I feel the need to quote Eric Clapton here: "What'll you do when you get lonely..."
The thing is, I have not felt that lonely-writer-in-a-cold-deserted-corner-of-a-coffee-shop rainy day grayness in the last two years, because I have had my Class of 2k9 friends. The 22 of us connected in a way that might have seemed impossible, since we are scattered across the United States and Canada.
I have been a teacher since the eighties. If I need to brainstorm about a project or a lesson plan, or I have to discuss the needs of a student, I can merely step next door or across the hall.
Could I really do that as a writer? My 2k9 friends
feel as if they are in the next cubicle sometimes. (And not in the dysfunctional Office kind of way! ...But it could prove interesting to throw a "Dwight" or "Angela" into the mix...) If I just want to vent in an insecure writerly way, they are there to listen and talk me down from the window ledge.
Why has this worked so well for us? Hmmm...If you think back to your college dorm or summer camp cabin, you know that throwing assorted strangers into a close living space can be a clear recipe for disaster. But I think what has worked for us, is that we all realize that there is room for ALL of our books on the bookshelf. We have also always appreciated the rare opportunity we have; where else would we find people who were going through the same things at virtually the same times in our lives?
My 2k9 friends knew how it felt to wake up on the morning that my first book would finally appear on the bookshelf. They had the stomach butterflies and sweaty palms right along with me. Although, I'd have to say, so did one of my first graders. Last May, I had discussed the fact with my first graders that I would have a book coming out at the end of the month. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of excitement on their part at first. Most looked up at me with mild interest, then went back to watching the clock for snack time.
But not one boy. Our conversation went like this:
Mrs. Leal? I have to tell you something.
(I give him my best teacher eye-contact, because he sounds serious.)
I have a book coming out this week, he says.
Really?! I say. That's great!
(He nods, enthusiastically.) All I have to do is finish the cover and staple it on and I'm all done!
...And that's why I love my 2k9 friends--because they understand all those things that happen between putting down the words and stapling on the cover.
-Ann Haywood Leal