All an author asks for is a chance. A chance, and the worshipful adulation of millions and the affirmation of our stubborn fathers and skyrocketing sales and awards and parades and magnificent statues looming before grand institutions named in our honor.
We are a modest bunch.
When I wrote The Green Ember, I genuinely just wanted a chance. I wanted a try-out, to use sports terminology (my go-to way of explaining/understanding the world). I wanted readers to give it a try. Also, I was terrified of this very thing. It turns out this is normal.
I am afraid it is only too likely to be true what you say about the critics and the public. I am dreading the publication for it will be impossible not to mind what is said. I have exposed my heart to be shot at.”
—J. R. R. Tolkien (as publication of The Lord of the Rings neared)
Getting past the fear is not possible. It cannot be sneaked around. The fear must be assaulted like war on a sorcerer’s tower, again and again, until it becomes a habit. Fear and Intelligence are the great enemies. They must be both conquered and turned into a weapon we use to our own ends. Good ends. Crazy ends. The ends of sharing something with the world. The ends of getting a chance.
Give us a chance, and we will give you our hearts. We will expose our hearts to be shot at. It is a brave thing to stick your neck out in a world full of flashing swords. Few are brave enough to stick out their soft, supple necks, but everyone has a sword. Everyone loves to use their swords. Swords are easy to use. It’s easy to go around chop, chop, chopping.
When I was ready to share The Green Ember, the weapons were there. “Friendly fire” hit me from behind, from where I expected cover and succor. I reeled, wounded. But then help came, and it came, and it came. It has never stopped coming.
Allies, near and far, charged in. Surrounded me. Pushed me ahead. I was wounded (there are always wounds), but we were advancing. I was moving ahead and I didn’t even understand how it was happening. But nearly everywhere I looked there were friends, old and new, and I was on the march again.
You gave me a chance. You held my heart in your hands and you surprised me with your tenderness. Thank you.
Thank you for encouraging words, for kind reviews, for “giving me five,” and for giving my stories—and me—a chance.
I will never forget it.
Originally published 4.17.18. Updated. Still true.