Sunday, February 21, 2010

Unsung Heroes

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.”

- Carol Lynn Pearson

When I began my blog, I wasn't really sure to what it was going to be other than chronicling my saga as a substitute teacher. Most of my family members hadn’t followed blogs, so the whole process was a mystery to all of us. When I told my husband that I wanted to set up a blog, he suggested Blogger and helped me with any kinks as I followed the instructions.

A few years ago, when I wrote my first manuscript, my husband read chapters after I wrote them, making suggestions. Then I wrote another manuscript, which he read when it was completed. After that, he stopped reading what I wrote, saying he couldn’t be objective. Writing middle grade and young adult was not his typical reading genre, but I didn’t know whether to be offended or relieved or neutral. I think I’ve felt each at one time or another.

I’m not suggesting that he’s been anything but supportive. I’ve attended four conferences, and he hasn’t batted an eye about the cost or watching the children so I could attend. This year, I’m attending two conferences: a three-day weekend at NESCBWI and one day at BlogHer in Manhattan, and I’ve received the same support.

On the few occasions that an agent or publisher has asked for pages based on a query or an entire manuscript based on a partial, he’s been as excited as me. But when it hasn’t worked out, nobody has been harder on myself than me.

When I began writing, I don’t think either of us understood how long and tedious the writing to publishing process could be, especially when a writer had as much to learn as I did. Last spring, he said something to the effect of maybe I should give myself a deadline for getting published. That stung. I couldn’t imagine not writing and persisting. I defended my continuation by telling him that Laurie Halse Anderson said that she gave herself a five-year deadline, but in retrospect, why not ten years or more? Based on Anderson’s keynote address, I’d kept at this. I wasn’t ready to give up.

Back to my blog. My husband, sister, and mother-in-law were my first followers. I remember when the first stranger joined, which awed me. Someone wanted to read what I had to say. I told more family and friends, and then linked my blog to Facebook (Networked Blogs). When I had around nineteen followers, plus some on Facebook, it held steady. Then it began to grow. First mostly teachers found me, and then mostly writers.

It’s great getting comments because it gives me feedback. I feel a boost when someone takes the time to read it and decides that something about it was comment-worthy. And I comment at the blogs of my followers and/or blogs that I follow. One of my posts has a quote that a blog is an ongoing conversation*. I think sometimes the comments become as interesting, if not more so than the original post. It’s worth mentioning that the regular commenters, who have blogs, happen to be ones worth following.

I had been worried that my blog was too general: teaching, writing, domestic (for lack of a better word), and miscellaneous/all of the above. Would it appeal to anyone? But some aspect of what I was writing, others were relating. And I found writer, teacher, whatever blogs that I loved. I became part of a community. I’m at the point that I’d love to meet some of these people in person, if the opportunities arise because they seem like old friends. (Anyone want to attend BlogHer in Manhattan with me this summer?)

Along the way, I’ve had some big fans who have been there from the beginning. My mother-in-law e-mails or calls every time I get new followers or commenters, and then she checks out their blogs. My sister shares some of my posts with her large number of Facebook friends. And my mother-in-law and sister tell me when they think a particular blog is good. They are also regular commenters.

Then there’s my husband, who checks every day to see if I’ve posted, letting me know if I’ve made a typo, by sending an e-mail entitled, “Mistake”. Lately, due to some family issues, I had an e-mailed entitled “Blog Mistake (But Not as Big a Mistake as Eating Eight-Year-Old Butter)”** and “ Blog Mistake (But Not as Big a Mistake as Giving Away $1000)”. Even if you don’t get the jokes, know that he’s making me laugh. He also tells me when he’s particularly enjoyed a post and which type he thinks is strongest (There’s a debate between him and his mother about that).

One part of blogging my husband hasn’t liked is when I’ve complained about aspects of domestic life***. He wants to be painted in a more positive light. But who wants to hear that kind of boring stuff? It’s like writing the sequel when the first book ends, happily ever after. Yawn.

When I attend the NESCBWI Spring Conference, one of the workshops I’m attending is called “Social Media Tips and Tricks: How a Savvy Online Presence Can Serve Your Career”. I didn’t believe that my blog was going to help my Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) writing career. Then I came across a post about building a platform****. I wrote a comment to Jane, voicing my confusion. Her response, along with the links she provided me, gave me an epiphany.

Although I didn’t begin a blog to create a platform, it may be just that. It doesn’t have to be specifically about MG and YA. If I’m reaching out to teachers and writers, and someday I am lucky/good enough to get a book published, maybe my followers will spread the word. And I would use my blog to promote their worthy books or endeavors as well.

Teachers, writers, mothers; we all toil away in virtual obscurity. Our blogs are vehicles to: vent, promote, question, answer, link, support, request support, voice and be heard. And so we should have support behind the blog too. So, I have sung about the unsung heroes.

* Quote and early post about blogging:

** Butter reference is explained in this post:

*** A couple of domestic posts:

**** See Jane Friedman’s post and the comments section:

I also recommend a related post that she wrote on another blog:


  1. I met a fellow blogger this week. She and her husband were visiting my city so we got together to walk, talk and eat. Over dinner, the blogger and I started talking teaching again - her husband rolled his eyes and looked at my husband and said something to the effect "they're off again."

    Teachers (and bloggers) have to talk about those things that light their fires. Our spouses (fine as they are) get tired, so it was great that both our husbands were given the option of commiserating with a fellow sufferer!

  2. Ricochet, that's great that you got to meet a fellow blogger. And I agree that we have to spend time with other teachers/writers/bloggers - because they understand our experiences more than our friends and family.

    I can't tell you how many times I've had to sit listening to a bunch of my husband's scientist friends babble about DNA or apoptotsis or whatever.

  3. Nice post, Theresa! I think we blog to discuss something on our minds, something that other people around us may not care to hear or may be too tired of hearing. Sometimes when I am angry or upset and write about it, the anger and consternation leaves me. I just need to say it or write it, and I feel better.

  4. This is a great post. I'm glad you have such a supportive family. :) I just started blogging a few weeks ago, so I haven't gained that large of an audience, so it's inspiring to read about the beginnings of a successful blog. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Edie, I can relate to so many of your posts. I never tire of hearing them. It's true that blogging is cathartic.

  6. How wonderful! I enjoy your blog because it lets me know that there is someone out there doing/struggling/accomplishing/hoping the same things I am--and are doing a great job at it!

    Writing sounds so easy, but it's not easy for everyone. You have a gift and this blog (and your followers) prove it!

    Have a good time at the conference!

  7. Hi Theresa,
    I truly enjoyed reading your thoughtful comments on writing and blogging and the obstacles along the way. I have always wanted to do some writing and found blogging a way of fulfilling my goals. After a few months of blogging, I started to also reflect on what my message would be and who my audience is. I started to have doubts along the way but in the end - I realize that I just need to stick to writing about what I know best and let the chips fall where they may. I too have met many wonderful teachers through the process and started some pretty cool groups that I am quite proud of. Good luck with your continued efforts and tell your husband if he ever reads my blog - to go easy on the edits:)

  8. Hi

    Now you see I like Mr Milstein. I got the sense that he is supportive and loving and an all round great guy. So I hope there'll be no more talk of giving yourself a deadline! Here is some inspiration:
    Basically she sold her first painting aged 89 after years and years and years and... so none of this deadline talk!

    You go girl! The best blogs I find are ones that evolve and grow as the blogger does whatever the content. I like blogs that are happy in themselves, not trying to impress or preach or trying too hard to get followers! I like blogs that are part of a community and take an active part in whatever community it chooses to be part of. I like blogs that are full of the milk of human warmth and kindness whatever their content. I like fun and funny blogs!

    GOOD LUCK with your writing and your blogging - I look forward to following your amazing journey!

    Take care

  9. The first thing I do in the morning is read your blog, then I check my e-mail. I look forward to it each day and am disappointed if you miss a day.
    No one should put a deadline on what they love to do. You should write until you don't want to write anymore. Wherever that takes you, that's where it takes you.

  10. Tiffany, thank you for your kind words. I love finding blogs that also write about shared experiences, and your blog is one of them! You're working hard, trying to do so much at once.

    Deborah, thank you for the compliment. I've enjoyed hearing about the little ones and your ideas for teaching them on your blog.

    Old Kitty, thanks for the link. Your blog is a little of this and a little of that, and it always makes me smile. I can't wait until your piece in the, Stories for Haiti book comes out. Once again, congratulations.

    Before you compliment Mr. Milstein too much, when he read the post, he said, "I don't encourage you to go to conferences. I tell you to go for only one day."

    Sheila, I'm glad you look forward to reading my blog. Even though I hit rough patches, I can't imagine not writing my blog and my manuscripts. I have a new idea, but I'm trying to hold off until I get my ten pages and query submitted for the conference.

  11. Well said, Theresa! Your husband sounds like an awesome person (and his mother and your sister do, too!) I always make my husband read what I write (even each blog post), even though he has no interest in the genres I write. He reads and comments without complaining, which I so appreciate. My brother regularly comments on my blog, which always makes my day. Thanks for singing about the unsung heroes!

  12. Thanks, Susan. It's great that your husband reads everything you write. When I feel slighted, I remind myself that I only understand a tiny fraction of what my husband does, so I can't read any of his papers. After all these years, I still don't remember the definition for plasmid. I always confuse it with plasma.

  13. This is a lovely post. It's great to have supportive people around you. My partner reads everything I write as well. He likes to add his little bits. I feel very lucky as I don't think many men would take the time to read let alone make comments on magical pony stories! haha Thanks for this post :o)

  14. Thank you, Niki. I agree that a man who will make comments on magical pony stories is truly special.

  15. Theresa,

    You write so beautifully! I don't know if you noticed but I am now following your blog as of yesterday. You keep up the good work sweet lady! I am one of your cheerleaders now!

  16. Oh the author's spouse! They've got to be saints. It's a tough life for them. Not to mention the children lol! I enjoyed this post. Keep at the writing, it's your dream and you owe it to yourself and those you love and who love you to keep at it!! Getting balance has to be the hardest part of writing imho.

  17. VKT, thank you for becoming a commenter, follower, and cheerleader! I've been enjoying your blog as well.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post, KarenG. I'll try to keep at it. Your recent post where you interviewed your spouse was very funny.

  18. It's so hard to remember, sometimes, as you write blog posts and send them out into the ether that someone...somewhere...may be affected by it. I guess it's the same reason we write books. We hope our words inspire...or at the very least, we hope someone will read them! :)

  19. Ant, that's why I love writing blog posts. I get to find readers and immediately get feedback. So far, I haven't been able to get readers with fiction. I do tread carefully about what I reveal. First, I want to keep my sub job. Second, I try to be cognizant of friends and family.

  20. I like your opening quote and post that suggests that writing is an epic journey filled with many adventures and self discovery.

  21. The unsung heroes is right! I've been all three of those things and am in awe how those three groups can change the world... often without kudos.

    Great post, Theresa!

    P.S. I love the blogging community too. In fact, I fear I'm neglecting my tangible people for my virtual people. Need to work on that...

  22. Paul, I'm glad you like the quote. Sometimes hunting for the right one is half the fun. I love when it fits perfectly with everything I'm trying to communicate in the post.

    Jackee, It's amazing coming across people who are all three of those things. I don't meet too many people like that in my tangible life, which is why I'm enjoying these connections in my virtual life.

    Your P.S. reminds me of your post from 01/14, "You Might be a Writer Mama if...". I'm working on that too.

  23. I agree with Shiela - you're a writer and so you should write unless you reach a point where you have no stories that you want to share. I am so proud of you; what started out as writing about being a substitute teacher has become so much more because you're brave enough to write about the minutae of daily life or to share your greatest hopes and fears. Your blog is a constant inspiration and makes me feel connected, human and less alone.

    Also, I admire the supportive relationship that you have with your husband and children - I hope I'm lucky enough to have that someday.

    Thank you for writing your blog :)

  24. Kathleen, thanks for your comment. I'm glad the blog provides you with inspiration and connection. I certainly have plenty of stories to write for now.

  25. Great family!
    Just starting as a sub I enjoy reading your stories and getting an inside peak on what I'm about to encounter. I could always use the extra hints and tips.

    Keep writing!

  26. Thank you, Jenn(ifer). Good luck with substituting. Always feel free to ask me any questions.