“Follow your passion.” Such a simple rule. Sure, for those who know what it is.
The 7-year old says, “I’m going to grow up to be doctor.” And he does.
But what about the rest of us? Joseph Campbell in his series “The Power of Myth,” said it this way: “Follow your bliss.”
I ask again: What is it and where is it?
When Dustin Hoffman was in high school, he took up the piano to satisfy his parents. All during his practices, he watched the clock. When he graduated high school with a battery of poor grades, he decided to enter a junior college and register for “the easiest” classes to boost his grades. He signed up for Drama. It didn’t take long for him to notice and report, “I never watched the clock.”
I grew up following one bliss after another, until I was completely out of blisses.
My reason for wanting to become a high school teacher was unbelievably silly. Listen up. My husband Marv was in his first year of teaching. On Friday afternoons, he and his teaching buddies gathered in the upstairs apartment of one of the guys to unwind and shoot the breeze. I imagined the three o’clock fresh air coming through the screen door of that apartment and the soft afternoon light, and how much fun it would be to unwind and shoot the breeze. I wanted to be there at three o’clock. I ask you, is that an inspiring reason!!!
However, at the outset of my college career, while I was pondering a major, Marv give me some sage advice: “Don’t become an English teacher; you’ll be forever correcting essays.” So I studied to be a history teacher; they give lots of multiple-choice tests.
During my second year in college, I began taking English courses as well as history courses. I noticed that whenever I researched for a history paper, it was an endless ordeal. When I wrote English papers, I never felt any effort. I switched and prepared to be an English teacher. Dustin Hoffman and I were in sync.
After college, I became a high school English teacher. I did not follow a direct path to writing fiction. I floundered, drifted, searched— Only by a FLUKE did I come upon my passion—at age 51. You know the story: One afternoon our high school-aged daughter Hillary brought home her girlfriend who happened to say, “My mother is writing a novel.” That was my turning point.
My God! If not for that afternoon and Hillary's girlfriend, I probably would still be floundering, drifting, and searching.
Move over Grandma Moses.
Move over Harriet Doerr who returned to college at age 70 where she wrote her superb “Stones of Ibarra.”
And then there’s the other side: when the person finds his/her bliss, and meets a poor reception as did Herman Melville with “Moby-Dick,” as did Jane Austen with “Pride and Prejudice,” as did most of the great writers who never received the Pulitzer or Nobel, and what about the great painters? The Impressionist painters? And the superb directors and actors who cannot get work? What do they do? Float, drift, and search? I think about these people often.
I finished writing my new work: “After Twenty Years – a Collection of Short Stories.” which is composed of a novella, four stories, and a flash fiction teaser. After, I began to shop it around to literary agents. One of the agents, Emily Forland asks:
"I’m looking for a distinctive voice. That can mean a lot of things, but I look at every submission wanting to be gobsmacked on the first page (and those that follow!) by original, compelling, well-crafted sentences. I like character-driven stories. Humor helps, though it isn’t a requirement."
So how do I send a query for short stories?
I decided on the teaser (a one-page flash fiction) and the short story for the title of the collection.
You may recollect the flash fiction of "The Man on the Porch."
“The Man on the Porch”
A Short Story by Evelyn Marshall
“He lived by himself in that big house for over twenty years.” This is how the mailman started talking to the mourners huddled at the reception table. “He was the richest man in town, maybe in the entire state, but he never left that house. Lived like a hermit. He sat out on the front porch and with his cane shoo’d everyone away. ‘Shoo. Shoo.’ I was the only person who could talk to him. One day I asked him, ‘Henry, you’ve been sitting on this porch for twenty years. Why don’t you take a trip around the world? You’ve got the money.’”
‘Nope. I’m waiting.’
‘Waiting for what?’
“Henry didn’t say anything else. He closed up. But after that, whenever I saw him out on his front porch, I’d say kiddingly, ‘Has she come?’”
‘Not yet,’ he’d answer. ‘But she’s coming.’
“He was crazy about her; she was younger, beautiful, a real eyeful. He took photographs of her all the time—she loved being in front of the camera. Maybe that’s what did it. The girl wanted to be in the movies. Henry made the mistake of humoring her. ‘Give it a shot. Go to Hollywood.’
“She did. She took off.”
“Henry knew she’d never get anywhere because she didn’t have an ounce of talent. He figured she’d do her little number out there, and come running back to him. In the meantime, he put her photographs up all over his walls—even had a few blown up like movie posters—so that when she came back disillusioned she’d know how much he adored and loved her. But she never did come back. Well, that’s not quite true. She became a movie actress all right, one of those young ingénue types, but then there were twenty years of hard living in Hollywood, of partying and drinking, of dyed hair and too much sun on her skin. She was no beauty when she did come back and drove straight to his house. I was delivering mail on that street and I saw her. She was dressed up like the girl she’d been at the time she left: with her big straw hat, filmy dress, dainty high heels, and lots of jewelry and perfume. She walked up the steps, her heels clicking along, and there Henry sat, out on his wide porch waiting for her, just as he had all those years.
“Before she could say anything, he took one look at her and barked, “I’m not buying, lady. Go away.” He raised his cane. ‘Shoo, shoo.’ She turned around and fled down the steps.”
“He didn’t recognize her?” someone around the reception table asked.
The mailman screwed up one eye, “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Yes, this is a gobsmacked teaser!