Mr. Rhine

I am looking through my 7th grade yearbook. Back in my day, we called it junior high. That awkward, life-altering time when we were all transitioning from children to teenagers. I have fleeting memories of those days. Sitting in the gym cheering on our basketball team. Playing softball and kickball on the fields outside. I have images in my mind from science class and social studies and math.

I lived in a small town, so I remember most of the classmates I see in these pictures. I attended school with many of them from elementary through our senior year. I keep in touch with several of them to this day. But the person I want to tell you about presided over a room along the long back hall downstairs. My friends and I first had him as a teacher when we were in sixth grade. It was language arts, and it lasted two periods. By a stroke of luck, he was moved up a grade the same year we were, so we had him again in seventh grade.

His name was (and still is) Mr. Rhine. Actually, his first name is Gene, but he will forever be Mr. Rhine in my mind. And Mr. Rhine changed my life.

I’m sure we were all a bit gawky and graceless back then, but I was all of that and more. Daunted by the world, simultaneously bossy and intimidated, I had more than my share of the immaturity and insecurities of a 13-year-old girl in a developing body.

My family was relatively poor, so that was an embarrassment to me. (I was 13 after all. Everything was embarrassing.) I was overweight (though I’d kill to be that “fat” again now!) I remember in Sunday School, they’d always have us draw pictures, but I couldn’t draw. I played softball some, but I was definitely not good at it. I made good grades, but I worked for them more out of anxiety than drive. I found my haven in Mr. Rhine’s class.

Mr. Rhine treated us as if we were smart. And in his class, it was fun to be smart. I remember we would play “baseball”, where a “hit” was a right answer. Mr. Rhine had us writing research papers with footnotes and bibliographies in sixth grade. We would head to the library and spend hours looking up information in encyclopedias and resolutely writing it all down. I remember creative writing assignments in which he encouraged us to make up elaborate stories.

To this day, I remember his look of approval when he read something I wrote. Maybe he gave that look to everyone. I hope so. Because that look, that little smile, that pat on the shoulder told me that I had found what I was good at. I believed him, and it transformed me. Not overnight. I still had to make it through junior high. I was still awkward and insecure at times, and still can be! But I had a foundation to rest on, to stand on, to work from. I wasn’t pretty. I couldn’t draw. Or play sports. And I’d never be popular. But I could write. Mr. Rhine said so.

I went on to become an advertising copywriter. Then I wrote scripts for broadcast radio. I’ve written songs all my life, and after three years of effort, I finally completed my first novel. The entire time I was writing it, I thought of handing Mr. Rhine a copy and thanking him for spurring the dream so many years ago. I was afraid he would pass on before I got it written, but I would ask friends back home and they said he was still around.

When I did a book signing at my hometown library a few months ago, I tracked down Mr. Rhine. He was in an assisted living place in the next town over. When I walked into his little apartment, he was sitting in a recliner, covered with a blanket, his tv at full volume. I couldn’t find the right remote to turn it down, and I think I was making him nervous messing with his things. So I shouted at him who I was and why I was there. He didn’t remember me, but I didn’t really expect him to. I shouted that way back in the 70’s, my friends and I were in his class for two years in a row. He joked that we must have gotten tired of him.

No way, Mr. Rhine. You molded us. You inspired us. You challenged us. And I will forever be grateful. I gave him a signed book and told him it was because of him that I had been able to write it. He was touched and thanked me for taking the time. Then I left him, sitting in his chair, covered up to his chin, his tv blaring, holding my book.

I don’t know if he’ll read it. Or if he can. It doesn’t matter. I just wanted to give it to him and to tell him how much his encouragement meant to the timid, anxious, fearful little girl I was way back when. I am so glad I was able to do so.

It doesn’t matter that Mr. Rhine doesn’t remember me. Because I remember him.

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Little Moments Of Glory

I have written a novel. I am proud of myself. I am proud of my writing. I am proud of my book.

And I am delighted that people seem to be enjoying it. It is affirmation of the work I did sitting alone in a room for three years.

But it’s a little weird. It took me a while to come to grips with the idea of signing my book. It felt… pretentious. (I have gotten over that and am happy to sign, by the way.)

I love hearing what people think and am thrilled when someone tells me they like BUKU. But I admit, I also feel a bit vulnerable. (It is my first book, after all.)

I have had friends joke that they “knew me when”. I’ve heard phrases like “now that you’re rich and famous.” Let me assure you. I’m still in the hole financially, and there are 349,846 authors who are more famous than me on Amazon right now. (That’s my sales rank across all books on Amazon at the moment!) I’ve had friends who I haven’t spoken to in thirty years say they’re proud of me. That’s humbling.

So do I have a point? I think I do. And it’s this. Writing and releasing a book has been one of the most fear-inducing yet pride-producing things I’ve ever done. And I think both of those things are good. When we steer away from what scares us, we deny ourselves little moments of glory.

What I have done is small… minuscule in the scheme of things. Kinda like winning a trophy in t-ball. And yet, in my little world, to me and my friends, it’s a big deal. And they’re the people I care most about anyway.

So let me encourage you to do something that scares you. Terrifies you. Makes you feel vulnerable. Sing a solo at church. Post your latest poem on Facebook. Paint a picture of your dog.

Maybe it will go unnoticed. Maybe it won’t be very good. But how else will we ever be all that our Creator created us to be? How else will we open ourselves up to a moment of glory, no matter how small it is?

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Because She Read I Now Write

I dedicated my first novel BUKU to my husband Mike because it would not have been possible without him. He was the one who finagled the budget so we could afford for me to quit my full-time job. He was the one who did that again when my freelance jobs dwindled away. He was the one who went to work every day while I pursued my dream of writing a book. BUKU would not have been possible without him.

But it was my mother Carolyn who taught me to love stories. Mom was a reader. Big time. She was a dichotomy, or as Kristofferson says, “a walking contradiction”. She battled depression, probably more so than I realized as a child. Because what I saw her doing was leading a 4-H club and coaching softball and teaching the youth at our church alongside my dad.

I also saw her read. All the time. I think she used it as a way to battle her depression.  She was always in the midst of a book. And she made sure the whole family was too. She would go to the library and spend hours picking out a bag full of books, not just for herself, but for me and my brother and my father. Dad would read a few. My brother would read a few. I read a lot. She read them all.

My grandmother fussed at times about mom’s lack of housekeeping skills and the amount of time she spent reading. However, the thought occurred to me the other day that I don’t know if I gained much of anything long-term from Grandma’s cleaning skills. (Though I did from her cooking!)

But from my mom, I learned to love stories. And words. It was while diving into those books she meticulously picked out for me that I developed the dream to write my own books.

I didn’t get to tell her this, but I have no doubt that because she read, I now write.

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Making Dreams Come True

When Lee Ann Womack won Female Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, it was a dream come true. Literally. Lee Ann used to watch the awards show as a child and dream of winning the coveted trophy. She worked hard, with single-minded conviction, until she actually did it. She was named the top female singer in country music in 2001.

But Lee Ann said that after the euphoria died down, she was left with a big question. What next? What do you do when you achieve what you’ve worked for for so long? Well, I am about to find out!

No, I’m not up for an award. And probably never will be. But I am about to release my debut novel to the world. Of course, my dream doesn’t center around one book. I hope to write many more. But here at the top of a hill I’ve been climbing for several years, I find myself contemplating the path behind me. It extends all the way back to childhood when I read books that transported me to other places and times. That’s when I told myself I could do that too. The adult me took a long time to get around to it, and I can tell you that path has been long and steep and even torturous at times. But hey, young Jenny. Look at the hill we have climbed.

There’s lots more to do. I’m self-published, so stuff like covers and formatting and marketing and websites is all in my hands. And of course, it’s time to start on the next book. It’s just that, right now, I want to acknowledge that I did it. Whether it sells or not, I have fulfilled a childhood dream.

And folks, I can tell you. It feels good.

I hope you remember your dreams. I hope you can do something that helps you accomplish them in some way. Maybe you can’t become an astronaut, but you can still explore the stars by studying about them. Maybe you can’t be a superstar, but you can still sing or act or paint or pick out a tune on a guitar.

What hill did you want to climb as a child? Have you tried climbing it lately?

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Buku: Lock, Stock, and Oil Barrel

BUKU the prologue:
The way it began is kind of sketchy. At least now. Maybe at some point in time someone somewhere knew if Dr. Buddy Givens truly was a benevolent genius concerned with saving the world economy. That was the image he sold to governments around the globe, and the one they all bought lock, stock, and oil barrel.

A precious few at the time, and many more once it was too late to stop, attributed his motives to greed, megalomania, or out-and-out insanity. Some labeled him evil.

Trying hard to be heard above the manic hype, ecologists warned of historical disasters like kudzu and Asian carp, when the introduction of foreign species overwhelmed delicate ecosystems. A handful of savvy farmers and ranchers resisted the tidal wave. The religious right, of course, shouted that a man-made creature was an abomination against God.

In the end, it didn’t much matter whether Givens was charitable or malicious or just plain naive. His scientific endeavors, once touted as the thousand-year solution to all the earth’s energy woes, directly contributed to the collapse of modern society, the deaths of billions of people, and the threatened extinction of almost every living thing on God’s once green earth…

….

So begins my debut novel Buku.

 

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Today

Today. I waited a long time for today. Dreamed about it. Worked toward it. Thought it would never arrive. But today I can officially say I have written a book. I just finished my final self-edit and am sending it off to a few beta readers. There are several more steps I need to take before I can hold a copy of it in my hands, but today is a big day. Today I can claim to be an author.

Check out the start of the prologue to Buku.   http://jenniferandersonwriter.com/2018/04/10/buku-lock-stock-and-oil-barrel/

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