Students enter my English class in college wanting to achieve goals many haven’t even identified. So I run an undercurrent theme in my freshman literature classes: happiness. For I believe the secret to happiness includes life-long learning and good stories. That’s the atmosphere for how I teach, and that’s also why I write.
I believe stories can teach as well as make people happy. Literature has done that for me for as long as I can remember. Indeed, books were my first friends. When other kids daydreamed about marine biology or business school, I daydreamed about libraries, the books that filled them, and the authors who wrote them.
I started writing short stories until one—for a decade—wouldn’t let go of me. I kept returning to it before realizing it wasn’t a short story; it was instead begging to be chapter one of a novel. So I wrote it into a novel.
And then I queried agents to see if anyone was interested in representing it. Sixty agents said, “No.”
One said, “Yes!”
My writing had made someone else happy, and that made me happy.
Still, I had a lot to learn.
That novel wasn’t right for the market at the time, so I learned to write beyond one project. This brought continued happiness because I knew I had more stories to tell. Compelled by characters who ached for me to bring them into existence and plots that demanded to be told, I wrote for several years while my agent took manuscripts to different publishers, to the tune of somewhere between thirty and forty additional rejections.
Yet I wrote.
Four manuscripts in, a traditional publisher finally found a match with one of my manuscripts, and I signed a traditional book contract.
Will readers find shared joy in the words I have written? Will they learn something along the way as they read my chapters? I hope.
For years, I have been a writing teacher who writes, trying to bring happiness to my students through literature. But all the while, I was also bringing happiness to myself through my life-long learning process of writing and telling stories.