To My Dear Undergraduate Students,
Don’t be afraid of your talents, but also be sure to humble yourself to them and to what will be a lifelong apprenticeship if you decide to keep writing. Never think yourself greater than the craft itself. We are all amateurs from time to time, no matter how long we’ve been writing. The process always finds a way of showing us that. If you’ve decided to sign on to this apprenticeship, particularly at the expense of some other route in life that you or others have mapped out for you, ask yourself why you’re choosing writing. Make sure it’s because, as hard as it may be, nothing else that you do gives you quite the same degree of satisfaction. Is writing necessary to you? Is it part of who you are? Will you feel a stranger to yourself if you stop? Make sure you understand that people will say no to you. Editors will say no. Other writers will say no. Family members will say no. Readers will say no. They will find many ways of saying that word to you. You’ll know it each time you hear some manifestation of rejection. Rejection will become a part of your life. Make sure you can toughen up and accept that fact, no matter how deeply each no may cut you. A single yes will make you forget all the rejections. . .at least until the next time someone tells you no. You’ll live for those yeses, but most of all you’ll live for the act of writing itself, for the joys of shaping something out of words. Maybe you’ll even throw in some teaching here and there. Some teaching and some writing. Some yeses and some not-yeses. There are worse ways to make a life. It was a pleasure to know you and your work. I hope I was clear and considerate whether I was telling you where you fell short or where you triumphed. I hope for our ten weeks together, you experienced at least once the joy that comes from touching a reader, for making that reader say, yes, yes, and again, yes. Blessings to all of you.
Dear Gods of the Book,
In two days, my novel, Break the Skin, will be on bookstore shelves. . .at least I hope it will. Please grant it a pleasant passage through the world. Please forgive me for being nervous about its reception. I’ll stop short of asking the great dragons to protect it, as this blessing on the left does, but, I’ll go along with, “So Mote It Be.”
Your Nervous Author,
Whether be Nook or Kindle or between the hard covers, I hope you’ll find something in my new book to delight you, and if you do, I hope you’ll let me know. If you don’t, please remember what our mothers taught us: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I did the best I could, and now I can’t do anything more except to do what writers do, move on to the next project. In my case, this means attending to my agent’s edits of the next novel to come. I’ll open the manuscript tomorrow. In the meantime, blessings to all of you.