The Scarlet Letter.

We returned last night from our whirlwind trip to Missouri for marketing and PR, plus my 20-year high school reunion, PLUS my very first ever book signing. I think my head is still spinning.

The trip kicked off Thursday afternoon with me speaking to junior and senior high school students in the Bismarck R-5 school district where my old friend and mentor Terry Skinner teaches. The whole weekend wrapped up this morning with me speaking to seventy or so sales people in the AFLAC office where the husband earns the bread that funds this crazy adventure we’re following. The weekend followed a roller coaster path that I couldn’t have predicted, nor one that I would necessarily in any way alter. And throughout the entire experience I kept feeling an odd tingling sensation in my chest, just to the left (or right, if you’re looking at me) of my breastbone. A kind of expectant burning and tingling that my ol’ pal Hester Prynne could probably recognize. I would glance down from time to time to see if, indeed, a scarlet letter had appeared. A big fuzzy scarlet letter that would warn all with whom I made contact that I was different. That perhaps I wasn’t as direct a creature as I appeared. Not just an Anglo woman careening toward middle age, carrying too much weight in her tummy and too much of an affinity for Irish whiskey and English gin. Not just a wife and daughter and sister and friend, but something more. Something that only a scarlet letter could indicate. The question was, which scarlet letter would it be?

Perhaps a “W” for Wanna-Be? Because I do so want to be an author that can make people think and believe in whatever fairy tale I’m spinning. But wanting and being can be as far apart as Bismarck, MO, and downtown Chicago.

Or maybe an “I” for Impostor? I make no claim to literary genius…I know I’m no Hawthorne or Capote or Coehlo or Jackson. I’d probably explode with joy if someone suggested I could hold my own with even Steele or Hooper. So, by dipping my big toe in the River of Publishing, is my hubris the road to humiliation? Will I be revealed as a hack? Perhaps.

I torment myself with these possibilities, and wonder what letter is about to bloom on my chest like beet juice on white linen. And all the while a bigger question looms just behind my eyes. It’s the question, “does it really matter?” Because I know one letter it won’t be. And that’s the letter “Q.”

“Q” for Quitter. I can say now, with complete gratitude and a tremendous amount of bewilderment, that “Q” no longer applies. I acknowledge I have put things and relationships in my life in real jeopardy with my stubborn refusal to quit, and I can say now that it was worth the risk, whatever happens with this book. We’ve sold a few, and the response has been very tremendously supportive. More importantly, though, is that I’m still writing. I haven’t given up and there is no place on my chest for “Q.”

So, I think maybe the thing I keep feeling there…that burning/tingling sensation…is really the formulation of the letter “G.”

“G” for Grateful. And Gee, How Did I Get So Lucky? And Giddy, because I absolutely am so giddy that I can’t even sleep at night. And I just have to shout “Thank you!” from the rooftops.

I think Hester would approve.

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