The Velveteen Writer

Although I had heard about the children’s classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams, I had never read it until I read it to my first child. By now, I’ve read it many times and our copy is as shabby as the well-loved toys of Williams’ nursery. When I first read the book, it struck me as a story about the power of love. But it is also a story of self-actualization and the catalyst behind how we identify what we really are.

The voice that always stays with me even after I close the book is the Rabbit’s cry to the other “real” rabbits,

“Come back and play with me!” called the little Rabbit. “Oh, do come back! I know I am Real!”

It is the cry for acceptance, for validation. The changes the Rabbit undergoes from wondering if he was real, to believing he is real, to knowing he is real is what really resonates with me. For like the Rabbit, I too have wished for others to join me and recognize me as “real”.

Every writer, nay every artist I know, is looking for that camaraderie, the recognition by others that you belong to the group of “real” writers or painters or dancers or what have you. I usually feel like the poor street urchin with my nose pressed to the glass wishing to be not only in the warm restaurant eating the delicious food, but to belong in that restaurant eating that food.

In the writing world, much banter has been volleyed about over when it is permissible to call yourself a “writer” or “author” and while I agree the correct time to use that title is when you identify with that title, I have paused.

When people ask what I “do” I list many things with “write” coming towards the end of the list and in a quieter voice. This is not because I’m ashamed of my writing. It is because I have been waiting to feel like a real writer, whatever that may be. I suppose in my heart, I’ve been like the Rabbit, terrified that the others would ridicule me and then run away laughing over my assertion that I too am a real writer.

Yes, I know this is all proof of my own insecurities. But like the Rabbit, my insecurities stem from the need to not simply be considered a writer by the ones closest to me, but by the wider world as well. This is the emotional angsty place my words often come from as I type away at my kitchen table in the wee hours of the night.

Someday I am going to be a real writer.

And this past Monday I became one.

Months ago I submitted a short story to the publisher Buddhapuss Ink. They had a contest for young adult (YA) mystery stories and I spent two weeks creating and polishing a short story to submit for it. I’m blessed with some dear friends that critiqued  it for me and Mister Soandso read through it with me that last night, some lines over and over, until I got them just right. And then he was the one who smiled at me when I hesitated to hit the “Send” button.

On Monday I got an email telling me that my short story had been accepted into the anthology. I was getting ready to go for a run and my dog was sitting there, nosing me as I tried to tie my shoes and check email at the same time. When I read that email, I cried into his furry neck, “I’m going to be in a real book!” However, I waited with very bated breath to find out if I had placed in the contest. I checked my email repeatedly. I saved their website onto my phone’s Safari app and opened it over and over. I was a bit frazzled.

Then on Wednesday I headed into work. Middlest went with me to get away from her brothers for a bit. I sent her to put some markers away for me and logged onto my computer. As I waited for my work email to load, I happened to open Twitter on my phone. And saw my friend’s tweet about being in the anthology with 1st place winner and then it said my Twitter name. I gasped. Then I opened Buddhapuss Ink’s site on my phone. Nope, same entry as always. My heart racing, I checked email. Nope, nothing from them.

My only answer? Poor Johanna must be sleep deprived.

And then I got another Twitter mention. So I opened the publisher’s web site on my computer and there it was…my name and my short story listed as the first place winner in the Mystery Times 9 anthology.

I did exactly what you might think I would do at that moment: I broke into tears.

I got myself under control a bit and realized I hadn’t seen Middlest in longer than expected. I walked out of my office and when I saw our secretary I did it again, broke into big, ugly tears. She, of course, assumed the worst and because I was crying too hard to do anything else, I held out my phone so she could read it.

Even today, days later, I get verklempt over those words:  “the First Place winner…Kristina L. Martin – Freeing Blue.”

Although I’ve been blogging for years now, and writing my first novel for FOREVER, it wasn’t until I read my name on that web site that I felt like a real writer. When my first submitted piece was published by Gadling.com it was really a wonderful thing, but it felt different because I can’t hold an electronically published piece and smell the ink on the paper.

Perhaps it is a distinction that doesn’t matter to other folks, but it does to me. It makes me think of the years of my life spent sitting on the floor in libraries, paging through books. My whole life has been spent living and dreaming with books and the thought of my words being in a published book make me get verklempt all over again.

Thank you Buddhapuss Ink for holding this contest and for publishing this book. Thank you to the bloggers and judges who read my words. Thank you to all my writing and reading friends who’ve supported me. A huge congratulations to all of the writers in Mystery Times 9 2012 — I am thrilled to share a Table of Contents page with you and cannot wait to read your stories!

Like the Rabbit, I feel real.  Or, to borrow some of Williams’ words,

I am a Real Writer at last, at home with the other writers.

ps. I told Mister Soandso that I am very thankful for two seemingly odd things. First off, I read Johanna’s tweet first. One of my issues is that I really struggle with surprises. By reading her tweet first, it was a bit less stressful than if I’d scrolled through that web site first. For that reason, I’m glad I–in my typical technologically challenged way–saved the wrong part of Buddhapuss Ink’s blog. Again, I think I may have had heart failure if I’d found out the way everybody else did. 

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7 thoughts on “The Velveteen Writer

  1. Congratulations! Validation like this is a wonderful thing. Though I’ve know you’re a real writer all along. You can’t read this blog without realizing that. 🙂

  2. Where do we get this need for validation? You have it. I have it. Truth be told I believe most of us have more of it than we would in all our “enlightened” minds like to admit that we do.

    You and I struggle, as it seems so many writers and other creatives do, with a great huge shit-load of self doubts, self immolations, despite the very kind words and accolades of our friends and families. It seems to be just a part of our inner core, something we must work and pray and strive against from moment to moment at all times, and we do. We struggle on.

    But doesn’t it feel so good, So Very – Very good, every great once in a while, to feel So Real. To know we are what we hope to be.

    We are all very proud of you. (And yes, as great as being accepted and published by our favorite digital media is, Paper is Different – someday – my turn)

    I think you, and some of your readers, might enjoy this – Bruce Cockburn, live acoustic(dobro) in Mali – WORLD OF WONDERS – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX5So6zRjtM&feature=related

  3. Fantastic. Well done. Yay! And well told too. (Though that’s hardly surprising considering you’re a WRITER.)

  4. Congrats on finishing your MS late Sunday night, Kristina! It looks like you and I were both burning the midnight oil to get those last few pages written…but alas, it’s all done…for now. 🙂

    And I think I’ll heed your advice and drink my water from a crystal champagne flute this evening. Because yes, you and I have something to celebrate!

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