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Meg's Blog

Author In Search of a Quote

Okay, so my apologies about that last entry, obviously I've got to start leaving my laptop closed when I leave the room. Henrietta can't open it when it's closed due to her lack of thumbs (which doesn't seem to have adversely affected her typing). So that should stop anymore highjacking of my blog.

I guess I can't blame Henrietta for being cranky since it's officially the dog days of summer, and therefore officially the time for everyone to start feeling cranky. It's hot, there's nothing on TV but reruns (except for the Olympics, which I have to admit are pretty dishy even though I hate sports), all the watermelons are over-ripe, hurricanes keep hitting our homes…I could go on and on.

Basically, it's….(drum roll):

Back to School Time.

I know it's back to school time because a) I see the Office Max ads, and b) I see the school buses.

Also, my mail from students who are being forced to write to me by their teacher has suddenly increased exponentially.

Oh, yes. I can tell which letters come from the people who WANT to write to me versus the letters from the people who are being FORCED to write to me.

How can I tell? Well, one way is that the people who are being FORCED to write to me often ask if I have “an inspiring quote or piece of advice” that they can put on their classroom's Wall of Inspiration.

I have no problem with this. I'm sure the Walls of Inspiration are very…inspiring.
What I do have a problem with is thinking of something inspiring to say.

Seriously. I don't have any inspiring quotes or advice. At all. All I can ever think of when someone asks me for an inspiring quote is a piece of advice my dad gave me in the hospital before he died of throat cancer (ahem…from smoking. If you smoke, please stop. I have seen up close and personal what it does to people and it is not good. Seriously):

“Meggin,” he said. I had to lean down close to his hospital bed to hear the sage piece of advice that this man, so close to death's door that surely he had gained some kind of cosmic wisdom, was about to impart. “Always remember: Never pass a bathroom without using it. You never know how long it might be before you find another one.”

This may have been the closest thing we had to a family motto when I was growing up.

And it IS very wise. I mean, how often have you passed up a nice clean bathroom only to find yourself, an hour later, having to go and there being no place to do so?

And yet somehow, I don't imagine this is the kind of thing teachers want to hang on their Wall of Inspiration (which is a shame, if you ask me).

My husband has a family motto as well. His is: “Don't fill up on bread.”

This is something he says every time we go to a restaurant and the waiter brings a basket of bread to the table.

This too is very sound advice.

Yet, again, it's not something I imagine a teacher would find useful on her Wall of Inspiration.

Sometimes I send students my grandma's patented advice, offered whenever I mention a bad book review to her: “Honey, you're not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you. Or your books.”

This is comforting.

But again, is it really wall-worthy?

So basically, I am an author in search of a quote. I have been looking for some time now, just kind of keeping my eyes and ears open. But I've come up with bupkus. The other night I thought I had stumbled across the perfect quote, from one of my Wooster and Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse. In it, Wooster is complaining about his friend Bingo's romance-novel writing wife:

“Women like her, who consider the day ill spent if they have not churned out five thousand words of superfatted fiction, are apt even at the best times to yearn a trifle. The ink gets into their heads. I mean to say, I shouldn't wonder if right from the start Mrs. Bingo hasn't had a sort of sneaking regret that Bingo isn't one of those strong, curt, Empire-building kind of Englishmen she puts into her books, with sad, unfathomable eyes, lean sensitive hands, and riding boots. You see what I mean?”

This quote cracks me up, because I consider myself a romance writer (despite what my readers might think), and I feel TERRIBLE when I don't write five thousand words a day. And the ink has DEFINITELY gotten into my head.

And while I don't exactly yearn, I HAVE written about strong, curt, Empire-building Englishmen, with sad, unfathomable eyes, lean sensitive hands, and riding boots (though I don't regret that my husband isn't one of them. I dated an English guy before and…well, we won't get into that).

Anyway, much as I love this quote, it really only works to inspire other romance novelists, not schoolchildren.

So you can imagine my pleasure when, in this weekend's New York Times Book Review, I found this line, from Chuck Klosterman:

“MENTAL HEALTH: The symptoms of depression (according to the National Institute of Mental Health) include anxiety, pessimism, loss of interest in sex, insomnia, thoughts of suicide, restlessness and chronic headaches.

These are also the symptoms of being smart.”

I LOVE this quote. Because it's SO TRUE.

But once again, this is not the kind of quote that would look good on a Wall of Inspiration. While it inspires ME, it probably wouldn't inspire a 6th grader.

Besides, there's the small fact that I didn't write it (to my everlasting chagrin).

So today I was trying to think if I had ever come across a Wall of Inspiration. I mean, I must have, right? What sort of quotes were on it?

But I couldn't recall a single teacher, except maybe Constance Holland, my Government teacher in the 11th grade, having a Wall of Inspiration. And hers was just photos of famous people.

And then I remembered my friend and former boss Jennifer. Jennifer has a poster on her office wall that I used to go and look at ALL THE TIME when I worked for her.

And yes, I DID find it inspiring, especially when I was receiving nothing but rejection letters for my books.

And that poster said:

“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

—Shel Silverstein

Isn't that an inspiring quote? It is basically saying, “Yes, everyone is going to tell you that you suck and you'll never achieve your dream. And you should pay attention to that, and have a back up plan, just in case. But also remember that it COULD happen. And if it COULD happen, why couldn't it happen to YOU?”

Sadly, I didn't write this quote, so I can't really give it to people for their Wall of Inspiration.

But it certainly helped me through MANY a dog day like the ones we're going through now.

So…if you want to be inspired, copy down this poem by Shel Silverstein. I promise it will do the trick.

And remember:

Never pass a bathroom without using it. You never know how long it might be before you find another one.

And…

Don't fill up on bread.

More later.

Much love,

Meg

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