Success Comes in Many Ways: A Wish for My Students

I’m approaching the end of another school year. Right now, I’m in the midst of reading the wonderful revisions my fiction and creative nonfiction writers have done. It’s a time to celebrate the victories each writer has had as they’ve moved their original drafts further along and a time for me to make any suggestions that might help that process. I feel particularly blessed to have been able to work with these writers, and I thank them for the gift of their talents.

The end of a school year is also a chance to celebrate those who are graduating from our MFA program. This year, I had the privilege of directing two theses, one of them a short story collection and the other a novel. I’m fully aware of the vagaries of the publishing industry—good books go unpublished all the time—but I really believe in these two and look forward to the day I see them on the bookstore shelf.

We all go forward into the unknown when it comes to trying to find homes for our work, and it can be tempting to consider each rejection a comment on our worth. That vulnerability never changes no matter how long we’ve written or how successful we’ve been. That’s why we should keep our focus on why we do what we do.

When I consider my own answer to that question, I remember how years ago, my parents gave $100 to a family who was down on their luck. This happened at a time and in a place where $100 was a good deal of money. When I think of my father and his anger and all the trouble we had, I remember things like this. Someone needed help and he gave it to them because he could. I think of the remarkable nature of all of us, imperfect as we are, and yet something beats in our hearts that cries out, “Connect, connect, connect. . . .” I listen to that cry every time I sit down to write. I tap into the mysteries and contradictions of the complicated people we are. Faulkner called it, “the human heart in conflict with itself.” Exactly. How beautiful we all are because of that battle. I feel blessed that my daily work puts me in its midst, so I’ll be sure to never forget what it takes to strive, what it takes to understand, what it takes to forgive, what it takes to love.

This is what I wish for my students. No matter where their journeys happen to take them, may they never forget their writing can make them more human, more empathetic, more in touch with everyone and everything around them. Success comes to us in many ways, and none is more important than the people we become. May my students, through the inevitable highs and lows of a writing career, never forget that.


  1. Linda Kass on April 22, 2024 at 7:53 am

    How beautiful, Lee! As always, so well said. Every single student you’ve had, including this one, is so very grateful for you.

    • Lee Martin on April 23, 2024 at 12:51 pm

      Thank you, Linda! Keep doing the good work.

  2. Roberta W. Coffey on April 22, 2024 at 8:11 am

    Beautiful Lee!

  3. Becky Jeeves on April 25, 2024 at 1:49 am

    I would like to second Linda’s first comment!

    • Lee Martin on April 26, 2024 at 11:26 am

      Thank you, Becky. I think you know how highly I think of your work.

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