Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It Takes a Village

In June 2006, I resigned from teaching high school. At the time, I was ready. I'd taught for 15 years, and while I'd loved it, I was ready to embark on my next career: Novelist. Ever since, I'm often asked if I miss teaching. Honestly? I don't. But I always feel a little guilty about that. And it's more complicated than a simple yes/no answer.

Here are some things I miss--the energy of teenagers, watching them "get it", the funny anecdotes I was sure to come home with, getting to talk about books and poetry I love.

Here are some things I don't miss--standardized tests, helicopter parents, checking up on kids' whereabouts, grading essays, some administrators, the hours.

Before I quit, I already knew all of the above. But there was one thing I was really worried about leaving behind, and that was the camaraderie with the other teachers. Dishing with my buddies in the hall during passing time. Knowing that there was someone next door or down the hall whose room I could burst into and who would get it, whether I was exhilarated or frustrated. Talking about a lesson that worked or didn't. Laughing about another lame excuse from a kid.

I worried that writing full-time would leave me lonely. I'm a social person. I was afraid that not only would I have no one to chat with, but that I wouldn't have anybody to talk to who "got" my job. Who understood the joys and irritations and fears of it (and, believe me, writing is full of all of those. Publishing is a wacky business).

But, I've discovered a writing community beyond my wildest dreams. I've always got somebody to jabber with if I want. And much of it is because of this really cool blogosphere I hadn't even known existed.

I've got links to my buddies over on the left--and what started out as just commenting on other folks' blogs has segued into e-mail correspondences and "blind-date" phone calls. I've met writers at conferences and festivals. We cheer each other's successes; we talk each other down from ledges. We share scoop. We know the lingo; we get the details. We read each other's WIPs and we offer insight.

And sometimes I know I need to pull myself away from the computer and get some writing done, just as when I was teaching I sometimes had to hide out so I could get papers graded.

Just this week, a whole community of girlfriends has been "touring" my book on their blogs as part of The Girlfriend Cyber Circuit (links on left). I've only met one of these women in person--but we all are there to support one another's efforts.

So, to Therese and Kristen and Lisa and Larramie and the great gals at The Writers' Group and Carleen and The Good Girls and Melanie and The Debs and everyone else, thanks for your support and friendship . . . and to those of you who are lurking or wondering if this community is for you, kick your shoes off, pull up a chair, and join the fun. The village is richer because of each of us.


Carleen Brice said...

No, Judy, thank YOU! I just posted a thank you on my blog.

Actually, I totally agree. I can't believe how supportive total strangers can be to one another. It's a beautiful thing!

kristen said...

Okay. Now you've made me cry. And I couldn't agree more.

The "kindness of strangers" kind of takes on new meaning in this venue, doesn't it?

Thanks Judy, for reaching out to me. Through your support and your willingness to share your story, you've helped me believe that perhaps I can do it too. I hit 10,000 words this morning, and while there are probably 70 or 80,000 yet to be written, it feels like I'm finally getting somewhere.

Lisa said...

Yes, thank you Judy. I really never imagined how important the friends I've met "out here" would become. I look at you and our other published friends like I did upperclassmen, when I was in high school. Those of us working our way through our first attempts meet up at our lockers and exchange notes and support and talk about how cool the seniors are and how much we hope to be like them when it's our turn :) Better still, the people I've met on line and in person are all people I would want as friends, whether I was writing or not. How cool is that?

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Carleen--it's really lovely, sin't it? And thanks for the mention on your blog!

Kristen--Well, considering the your posts often make me a little veklempt, I guess we're even. Seriously, though, I'm thrilled for you. 10,000 words is huge. So glad you feel like you're on the right road.

Lisa--What a great analogy. Somehow, though, when I was a senior I never felt as cool as all the seniors before me had seemed. It's kinda the same thing now.

gail said...

Thanks for the mention Judy. We love "seeing" you at The Debs! Gail

Btw, did I see you're reading at the WBF? Because that's my town... wanna meet for coffee?

The Writers' Group said...

Judy, you made me tear up and I don't do that. Thank you and right back at you. I'm equally grateful for our community. Hey, mind if I join you and Gail for a cup of coffee?


Ello said...

This is a great post. I agree that there is a wonderful writing community available and I feel very fortunate to have found like minded individuals who are generous with sharing advice, criticisms, anecdotes and everything else a writer needs to subsist.

Sustenance Scout said...

I recently wrote on this phenomenon too, Judy. And I just added your book to my TBR list thanks to Carleen's mention. Can't wait to read it! K.

Therese said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto!

When I started my blog I knew very few other writers willing/ready/able to commune about writing. It's been wonderful to see how like finds like, no matter what "class" we each happen to be in right now.

It heartens me to know so many thoughtful, generous people and I can't wait to meet everyone in real time.

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Ello--It's such fun, isn't it?

SS--let me know what you think when you read it--thanks for the support!

Therese--What a fun party that would be if we could all get together!

Larramie said...

Aw, Judy, a most heartfelt thank you -- particularly since I'm not a true writer. However, as a reader who values talent, it's wonderful to be a supportive and understanding cheerleader(?) who will eventually reap the benefits of your work!

Melanie Lynne Hauser said...

I'm jealous of all your "other" girlfriends and your blind dates! I thought I was the only one!

(Seriously, it's all wonderful, isn't it? I just wish I had something new coming out soon so I could keep going to festivals and having fun with you all. We need to start a festival for "Fun Women Writers Who Just Want to Drink Cosmos Together and Flirt with the Bartender.")

Ghost Girl said...

Wow, Judy! I know how you feel. I quit teaching high school 7 years ago and have had all the same feelings. I loved teaching, but I was ready to write. Of course life sometimes demands attention in other ways, which is why I am now teaching 3rd grade, for which I am completely unprepared.

Anyway, I am looking forward to going back to writing, and I will very soon. This drastic shift has not agreed with me, and I feel guilty all the way around. My working has been so hard on my kids, but my leaving will be hard on the students. It's a no-win situation, but in the end, my own family is more important, and I need to be the mom again.

I feel blessed to have "met" so many writers online and been able to grow in this way. I finished my YA a month ago, and it is now sitting on the desk of an editor at Philomel. Only time will tell. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

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