Regaining my amateur status.

April 26, 2014 § 5 Comments

In my early days as a children’s book author I was so constantly on the road I could identify which chain hotel I was in by the wall paper pattern.

At first that life felt glamorous.

I was the traveling circus that pulled into town and when I walked into a school auditorium, classroom or library and stood beneath the Welcome Author Adrian Fogelin! banner and told my stories, everyone leaned forward in their chairs.

I knew that, just as they would with the fat lady, the two-headed dog and the man who could guess your weight to within a pound, the audience would tire of me if I hung around, but I never did, and no one expected me to.

As I pulled out of the school lot after my author visit, I often noticed that the marquee that had featured my name surrounded by exclamation points when I pulled in, now advertised a Friday night pizza fundraiser.

My job, in the short time I was there, was to stir things up, get kids excited about the elements of writing, show them how a “real” writer developed a character.

For the teachers I was at the least a break, and at best a tailwind, a new way of looking at the problem of literacy.

Ocala Public Library "Create" Program.But while I was never there long enough for them to tire of me, I tired of me.

Listening to myself I heard that blowhard uncle who says, “Did I ever tell you the one about…” And then tells you “the one about” for the millionth time.

I have never had an author visit at which something memorable, something which will eventually percolate into a story, did not happen. Like the time I asked about the bald boy in a class and was told that he had shaved his head in solidarity with his mother who was undergoing chemo.

But being a one-woman circus wore thin. Continental breakfast in a Holiday Inn began to look sad, and sometimes I would survey a roomful of students and know, without a doubt, I had spoken to these same kids just the week before a couple of states away.

I missed my husband, my dog, and the disreputable but comfortable clothes I wore when not on display.

Hot Tamale onstage in Sopchoppy.The same fatigue would set in if, instead of being a strictly local weekend musician here in Tallahassee, I had pursued music as a career.

I’d be traveling in a car littered with fast food wrappers and be just as familiar with the wallpaper patterns in economy hotels.

Maybe the fallacy is considering a passion successful only if it is a money-producing job. One with glitz and fame attached.

There is a lot to be said for maintaining your amateur status, doing what you love because you love it, the small-change pay and occasional admiration a Lucky Strike extra.

Craig Reeder and me onstage.Times have changed for travelling authors.

Education dollars are in short supply and standardized tests abundant—who can waste time on an author visit when there are so many practice tests to take?

And maybe author visits, or author Adrian Fogelin were a bit of a fad, but for whatever reason, I do those visits less frequently—and I love them far more.

As I write this I am packing my bags for “Authors in April” an annual five-day school visit marathon in Rochester, Michigan, and I’m excited.

I haven’t told those old stories for a while, and life has given me a couple of new ones in the interim. And so I go, with the joy of an amateur taking her passion on the road.



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§ 5 Responses to Regaining my amateur status.

  • ammaponders says:

    How wonderful you have 2 passions! And how very sad when schools are too busy getting ready for tests to have the very programs that get kids excited about reading and creating and learning.


    • Yes, the baby and the bath water are being thrown out together in education, and teachers are as aware of it as anyone. Sadly, teachers aren’t in charge. If they were education would be so much better served.


  • craig reeder says:

    You are so right about the “amateur” status. When I was a kid, the only thing I wanted to do was be a musician. But during college days when I played in a Wedding & Bar Mitzvah-type band, I realized I didn’t have enough talent to make a real living at music. I am so grateful I came to that realization early, because to make a living at something like that, you have to provide what sells. But by remaining an amateur, I have the freedom to play whatever music pours out of my heart and bones, instead of, say, Mustang Sally 5 times a week. No offense to the great Wilson Pickett!


  • KM Huber says:

    Am looking forward to any stories you may want to tell, write or sing. Beyond reading your writing, I am fortunate in that you and I do get together occasionally for a visit to consider the current status of life as we know it. I am also able to listen to the songs of Craig and Adrian as Hot Tamale live as well as on CD.

    Although it took me decades to realize, my amateur writer status has always served me. For over half of my life, I have been able to observe life through words. Words have allowed me to turn life inside out without bothering its flow. I suspect that if I had tried for anything more in writing, I would have lost more than I ever gained.



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