This story starts before Hurricane Katrina. (And, yes, even though it’s been nine years and nine months since the bitch hit New Orleans, it remains—like it does for many New Orleanians—a seminal event in my life…but that’s a post for another day.)
I called Carrie Randolph and asked her to meet me at a local coffee shop because I had something I wanted to show her. She didn’t even ask why or what. She came. Because that’s what friends of your heart and soul do. They know you teeter between sanity and craziness, but they trust and love you anyway.
Carrie taught Spanish at the same school where I taught English. It’s where we met and how we came to be friends. To say Carrie is “just” a teacher would be like saying Barbra Streisand is “just” a singer. I admired, appreciated and respected her for her excellence in the classroom, and for her enthusiasm and passion as a reader. We both breathed books.
Her opinion as a reader mattered to me. It mattered so much that, when we both settled at the table with our coffee that evening, it was as if I slid the pages I’d written across the Red Sea. I trusted that the walls of fear wouldn’t collapse on me, and one way or another, I’d come out on the other side. Watching her read, my heart wrung its hands and my brain paced across the coffee shop. She read often and enough to know if it was crap. I knew she’d tell me the truth.
I don’t remember her exact words when she finished the pages. I do remember, all these years later, that she gave me what I needed to keep writing. And I did. Those first pages eventually grew to my first novel, Walking on Broken Glass, which was published five years after Katrina.
What difference does a reader make?
For me, it was the difference between seeing myself as writer and an author. In one of her blog posts, Jami Gold, a paranormal author, said: “I am a writer because I write, but ‘author’ embodies my goals, my actions, and my attitude toward writing. So I swallow the self-doubt that plagues most of us writers and strive to live up to the word ‘author.’ “
One reader made a difference. A life-changing difference.