Last week my older son came home from school and told me his teacher wanted me to email her. Fearing the worst, I pressed for clarification.
"I told her you write books and she said you can come and read one to us," he said.
Interesting. Not knowing what he really told her, or what she really said, I took it upon myself to email his teacher and clarify my status as "someone who writes books." I explained:
My son Max told me that you were interested in having me read one of my books to your class. I would love to, but let me clarify where I am in my writing career. I have attached the manuscript for one of my books so you can give it a glance first.
I wrote a chapter book, RUDY TOOT-TOOT, that a literary agent has submitted to several major publishing houses. I don't have an offer on it yet, but I'm hopeful one will come...
RUDY TOOT-TOOT is a 16,500-word (75 page) chapter book. Rudy has a special power, almost like a superhero: he can fart. It comes natural when you're born on a bean farm. His talent often gets him in trouble. After one monstrous emission scares all the customers away from the Toot-Toot family bean market and the bank threatens to take away their home, Rudy must find a way to use his power to lure the customers back. As Papa always told him, "There's a right time and a right place for everything."
Un-phased by the premise of farting, she still invited me into her classroom to read to the kids. She even invited the school librarian.
I love reading to kids. I have a background in theater and a good amount of experience in public speaking. Plus I'm totally immature, so I can connect with them on that critical level.
I read the first 23 pages of RUDY TOOT-TOOT to the class. I had them laughing out loud on page one, and kept their interest until I finished the excerpt. I left them wanting more.
That was cool, but not as cool as what happened next...
When my son got home from school, he handed me a sheet of paper. "Ethan wants you to publish this for him," he said, like it's that easy. I mean, I made it clear I haven't been able to get my own books published...
Ethan wrote a page-and-a-half continuation of my story. It is one of the coolest things I've ever read. I emailed my son's teacher to see if she gave them an assignment to write about my story. She didn't. He wrote it in his free writing time. She also said I inspired several of her "non-writers" to write stories.
I never knew how to define success as a writer, until now. It's not about money, or being a bestseller, or even being represented by an agent or published. It's about that connection to a reader, and having the ability to make an impact on someone's life.
I am glad to say I succeeded on that level. It doesn't kill my dreams of actually being a best-selling author, but somehow it makes that part less important.
I've been invited back to the class to finish the book. It will probably take two more sessions. The kids are really looking forward to it...but not half as much as I am.