(Meta Note: yeah these went out of order, but I answered as they came in, and was glad to do so. So the title is correct for the month this applies to, and the publish date is correct to the date I responded)
It’s our last week of letters and I had actually written one earlier in the week after yet another untenable situation broke in the news. But it was filled with rage, laced with fear and madness and I didn’t want to end our time together like that.
So instead, at this late hour, I will tell you a brief story about a teacher I had in High School and the promise of perseverance.
This New Jersey English teacher that I had for both 10th and 12th grades was a polarizing figure amongst the student body when I was in school. You either loved her or hated her. I loved her. She expected only the best out of her students. Not HER best, but YOUR best. She didn’t care for the usual disruptive classroom shenanigans but she would easily be a co-conspirator of shenanigans when the time was right. She taught you everything about words, sentence structure, etymology and “hacks” on how to figure out what a word meant. She exposed us to literature and all the worlds contained within.
She even started a creative writing society at school and a literary publication/newspaper (both of which I participated in during my time there in the late 90s).
I knew then that she was a writer, getting short stories and poetry published but never a novel.
However, last night I attended a book launch party at a hotel just north of Baltimore. Available to the world as of yesterday, this party was for her first published novel. It’s the first in a series of, as she says, “at least five.” Published a “mere” 23 years after I graduated… likely 40+ years since she began writing…
It was a pleasure to see her again after all these years and my honor to ring in the dawn of a new era with her - the era of Ef Deal, published novelist. A lovely reminder that it’s never too late for new things to happen, never too late to break through, and never too late to do the things that you love to do, that fill you with joy and magic.
I am new to the steampunk genre and I thoroughly enjoyed her book. I can’t wait to hop into the next adventures with these characters. Set in 1840s France, it’s a quick read and a rousing good time laced with horror, mechanical imaginings, intrigue and a wee bit of romance. If it’s up your alley, I’d love to hear what you think of it when it makes your “read” pile.
~JulieEsprit de Corpse by Ef Deal
I’m glad to end on a more uplifting note. It’s made me think of one of my own English teachers, Ms. Biondo, who I had in 9th and 11th grade. It was her first and then third year of teaching. I don’t think she had quite gotten the hang of it all yet, and I know I didn’t make things easy at all. But I also remember getting just tiny glimpses into who she was, and I feel pretty strongly that as a teenager I missed a lot that I would understand today. It’s strange to think about, but it’s quite possible we would be friends as adults. One of my only regrets from giving up Facebook years ago was that it was a great way to connect with some of my old teachers.
My best teachers, the ones I gained the most from at least, were always controversial. I wonder if you have to be polarizing to be great, at least for some kids, because what each of us needs from a teacher is so different.
Steampunk is funny as a genre. Sometimes it feels like a genre, in that the mechanical is key to the mechanics. Sometimes it’s more of a setting. But I like horror and intrigue and romance and “rousing good times” so it’ll for sure go on my list, even if I am not the biggest fans of puns.
Given all the upheaval and changes and self-discovery that you’re currently in, I can’t help but to wonder what you’ll be doing in 20 years that will have been a 40 year project for you. I wonder what your book launch party will end up being and where things land.
I’ll be looking out for whatever it is.
I wonder the same for myself– being so engrossed in my current job, I sometimes fantasize about when this all ends what will I rediscover or suddenly realize has been sitting in the on deck circle all this time that I can’t wait to do? I can’t see it or feel it right now, but I hope it’s out there.