I love the fall. There is something invigorating about the chill in the air and the trees realizing they wanna have halos of red or gold or orange instead of plain old green, kids’ imaginations coming alive with Halloween fun and adults letting themselves be a little spooky or silly for once in their busy lives. I don’t know what it is, honestly, but the writer inside of me loves this time of year.
In When I’m Gone there is a line that Natalie shares with her husband in one of the letters she wrote during her illness. This thought comes back to my mind every year when September hits…
“I don’t understand why parents cry on the first day of school. For me, that’s the best day. The anticipation and excitement for what lies ahead. It’s the last day that makes me tear up. The year is over, and my students walk out of the room first graders and into their parent’s arms second graders. It’s the end that makes a beginning, not the first day.”
Maybe that is what I love about fall–it signals the end of something but the beginning of so much more. It is a transition time that makes all things feel possible. Hot days of random sun. Cold days with snow and sleet. The smell of wood burning in a fire place and plans for holiday adventures starting to line up in hearts and minds but still playing outside and soaking up the last bit of sunshine and green grass before snow forces us inside.
Six years ago, Columbus Day marked a period in my own life just like this. I’d been querying agents for a few weeks and had a few full manuscripts out but had been rejected by nearly every agent that had shown interest. That Monday morning as I was planning a day to the zoo with my kids, I sent a query to Marlene Stringer through her website. I got a full request less than an hour later. This was the beginning and the end but I didn’t even know it yet. Five months later Marlene offered me representation and she’s been my partner and advocate ever since.
This past Columbus Day I took my kids to the Nickel Arcade. Now, I could sit here and say that I just let them play as I watched all adult like, enjoying their child like joy at a few paper tickets…but that would be a lie. I maybe also got my own bags of nickels and we played for hours and I think I liked getting tickets more than my kids did! (I gave them to the kids–I swear!)
After our arcade adventure we went out for Chinese food. At the end of the meal we all opened our fortune cookies at the same time. I love the sayings in fortune cookies. When I was a teenager I had a whole wall behind my bed of quotes I collected over the years that inspired me and I think fortunes from these little bent cookies are similar to the little snips of inspiration I used to sleep under.
These were my favorite two from that day.
I think I need to celebrate this day every year–the end that was also my beginning. The autumn of my querying, prepublication life. It can be scary, I get that. It is hard to put in those nickels and not know what you are gonna get out, but there is a payoff, I promise you. Fall leads to winter, it is inevitable, but there is also spring and summer just beyond the ice and cold. I’ve seen it.
As a writer, mother and human–I fall down a lot. I also hesitate a lot. Gosh, maybe it’s because I fall down a lot that I hesitate and question myself so often when facing a challenge or new adventure. Goodness knows I stumbled down the path to publication. I fell down and hesitated more times that I can count and it doesn’t just stop because I’ve published four books and shared them with so many beautiful readers. As a mother it doesn’t stop because my kids are all in school or because they are getting older. As a human it doesn’t stop just because I’m “growing up” and know myself better than in my youth. At this point in my life all I know for sure is that at some point I’m going to fall, probably more than I’d like. But that is also when I get to choose to get back up.
So next time you fall down, or are too scared to even start because of the potential to fail, remember that if we embrace the ends, we will also be ready for the beginnings.