October 21, 2011

Success, and how we know it

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about success lately.  You know, what it would feel like to be a successful writer, what it would mean. I want to know what I think it means, so I'll recognize it when I get there.

And then today I got smacked in the face with two excellent stories of success, and I realized...there's no way to predict it. It can be big, it can be small. But it's always different, isn't it?

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My first success story of the day comes in the form of an old friend.  Back in high school, the Alban brothers were sort of mini-superstars in our little group of theater geeks and band dorks (I was in the Color Guard).  Angelo and Carlo were cute, they were super-sweet, and were both incredibly talented.  

I was happy to count them both as good friends, and one of my favorite high school memories is of the ride to either Giants Stadium or Madison Square Garden to see Billy Joel and Elton John. I was squeezed in between them in the back seat of a friend's car, and they spent the drive time singing Simon and Garfunkel songs for me. In particular, I still can't listen to "The 49th Street Bridge Song/Feelin' Groovy" without thinking of both of them.

Fast forward an embarrassing number of years, and those boys? They're still super-sweet. Still talented.  And Carlo? Well...holy cow, his one-man, self-written play has been running off-Broadway for a few weeks, keeps getting extended, and was JUST REVIEWED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!  Seriously! Can you believe it?  He wrote about his years as an illegal immigrant back in high school.  When we were friends, he and his family were illegal. That blows my mind, because none of us had ANY idea.  How stressful was that? Well, I imagine his play captures exactly how stressful it was. 

I wish I lived closer to the city so I could make it in to see him perform. If you're in the tri-state area, I highly recommend you go see it for yourself.  Seriously - what a great way to spend a night?

To me, well, a great review in the NY Times is pretty much the epitome of success. It can't get much better. And I am SO excited for, and SO proud of my old friend.  You've made it, buddy, and I couldn't be happier for you. Congratulations!

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My second story is the little one. But...well, it's worth sharing anyway. 

Tonight I asked Zoe if she wanted some lined notebook paper on which to practice writing her letters. The child is determined to learn to read and write as soon as possible, so I thought she'd enjoy it.  

She accepted my offer with glee, and sat down with paper and marker moments later.  Before I had time to fold even the first shirt from the pile of laundry next to me, she'd written Mom and Zoe in shaky, semi-legible marker letters. Then she wrote Nana (Charles's mom).  Then Dad.  

Then..."Mom, how do I spell married?"

"M-A-R-R-I-E-D."

"What about bear?" And then lion.  We spelled them all, and she wrote them all.

Suddenly, she popped up and picked up all three of her papers.  "Mom! Mom look! I wrote a story! It's a book!"

Her story went something like this. 

"Once upon a time, Mom and Dad were there. And so was Nana.  And then Mom and Dad got married. And then there came Zoe. And then one day, there was a bear. And then there was a lion. And that's the end.  See, Mom? See? I wrote a book, just like you!"

So....

It's not Shakespeare yet, but if I'm going to measure my own success today, and my child's, it's going to be mighty high.  And I can't quite stop smiling about it yet.

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