The other day there was a message on my answering machine. “This is Jane Doe from Halton District School Board…” (Jane Doe is being used to protect the identity of the real caller)
My first thought: Ah, Hunter, what have you done wrong. Gee I hope you’re okay.
“Your name came up…”
Second thought (the authors reading this will appreciate this line of thinking): Yay, they’re hiring me to talk at a professional development day. Mortgage payment, score.
“…because there’s a school opening in the fall …
third thought(still thinking like an author here): Oh a school visit, okay half a mortgage payment. Still it’s nice to be asked.
“…and we want to name it after you.”
What? No really. The message said to call back immediately. How long had I been gone for?
Of course when I returned the urgent call, Jane Doe was gone so I had to wait, gobsmacked, tidying ’cause you shouldn’t have a messy kitchen if someone’s going to name a school after you.
Crazy thoughts come into your head. You feel like you should write your memoirs and/or die fairly soon. You feel like you should be a better person. That afternoon I returned my grocery cart from the other end of the strip mall where I had originally parked to go to the bank.
Immature thoughts too: wow, think of all the cool personalized stuff that will be available.
Sylvia McNicoll mugs, Sylvia McNicoll hoodies, Sylvia McNicoll pens–I’ll try to buy some of those if they come available.
Jane Doe finally called back and it seems there are three other names in the running, can’t remember any others but Dundas Heights.
No I don’t think I’m famous enough or all that worthy but, yes, I feel honoured. I drove by and took a photo of the potential Sylvia McNicoll Public School. No matter what it’s called, in my heart it will always be mine.
“Are you used to being up at this hour?” the teacher asks me. It may be because I’ve agreed to her offer of a coffee, explaining that I haven’t had my required third of the morning yet. Up until this point, I thought I had been competently connecting my Macbook to the LED projector.
My mixmaster hair is styled messy deliberately. Costs a lot of royalties to keep it this way.
My face is fully made up, teeth brushed etc. It’s 9 a.m. and by now I’ve looked at a couple articles for the magazine I work for, copy edited a chapter of a basketball novel my Norwegian publisher wants to look at (hey I’m losing a whole writing morning to this class), fed my grandson Hunter breakfast and made his lunch, double checked to make sure his homework went into his backpack, walked the dog and packed up all my author visit gear. I know people in 9 to 5 jobs do a lot of stuff in the morning but still I can’t help wondering about the public perception of the writer’s life from her question. Or her perception of me.
“Oh yes,” I answer. “I am an early riser.” The first image of my Powerpoint presentation rises up on the screen with no difficulty at all. Ha! I think. When we first approached the idea of me visiting the teacher cautioned me that she knew nothing about technology and that I might be “on my own” getting the projector and computer to communicate.
I should add, we first approached the idea three days prior when Hunter told me I was expected.
The 21 students were a captive audience. Yes, I took the entire first period English as they may have hoped since their book review presentations were due that morning. We all had fun.
The teacher gave me a lovely plant which I will post a photo of a little later when I try my new camera on it.
That afternoon I continued editing articles for Today’s Parent Toronto and matching up my basketball novel in text form to the book it was published as. While I walked the dog in between, made supper, went to aqua fit etc, I only put the laptop down at 10:30 p.m.
And here it is 6:30 a.m next day and I’m up and at it again. “Are you rich?” one of the grade fours asked me.
Here’s a photo from Creative Burlington awards night. I’m in the middle. Barbara Orr (writer) is on your left and Don Ford(The Burlington Post)is on the right. They presented me with my award, performing the opening-of-the-envelope-with-the-winner ceremony.
As in all the arts, merit is not always rewarded fairly. The real successes in a writer’s life have to be measured internally. Certainly, I have my share of fan mail to show me that my stories have connected with my audiences. I have two readers(that I know of) who have gone on to foster many guide dogs as a result of reading the Bringing Up Beauty Series. A girl with an eating disorder wrote me over Walking a Thin Line.
A waitress spontaneously hugged me because her daughter had read Grave Secrets the night before after one of my school visits, her first book ever. There have been so many great testimonies to emotional responses to my stories.
I guess I’m listing these non-trophies because I’m feeling unhappy with my commercial success of late. I love all three of my jobs, writing novels for kids, editing Today’s Parent Toronto and spending time in schools as an “artist in education” or as a visiting author.
But I would like the option of donating more to charity, paying off my mortgage as well as handing out down payments to my wonderful kids who give me so much joy. Or taking a friend to lunch and paying the tab.
Instead, I’ll take another moment to savour this award as I sip from my cup of coffee this morning, watching the sunrise. Ahhh.
Just before Halloween, Andrea Gordon of Burlington Public Library forwarded me a notice about this literary achievement award. With the recommendation letter of another writer Gisela Sherman, I dutifully submitted my CV and an excerpt from my favourite book so far, Last Chance for Paris.
I also forwarded the notice to my daughter and what fun, both of us became finalists along with a communications writer named Bobbi Smith.
It was time for Burlington to vote for their favourite.
I’m not sure if anyone read our excerpts or if we just
got all our friends to vote for us. Creative Burlington drew
1,500 votes which was amazing for a first year event.
A few weeks ago our artist statement was video taped and we got an “artsmatter” t shirt. The rest of you can buy one for $15 from creativeburlington.ca.
Last Thursday, I won the event. My camera chose not to work so you won’t see me grinning along side of our new mayor Rick Goldring. But here is the the plaque. Because there was a great silent auction full of theatre and dinner certificates, I pretty much spent my whole award.
No paying off my mortgage early, I’m afraid.
Still how nice to be so celebrated. Thanks to all for voting and for their congratulations.