My very first publishing success was a weekly column that I did for a local newspaper in a suburb of Dallas. It was a humorous look at family life and at the time I had plenty of family to draw material from; five kids, two dogs, a couple of hamsters, and a husband thrown into the mix somewhere. A collection of those columns became the book, A Dead Tomato Plant & a Paycheck.
When the original column started, the one thing I didn’t expect was notoriety. I wasn’t used to being recognized in the grocery store, unless it was by the cashier who remembered me coming through her line with two grocery carts full of baby food; and usually the only adult I talked to in the park was myself.
With the exception of a few close friends and neighbors, I also didn’t expect to have many fans. (Is insecurity a prerequisite to being a writer?) So it was quite a pleasant surprise when people stopped me in the store, or came up to me at the soccer field to say how much they enjoyed reading the column. It would also prove to be embarrassing on the occasions I just ran out to get something at the last minute and wore my ten-year-old cutoffs and a stained tee-shirt. That was proper attire for a hard-working Mom, but hardly fit being a celebrity.
Family reactions to my new-found fame varied. I, of course, was thrilled. When the cover story and first column appeared I found it very difficult to bring myself to perform such mundane things as fixing supper, washing dishes, and bathing kids. I kept telling myself that certainly a ‘famous writer’ should not have to stoop so low, but alas, I couldn’t get my kids to see the logic in my reasoning. For some strange reason they thought they still had to eat, so in the newspaper I was a ‘famous writer’ and in the kitchen, I was still the ‘maid.’
Our two oldest kids seemed to be thrilled to see their names in the articles, unless I delved into something they weren’t ready to share with the entire Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Then they’d run home from school and demand to know how I could be so cruel.
Our six-year-old seemed a little vague about the concept. How did what I typed in my study get into the paper? And why was the newspaper printing it? (I told him not to knock a good thing. At least I was getting paid.)
He also wanted to know what the title, IT’S NOT ALL GRAVY, meant. “We don’t have gravy hardly ever.”
“That’s what I mean.”
He still didn’t get it.
My husband’s reaction was a mixture of pride and endless teasing. He’d always supported my quest for publication and when the endless stream of rejection slips threatened to overcome me, he’d always tell me to hang in. Someday it would happen.
But he couldn’t, and still can’t, resist the occasional dig. Sometimes he comes into my office to inquire whether he can interrupt the famous author at work. Depending on what he wants, I might accept the interruption. Cooking dinner is not even on the list of things I’ll stop for, but there are other offers well worth the break.