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The Brass Band Played
by Martha Deeringer

I thought I heard the crash of cymbals accompanied by a full brass band when my first writing acceptance arrived in the mailbox on an insignificant-looking postcard stuck inside an envelope. The pre-printed postcard said, “We have found a place for your article in a future issue of Boys’ Quest ... publication date, Feb. 2011. The postcard arrived in February of 2007, a full four years before the proposed publication date. Slowly the joyous notes of the brass band faded to silence. Don’t get me wrong. I was excited ... elated ... ecstatic. I had worked toward this moment for over two years. But patience is not one of my most highly-developed qualities. I wanted to see my article in print.

A middle school teacher, I have lived my life supplied with immediate feedback. My students keep no opinion to themselves. When my lesson for the day excites them, they say so. When it stinks, they mention that too. Writing and teaching exist in two totally different worlds. Writing is solitary, even lonely. I slave away in front of a silent computer screen fueled by nothing but my own opinion of the quality of what I produce. And, of course, I think it’s wonderful. If I didn’t, I’d be working on my lesson plans or grading papers. My students are an audience I can see and interact with. Their response is immediate. I think that’s why waiting for a response from a publisher is so hard for me and maybe for other teachers who write as well.
Like many new writers, in the beginning I sent out manuscripts that I now realize were beyond help from even the most patient of editors; but amazingly, a few editors responded with suggestions for improvement. I learned. I focused my articles. I ditched the adverbs and the passive voice. I crafted my sentences for the most possible impact. I took a writing class.
Then it happened. My grandchildren found an injured owl, and we called a local wildlife rehabilitator, Nada Wareham, to ask if she would take it. She did. When we met her, we were fascinated by her tales of rescuing injured animals and returning them to the wild. If my grandchildren were so enthusiastic about what she was doing, wouldn’t other children be interested too?

The story I wrote about Nada, "A Labor of Love," received one rejection slip before it was accepted by Boys’ Quest. Since that unforgettable day, I have sold other articles to both children’s and adults’ magazines. Several of them have already been published. Most of the acceptances came by e-mail. The cymbals crashed and the brass band struck up a joyous march each time. I have read my immortal (?) words in the pages of magazines. The experience was everything I hoped it would be.
But I am still waiting to read "A Labor of Love" in print. That insignificant-looking postcard peeks out from a small frame above my computer, a symbol of the blissful feeling that the first acceptance (and every one after it) brings. It reminds me that in writing as well as in teaching, patience is a virtue that I need to cultivate. The brass band still starts to play when I look at it.

© Copyright 2008, Martha Deeringer

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