Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keeping The Rose Between My Teeth

Tango SepiaImage by Pedro J Pacheco via Flickr
It's crazy, this writing life, but it has chosen me and we are tango partners, roses tightly clenched in our teeth.  I tried NOT to be a writer for a really long time, I did, but now I have accepted all of it's throes and woes. I'm not in it because I think I'm going to be the next Rowling or L'Engle. I am in it because it is who I am.

The tango is a beautiful dance, but sometimes all that clenching gives me a headache, what with all that financial instability, rejection, and public scrutiny. So why tango at all? I have grappled with the voices in my head telling me that writing is not "responsible", that I have an unrealistic view because of my successful grandmother, that I need to get a "real" job and support my family instead of flying by the seat of my pants. But what's "real"? I've never had a job that raked in the dough - I've worked in non-profit and in social services all of my life.

Four years ago, I took a six month hiatus from writing after sending my first manuscript out to three agents and having it be rejected. At the time I thought I needed to figure something else out, and FAST. I was spending a lot of time in hospital rooms with my grandmother fading and my mother's complications from a a minor surgery. I thought maybe my calling should be to go to nursing school. Here was a practical solution. Nurses were always needed, and I'd never be short of work. I figured: I have a great bed-side manner, I am kind and compassionate. I went to look at both Columbia and Pace University and was inspired by other prospective students who really would make GREAT nurses.

 However, that wouldn't be me. I'm squeamish.

And then I kept obsessing about Teach for America. I went to their website ten times a day, hoping I could figure out a way to do it. Reliable work would garner me the respect I craved, wouldn't it? But how could I be there for my three kids, teach during the day and go to school at night?

Go back to your manuscript
, a voice kept whispering. Don't give up.

Eventually, my tango partner would murmur in my ear . . . move to the suburbs . . . teach in Northern Westchester . . . take some calculated risks . . . so you can keep writing and being the parent you want to be . . .

So I did. I persevered. And I must continue to persevere, to kick-ball-change through this mad dance of creativity. And know that I probably won't make a living at it. And understand that it's not "practical". This is a calling, but it's also a choice. It's the fire in my soul. My kids may see me struggle, and I might get bitter once and a while when not taken seriously by others, but I will be a mother who values dreams, who listens to her tango partner, and keeps the rose in between her teeth.

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  1. Fantastic post. I love the image of tango partners, especially since the obstacles always mean there are a few thorns on the rose.

  2. Thank you guys - it's a thorny but ultimately beautiful road . . .

  3. I love this post. I am in it because it is who I am. Amen to that, sista!

  4. Thank u Lena for choose my picture for this post.

  5. It's such a beautiful and inspiring picture! Thank YOU!


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