Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On Being Published

When I arrived home this afternoon, I found it perched in my mailbox. Clutching it to my chest while I fumbled to make my key fit in the lock, I rushed inside and immediately flipped to the last few pages of this month’s edition of the English Journal. And there it is in tight black type at the bottom of page 120 – my name.

A poem I submitted months earlier has found its way into NCTE’s publication for secondary English/Language Arts teachers, the English Journal, with its circulation of 25,000. I’ve taught writing for a number of years, and over that time have prodded and cajoled a number of my students into submitting their work for publication outside the walls of our classroom, having never done so myself. However, after a wonderful conversation about publishing opportunities last spring with my after-school creative writing club, the Writers Guild, I finally submitted a few of my pieces to the English Journal. And low and behold, “When We Dance” was selected for publication.
When We Dance

Each morning I stop to kiss
your warm forehead
nestled deep in the down.
Your hot cheek pressed against
my freshly washed one.

Each night we bob and weave
our arms and hands
across the sink reaching for
the toothbrush or toothpaste,
a comb, some floss, or ChapStick.
an intricate ballet.

I stop to try and remember
the first time we danced.

The excitement of seeing my name in print has been a motivating experience that I hope to be able to pass along to my students. In my own writing life, the opportunity to be published has changed the way that I think of myself, the way I identify myself. I am not only a writing teacher. I am a writer. Imagine if all our emerging writers had this experience. There is power in putting your words into the world. And when we get a response to those words, it is a validation of the effort, the creativity, and heart that goes into writing. It is motivation to put your writing out into the world again and again. Every student should have this experience, should be motivated to write and to create for an audience outside of the classroom.
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