Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 346

An exercise in resilience.

I read Maria Shriver's little book "Just Who Will You Be" for my book club review recently (you can read about it here). The book was written as an outcome of a speech she gave a graduation class. I thought "what a great idea for a post!". I will give you the "speech" I gave a year 4 class recently about resilience. Well, it wasn't a speech as such, but a session I did on Tuesday about what it's like to get published for the first time, and the resilience needed to continue moving forward. Their teacher knew I had a book coming out in December (her class helped me choose my illustrator) so asked me to visit. Of course I said "yes". I love a captive audience (doors locked, windows bolted, blinds closed, no chance to escape ....)

It went something like this:

Today I have brought you a box. What do you think is inside this box? I'll give you a hint, it's not a kangaroo. "It's full of books??" No. Very close. But not quite. Inside this box is something that could either make me very happy, or very sad. This could be my happy box or my box off disappointment. How I choose to look at this box is up to me. Because inside this box is all the letters I received from publishers saying "thanks, but no thanks". This box is full of big fat NOs. But when I look at this box it still makes me happy. Well, of course it does NOW because I have a publisher. But even when I didn't, this box gave me hope. Inside this box were lots of NO letters that were getting me one step closer to a YES. So I chose to look at this box with hope and with belief and with happiness.

When you send off your manuscript to a publisher it is printed on normal everyday office paper, and written in normal every day text. There are no pictures (yet) and there is just one staple in the top left corner holding it all together. It doesn't look at all like a book. And you put this manuscript inside a big yellow office envelope with the name and address of the publisher on the front. Inside this envelope you put another big yellow office envelope with a stamp included. On this second envelope you write your own name and address. It's for when they return your manuscript to you ... it is for when they say NO. (I showed them one such envelope sitting inside my box which had been returned to me.) How do you think I felt when I would go to my letter box and find an big yellow envelope with my name and address on the front written in my own handwriting? Yep. Sad. Very sad. But how long I stayed sad was up to me. Sure, I felt a big grrr in the pit of my stomach. And sometimes I would cry. But mostly I would just say "BUM!!!" and stomp around for a bit and then get on with finding another publisher. That's what resilience is all about. Being able to get through the tricky bits in life without giving up. Sure, you're gonna feel sad. Sure, you're going to get the grumps from time to time. Sure, you're going to wish you'd never started the stupid project in the first place. But can you imagine the way you are going to feel when you finally make it to the end! Can you imagine how you are going to feel when you achieve what it is you are after! Let me tell you from experience, that end result is worth it. So while I let myself cry when Mr Big Yellow Envelope arrived, and while I may have slammed a few doors and said a few more BUM words, I was able to put the NO letter inside my box, close the lid and look at the box with hope, belief and happiness.

There was a little story that used to help me keep going. It's my secret story of hope. It's the story about how one man, a long long time ago, had a great chicken recipe that he wanted to share with the world. He used to knock on restaurant doors trying to get people to buy his recipe. He wanted people to make his chicken and serve it to the world. He got 1009 NO's for his chicken recipe before he got his first YES. 1009!!! I only got about 13 NOs (well that's when I stopped counting) and he got 1009. Imagine the resilience he needed. Imagine the size of his box!! That man was Colonel Sanders and he now has KFC restaurants selling his chicken all over the world.

So what you achieve in life, how you respond to certain situations, how you react is totally up to you. Whether you live with a box full of sad or a box full of happiness and hope is up to you! So who wants me to reach inside my box of happy and find that book you've all been hearing about?

So I read them "My Happy Gift" (from the manuscript and without any pictures) and as I got up to leave kids came running to me with hugs and smiles. It was a beautiful day! I may have given them a little something on Tuesday but they gave me a HUGE something in return. Absolute belief that this little story may actually make a difference.


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