we had them first


I tell you what!


This week has thus far been pretty stinkin’ good. Highlights include – FHE on Monday with Grandma and Grandpa Card and Aunt Jan. We had pizza and played games. And threw an uplifting message in there too ah-course. Actually, the FHE message was brought to us by the letter BILL – who talked about reading good books. And Elder Callister said, “I don’t know whether our heavenly home has a television set or a DVD player, but in my mind’s imagery it surely has a grand piano and a magnificent library.”

I am alright with that. Mine, too, please!

(find the whole talk by Elder Callister here)

Also – last night I finally did something about that itch to change my hair. No – I haven’t cut it, yet. Though I came THIS CLOSE. I was feeling dangerous enough. No, I merely dyed it. More on that, later.

The REAL thing I’m wakin’ up with a smile at 6AM every morning this week about is:

THE ANNUAL WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING FOR YOUNG READERS workshop, hosted by BYU.

The experience was given to me as a gift (the just-because kind!) by my parents. They said, “we think you should continue to pursue your dream to be a writer, so we want you to go to this conference on us. What do you think?”

Well…

I thought I would leap out of my SKIN is what I thought!

Okay, remember how I went to a similar workshop a few months back at UVU?

Take that, kick it up about 100 notches, and you have some idea of what the BYU one is like.

We afternoon sessioners (yeah, I still have to work in the mornings. I haven’t quit my day job, yet!) begin at 2:00pm in the grand auditorium where we mingle with the morning sessioners (who do writing workshops in the AM with some of the key authors at the conference) and kick-off the breakout sessions.

When I walked in to that auditorium on Monday – my feelings were conflicted (oh, I know! Something new and different for me!). I looked around at all these writers – an auditorium jam packed with writers – knowing that at least half of them have submitted their work into the publishing world – and half again of those have actually been published.

Then the editor from Hyperion gets up and tells us that they accept around thirty manuscripts (including picture books) per YEAR.

And that once in the 8 years she’s been there has she seen something get published from the unsolicited slush pile.

So there I am, feeling all bursty with creative energy, and also feeling so small in a room full of such talent – wondering if I could hold my own. Looking around at my colleagues in that auditorium – each one having a story burning inside them that they just have to tell. They all looked like writers. And yet, they all looked so normal.

Well – a lot of them looked really nerdy. You know how writers are. Half of them were peering over their laptops through their bottle glasses. Some were in business suits. Some were in stained T-shirts and dirty sneakers. Some looked like grade-school teachers. Some were old enough they needed help out of their chairs. Some had just graduated High School.

But we were all there together – sharing a common bond. We all have this little flame burning inside us that’s licking at our insides, compelling us to share what we know, think, feel, hope or risk being consumed by that fire that will turn our insides to charcoal.

I never felt so inadequate while also feeling like I exactly belonged.

(plus, I secretly knew that everyone else in that room – including the one in the business suit – also felt inadequate. Comes with the territory of the little flame.)

Dandi Mackall (pronounced MACK-al) was the last speaker on Tuesday. First of all, don’t you love her name? Second of all – get this – she’s published over 400 books in her lifetime. She looked like she was in her early fifties, though I know looks can be deceiving. She’s done novels and short stories and compilations and you name it. She was a wonderful speaker.

She said, “Well, LOOK at you all! I just love writers. You’re so odd!”

Oh yes she did!

Then she said, “Think about it. We live in a world that hates writing. In school, when the teacher says, “Okay, now we’re going to write an ESSAY!” everyone starts to groan and complain and wants to know exactly how many pages and how many words they have to write. While you’re enthusiastically moving onto your 12th page.

But the real reason I loved her session – and the thing that’s stuck to me the strongest so far in the two days I’ve been at the conference – was a story she told.

She had a dream.

In the dream she was dead.

Don’t you love it when dreams start out that way? But at least in this dream she went to heaven. She was met by an angel who was there to be her guide. He asked her where she wanted to go first? Anywhere in heaven!

She – of course – said, “The Library!”

Heaven’s library was huge – and she wandered around the isles of books smiling, touching the titles, remembering the books she’d read. She thought, yes, this one was a very good book. This one was delightful. No wonder this one is here. I remember this one.

Well, the angel must have seen something on her face, because he said, “what’s wrong?”

“This is a VERY nice library,” she said, “don’t get me wrong. But. It’s just. I’ve seen and read most of these, before. We have all of these on Earth. I kinda thought you guys would have your own stuff.”

The angel smiled at her and said, “We had them first.”

(The implications of that statement rang so true to me.)

The angel then said, “I want to show you something.”

He took her to another library that was FULL of books – and books she’d never seen before. She took down title after title and thought, Wow, I wish my sister could have read this one. It would have really helped her through that hard time. My mother would have really liked this one. I wish I could have read this book, it would have changed my views on my one neighbor.

She looked at the Angel and said, “But these are WONDERFUL books! We could have really used these on Earth! Why didn’t you send these down to us, too?”

The angel got sad, and said, “We tried.”

He said, “The authors wouldn’t take them.”

He said, “This one is sitting in his desk because he doesn’t feel it’s good enough to show anyone. This one has been rejected 32 times, and the author gave up. The 34th editor would have published it. This one is sitting in her head – but she hasn’t made time to sit down and write it. This one is half written, but the author let other things get in the way of finishing it. This one doesn’t believe he could be a writer.”

Then he handed her a book with her name on it. “This one,” he said, “is the one in her head that she always said she would get to – but there were always other books to write, other deadlines, other guaranteed paychecks – and so it sat on the shelf of her mind (and the shelf in this library) and never was written.”

I think she ends the story with her waking up and realizing that she is going to write the book – and that books already exist within us, we just have to uncover them, and all sorts of other good stuff; but I had a hard time paying attention to the wrap-up because my mind was still reeling from the implications of her story.

I have a book (or two or ten!) on that shelf up there. I think that I would really like it if my book didn’t have to stay on that shelf in that library – collecting the dust of the forgotten. I think I would really really like it if my book – the one inside me somewhere – were to be moved to the other library. The one they also have down here.

I don’t know if my story is the picture book or the two novels I already have in my head – maybe so – but if it’s not, and if I don’t get those out and out of the way, my story might stay buried under all the other stories I have to tell first.

I have to tell you, folks. I love it when I feel this stirring inside me. During this conference, I’ve felt it stronger than I have for a while. It’s like that feeling you get when dropping on a rollercoaster (if you like that feeling – if it terrifies you, then no – it’s not like that AT ALL), only it’s not in your stomach. It’s further in.

It’s addicting.

I’m so excited to go back to the conference tonight! They gave everybody Wednesday off to write (and because I know you’ll ask – no, I didn’t write last night. I had my reasons – but also, no. they weren’t good ones) and so tonight and tomorrow night are my last two experiences with this conference.

I have a feeling that I’m going to bombard my students with this stuff when I take over for our English Teacher when she goes on Maternity this summer. I’m so excited to teach her classes. WOOT!

I want my library at home AND my library in heaven to be full of good books - and a grand piano.


7 comments:

Queen Scarlett said...

Thank you.
Beautiful.

MikkSolo said...

Stepper,
I love that talk given by Elder Callister. My copy of it is all highlighted, wrinkled, water stained, etc. from my many times of reviewing the amazing message of making our homes more heavenly and refined.

I love this story of the unwritten books. I believe in you - just like your mom and dat! You have an amazing talent. Can't wait to read them...DOWN HERE!
-Auntie

William C. McCrery said...

I have your first novel on pre-order at www.amazon.co.hvn, which is, of course, the premier online distributor of heavenly literature.

Lizzie said...

I love you Stepper.

MikkSolo said...

I will read whatever you write. Including Blogs, but personally I'm hoping for fantasy. I love your amazing imagination and how you can tell a story. I will be a promoter for you.

Shawn

izzorch said...

I miss card game nights. You will be a great writer, it's in your blood!

Rosie Rose said...

I haven't read much of your writing, but I've always thought you had a mind that saw things in a fascinating way. I imagine you write wonderful stories.