The Adulation of Millions…or at Least Eight

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog recently, you probably know I was on stay-cation. Stay-cation is my feeble attempt to share a vacation with my wife on a limited (read nonexistent) budget. It wasn’t all stay at home; Monday and Tuesday we were down with my son and his family in Austin. Saturday and Sunday we spent with my daughter in Jefferson, Texas, which is just about as far east as you can go without entering Louisiana.

My daughter, Melissa, teaches high school English in Jefferson. Yesterday (Sunday) I had the pleasure of getting together with eight of her students–all girls–who are interested in starting their own creative writing group. As I told her later, dealing with high school students and keeping them on task was akin to herding cats. Melissa has great plans and expectations for her writing club, but I reminded her that too much overlap between the club and school will lead them to start thinking about it as just another class. And when doing the thing you love becomes another obligation, well, you can imagine what that means to high schoolers.

Melissa wanted me to come talk to the club because we have had a successful student creative writer’s club at our university for four years now, the Rough Writers. I told her students what we do, and that first and foremost, the club needs to be a safe haven for would-be writers, not only in critiquing their work, but in subject matter, which could be pretty personal at times.

As part of sharing with the students who I was and how I was involved, I told them that I had more than 200 stories and articles published and that I now had 11 books published. I talked to them about independent publishing–what I knew at least–and encouraged them to get involved in many activities such as National Novel Writing Month. After that, I asked if there were any questions.

One girl raised her hand and asked, “How come you’re so awesome?”

I laughed at that one, telling her that if she really knew me she wouldn’t think I was so awesome.

This isn’t the first time I have received star treatment for being a writer. Last fall, I was on a recruiting trip at a school in Arlington, Texas, when I was asked to come speak to the sixth graders. They had just finished reading my book If Tomorrow Comes as a class. I entered the classroom and there were large eyes and hushed whispers as I came in. Their numbers were few, but the excitement was palpable.

As a Christian, I tend to steer away from situations that would put me in the spotlight, raising me up on a pedestal. As a writer, I know that a certain amount of this is necessary to sell books. It’s all about the name. Your name. You could write the greatest book in the world, but if they don’t know who you are, chances are it won’t sell.

So how does one balance this as a Christian? I am sure there are many answers, but one has to consider that the good words and valid ideas we have to share won’t be unless we promote our name. That’s just the harsh reality of today’s marketplace.

That’s why writers have to be speakers, and marketers, and editors. Because unless we are, no one will know we are out there, and how good we really are. The trick is to not be boastful in the process of sharing what we are and what we have to say.

In the meantime, I find I am often a big fish in a small pond. It’s fun to see that you have a little influence along the way.

After all, the whole point of writing is to be read. Right?