Tomorrow, a soccer team of girls I truly love mostly because of time spent in my classroom will play in the rain against another talented team of girls, probably equally adored by other people, families and teachers. Our team won their first round last week also in the rain in penalty kicks after two ten minute sudden deaths, now apparently called “golden goals” according to our athletic director as he listened to me explain the term “sudden death” as it applies to goal scoring to my 6 year old daughter. One young woman in my homeroom fought nerves all day at school leading up to that game because she knew in her heart there would be PK’s and she knew in her heart she would be one of the shooters. “What if I miss?” she wondered aloud more than once. I did what all athletes do from time to time when they remember sporting moments from the past– I shared with her the time Merrimack High School lost to Pinkerton Academy in PK’s, the closest I had ever come to winning a state championship back in the fall of 1991, an entire lifetime ago. I’m sure there were other games we won by PK’s or in sudden death, but I mostly just remember listening to my coaches, loving my teammates, and leaving it all on the field.
That’s just one of the hard parts about growing up is that the teachers and coaches from the sidelines disappear. I liked being coached; I was coachable; I still love coaching kids in my classroom, and I love that I work with other truly good people are who are other kids’ “people” who are there and available when they need to tell someone life is really crappy at home, or their parents are separating or their dad is drinking too much or their mom never listens. Or when a kid has a special interest or aptitude for something special, there is mostly always someone to see that potential.
Two years ago this weekend, I was patiently awaiting the arrival of my printed copy of True North on my doorstep. To manage my excitement, I started generating ideas for this blog, as this was the blog which was supposed to help me to market my first novel. Clearly, marketing has not been a strength. Selling my novel? Also not so much of a strength. This explains why I’ve maybe sold 5 copies in the last year beyond bookstore or library book talks. Maybe people need to see me? Hear me speak about my writing? I’m not sure; all I do know is that I’m losing my audience, and I don’t know how to get them back. I could use some strong coaching on my offensive line. Defense has always been my strength. No one could could get past me on my line; I was faster than I looked and never gave up. These qualities still serve me well in my primary career as a teacher. This writing gig is secondary, and although “publishing” True North and blogging about different stories related to parenting or disability or children or lessons learned or humor started off strong, I feel a little like I’m in the middle of a timeout called for an injury. The crowd has stopped watching and gone for hotdogs and apple cider, glancing over now and again to see if play has resumed.
Maybe I’m not taking any of the right risks any more? Maybe my writing isn’t appealing enough to any one audience? Maybe I’m writing too much and people have grown weary of my blogging voice? Maybe my refusal to hashtag my life away or bombard my friends and social media with find me on Twitter (I did that once and I’m now up to 37 followers– not enough) or like my professional author FB page (I’ve done that twice and have not increased beyond 503 in almost a year.)
So what do we do when we feel like the odds are against us in soccer season playoff time? We carve a pumpkin or maybe two or three and we scoop all the guts and seeds out of the middle. I wrote True North ultimately for teenagers– Maybe I should take a break from blogging or simply reduce them to one or two a month on top of my Christopher and Dana Reeve blogs. The best part of novel writing is that the audience is really far away until the book actually comes out. Blogging requires audience participation and reaction and when that starts to go away, the writer turns her first person into the third person and does not take her laptop and run home crying. Rather, the writer writes differently and digs into that next young adult novel and wonders if she could be finished by next Halloween.
Good luck tomorrow Lin-Wood Girls Varsity Soccer along with Coach Drapeau, Coach Tilden, and Coach Nicoll. We’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines!