I was told these words taped to my bathroom wall came from a letter exchanged between F. Scott Fitzgerald and his daughter, Scottie. I don’t know if this is true, but they are sound pieces of advice.
These beautiful nuggets of wisdom remind me to claim all the definitions I want to be known by. Artist, painter, daughter, sister, wife, mother, designer, word-hungry book monger, friend, lover, and most recently…writer. Each new name took a while for me to claim as my own. I had to try it on and get used to the newness of it.
While preparing to launch The Chicken Who Saved Us, I was plagued by these questions:
Oh…my…God, what have I done? What possessed me to expose my raw and soft underbelly by writing a memoir? Am I crazy? Why did I think I could be a writer? Am I an imposter? Will anyone want to read it anyway?
All these doubts churned over in my mind as the manuscript became more real and my identity as a writer slowly began to take shape.
As part of the promotion process, I was required to reach out to anyone who I thought might have a special interest or connection to the book. Because I had nothing to lose, I went for the biggest, most well-known writers and public personalities I could think of. They were my all-time favorites, people I dreamed of just touching the tail end of their coat strings, much like the woman who reached out to Jesus in the crowd and caught the edge of his garment with her fingertips. I always wondered if she thought by simply being in the presence of greatness, that a little of it would spill over into her own life? Or perhaps it would simply make her feel more real?
One afternoon as I navigated one of Seattle’s many intersecting freeways, my phone rang. I answered it to hear these words:
“Tell me about the chicken.”
“The chicken?” I asked, a little freaked out by the unusual question coming from a phone number I didn’t recognize.
“Yes. The bird. I want to know more about the bird and the boy. And by the way, this is Temple.”
TEMPLE GRANDIN?!! The lover of animals, the world-famous spokesperson for autism who dared to live beyond the words that defined her? She called ME to ask about my story?
I pulled off the freeway and we chatted over a faraway connection as six lanes of cars zipped by in all directions. For those few moments my world was still and I simply told my story to a woman who wanted to hear it.
As I pulled back onto the freeway, I wondered if now I could own my new name of writer—an artist of the word-filled page? I thought I would try it on for size.
Two weeks later Temple Grandin sent me a note: “Heartbreakingly beautiful,” she said about my manuscript. Those words are now plastered on the front my book.
I have Fitzgerald’s words plastered on my bathroom mirror today. I pretend his letter is to me, calling me to step outside my tightly defined world and be open to new ways of seeing beauty.
I practice feeling things I have never felt before, and I strive to live a life I am proud of. And if I try something new on for size and it doesn’t feel right, then I hope I have the courage and strength to set it aside and start all over again.
All my best to you,
If you are interested in finding out more about the amazing Temple Grandin, check out her website here. If you want to know about her recent induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, check out this article! And if you want to know even more, here is a list of her published books.