Mentor Monday ~ Michelle Ray
Without further ado, here is Michelle!!!
For years, I was a closeted writer. Maybe you know the type: really loves the written word, journals incessantly, has great ideas for stories, might even put them on paper but would never, never, never show them to anyone. Well, until I met Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, I was just such a person.
I was teaching in Mt. Kisco, New York and was lucky that an organization called LitLife came to my school to show us how to better engage our students in writing. Amy was one of their teachers. The philosophy was to have teachers try the exercises that the students would do. This made me more sensitive to my students’ fears and challenges because, like them, I had to put myself out there when sharing my work. But amazingly, during these workshops, I not only became a better teacher, but I learned to trust myself as a writer, as well.
After one workshop, I quietly told Amy that I had started writing a manuscript. I proceeded to explain why it wasn’t finished and why I had never told anyone about it. She listened patiently and poked holes in every excuse I offered. Then she outed me to the entire teaching staff of my district by announcing, “Michelle Ray is writing a novel.” Holy cow! At first I was horrified, but you know what? I didn’t fall through a hole in the ground, I didn’t get struck by lightning, and most importantly, no one laughed at me. In fact, having this secret out in the open turned out to be what I needed to take myself seriously as a writer.
Amy believed in me when I lost faith, and encouraged me when I needed motivation. Right after I found my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, I happened to be visiting her house, and she toasted me with real champagne! I had to undercut the moment and say it didn’t mean my book would sell, and, of course, cheerleader that she is, she said it would. And she was right: within weeks, Alvina Ling at Little, Brown, offered to buy my manuscript. As if all that weren’t enough, Amy’s always among the first to “like” when I post about my publishing excitement on Facebook.
There is nothing I would change about fabulous poet, inspiring mentor, great cook, honest to goodness farmer/gardener, and terrific friend Amy . . . except that she lives so far away.
My sincerest thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for bringing my secret writing life into the light.