. I found a job as a teacher and shared my love of words with enthusiastic fifth graders. I talked to them about how important it was to find your voice, how to create more than just words on a page. I was living my dream. I waited for my book to be found, continuing to send it out. I started a new project, and another. I kept moving forward, doing just as I had promised myself long ago. I wrote.
When a second agent asked to read my entire novel, I was beyond thrilled. My mom was ecstatic, this time, she told me, this time someone would see my words and want to help me. However, I waited for a year, and nothing. I knew after six months to give up hope, but was there a chance? I wrote to the agent, to make sure she had received the manuscript. Still, I heard nothing.
When my mom passed away last January, it was unexpected. We thought we had three to six months but we had just one month from diagnosis to the end. When my mom passed, the voices that had been my companions for as long as I could remember went silent. I sat in my room, staring at a computer, at a notebook, at the wall. Why couldn’t I write anything?
The first anniversary of my mom’s passing came and went. I tried writing, I wrote words but when I went back to read them, they meant nothing. I stopped reading, my teaching became drudgery, I wasn’t teaching well because I could no longer find the passion in those words.
“Could it really be the loss of my mom? It’s not that simple is it?” I asked a friend.
She had no answer for me. It wasn’t until I was driving down to a science academy that I had an epiphany. My mom, my biggest cheerleader, had never read a word I had written.
My mom never read any of my words. My mom will never have the opportunity to read any of my words. It was at that moment that I realized, that is not why I write. I am not writing to be perfect, or to be published, I am writing because I love to share words. So today, I share my words, with you. I promise to share them with my children, whenever they ask, and my students when they say “Read more”. It is that gift, of sharing, that gives me the power and the strength. My voices have returned. I am writing again, but this time I write not to find publication, though I won’t be opposed should that ever happen, but I write to share my words and my love of words.
This summer, I will visit my mom’s gravesite in Hawai’i. I will share my words with her, the first time, of many, I hope. Share your words, you have a gift and even if you do not think they are perfect, someone will think they are perfect. That someone is me!
Susan, it is wonderful to hear your voice again. I lost my mom two years ago, so your words resonated deeply with me. Trust me when I say her voice is deep inside of you .And she is listening to yours. May you keep writing and listening.