Monday, February 25, 2008

Swing and a Miss

Spent the weekend with my brother-in-law, in a long-overdue visit. He's a science teacher in Hickory, NC, an odd town that seems to be hovering like a see-saw between old - industrial - train tracks and stray dogs and stacks of pallets and coffee shop - art gallery - decent grocery store.

He's a gifted teacher: gifted with a love for education and a spark for talking with kids, which can't help but come through in his roles as teacher, coach, and (I suspect) role model. We should all be so lucky.

4 1/2 hours each way through a wasteland of the industrial mid-South. Evidently the per capita rate of truck parts stores and churches goes WAY up in some areas. Like 29 South. Luckily, iPod helped the trip go quick. Plus some tapes of Joseph Campbell's lectures on the origins of religion and myth that I picked up at the Book Fair. Research never stops, you just don't call it research. You call it living.

AND I just learned that my friend Fran Cannon Slayton, soon-to-be-published author and all around good person, is live and online.

One last thing. Driving through the rain wondering how far it was until the next bathroom, the following occurred to me. Trying to get published is like playing baseball in the dark. Here comes the pitch -- maybe! Better swing -- maybe! Oops, you missed. Swing again, miss again. Swing and a miss. Swing and a miss. Swing and a miss.

You start to wonder if there's even a pitcher at all. Maybe there ARE no balls coming your way. Swing and a miss. All you want to do is connect, to swat that thing into the night like a meteor. Swing and a miss. You start to lose faith. Lose hope. You wonder about your swinging technique. Maybe you need a different bat. Maybe you should bat left instead of right.

Swing and a miss.

Maybe you should stop swinging altogether. Accept the inevitable. Bow to the odds, which are very much against you.

Except you believe. You believe in the ball coming at you through the night, and you believe in that length of ash that's smooth and cold in your frustrated hands, and you believe in the swinging itself.

Swing and a miss. Swing and a miss.

Here's the thing: I think agents and publishers feel the same way except they're the ones pitching into the darkness. Wondering if there's a batter out there or if home plate is empty. The windup, the pitch, nothing. Pitch, nothing. But they keep believing. Pitch, nothing.

And then one day, ball meets bat and that thing is swatted right out of the park. You have to believe, that's all.

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