Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Success With a Third-Grade Diploma

"Success implies endeavor."
-Mr. Knightley

I got my hair cut this evening.
I got bangs.
Farnham would approve.
(If you got that reference, you're a peach.)

The reviews for Anon, Sir, Anon are beginning to roll in and I am pleasantly ... not surprised, per se, but definitely un-vaguely gratified that I have (seemingly) succeeded with it. One thing I will say is that if you are toying with a novel set in another area of the world, it helps to have people belonging to that culture to read through and tap you on the shoulder when you've misspoken. Ness, of course, was invaluable in Stage Uno, but my more recent friend, Suzannah Rowntree , has made herself most useful by sending in a list of British slip-ups I made in the draft. Thanks to her, readers in the UK and Down Under will not be upset by the wrong geometrical pattern of Vivi's scones and the fact that I misused "chuffed". Thanks, Suzannah!

I have been having the most wonderful time feeling unstressed about Anon, Sir, Anon and then realizing, by turns, that I have to apply all of Rachelle's edits this week because St. Rachel is to format after that, and then I've got to get the cover out for a reveal and then I have to start asking for interviews and guest posts and start writing those because soon I'll be helping plan a wedding. Oy. I can't help but be excited, though, and it is a wonderful feeling to be this close to finishing a project of which you are decidedly proud.

On a seemingly random note, elderly people can be the most amusing things. And not by virtue of being senile (most aren't), but simply because they're allowed to say what they jolly well want and many avail themselves of this privilege. At a graduation party I attended this past weekend, I was given the job of corralling all the chillens into the twelve-passenger van and carting them home (Mama and Dad were off celebrating their 26th anniversary). As I stood there trying to pick out my siblings from a crowd of half-a-hundred other people below four feet in height, an older gentleman sidled over. This man was the father of a South African woman with whom I have been pleased to be acquainted, and as I was looking for one or another of the kids, he said to me: "Young lady?"
"Yes?" I answered with a bright smile. His accent was enough to bring that on.
"Is that your truck?"
He gestured to our van and I laughed. "It is my van."
"You drive that truck?"
"Yes. And I learned to drive on one even bigger."
"Women and girls in this country drive such large vehicles," he said with a wry smile.
I then explained to him the story of the van (how it was gifted to us on our driveway in the middle of the night by some good fairies) and how it better fit our family's needs than driving two cars everyplace.
"Can I give you an address?" he asked with a wink, "In case anyone wants to give you another free vehicle and you'd rather send them to me."

Oh, I love accents and interesting people. In addition to my conversation with the South African gentleman, I was able to spend a lovely evening at my grandmother's house, Sunday. We discussed everything from actors of the 40's to Doc Martin, from Charlotte Bronte's life to funny things heard on the radio, from the most terrible series on television (Dance Moms) to education opportunities and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I've gotten older, I've realized that so much of my refined taste, my love of literature, elegance, art, and the like, comes from Grandmama. I never tire of hearing about her college experiences in NYC during the 1950's, nor of her exploits as a child in Norfolk, VA in the 30's and 40's.
As we discussed our annoyance with the lack of grammatical graces in most modern-day conversation (and one case in particular), I tried to excuse the person with: "But I am not sure what kind of education he had."
Grandmama raised her eyebrow (you've never experienced such disgrace as that felt by the person on the opposite end of the eyebrow), raised pointer finger, stuck her tongue in her cheek and said, with all the sass of an accomplished woman in her eighties: "That is NO excuse. My grandmother held national and regional offices in all the clubs of which she was a member. She memorized Robert's Rules of Order and chaired the meetings. She read all the classics and judged Flower Arranging shows at her Garden Club and taught herself Japanese floral art. She was smart as a whip and do you know what level of education she had?"
"I'm ... not sure," I said, feeling suitably impressed.
"Third-grade." Grandmama dropped her finger and tapped the wood of the table with her nail, just as she always had, the light catching in her amethyst ring, her mother's diamond engagement ring, her own wedding band, just as it always does. "And she educated herself because she cared. So none of this. Anyone can learn if they've a mind to."

Have I mentioned elderly people make me smile? And it's so true. Anyone can learn if they've a mind to. Your mind is a beautiful treasure and some people, like my grandmother's grandmother, have treasured it enough to hard-scrabble their way to wits. Please don't waste the opportunities you have been given. It's so much more inspiring to work your mind to the hilt.


Anonymous said...

This is so true. I can name at least a dozen people whose educations would be considered subpar by modern standards, but who still achieved AMAZING things. Did you know the guy who invented the first electric motor dropped out of school when he was eleven? That nearly everything he knew about science he taught himself? Anyone can get an education in any way, but only if they want it enough.

Also, you're grandmother sounds awesome. I wish I could talk about 1940's actors with my grandma!

Emily Ann Putzke said...

Ah, I love this! This is so true..."Anyone can learn if they've a mind to."

Thanks for sharing this!

Suzannah said...

I couldn't agree with your grandmother more! We were reading some excerpts from Spurgeon a while ago and our minds were blown by the fact that he was--before free compulsory education--the favourite preacher of the masses. One can only conclude that the masses must have been a good deal sprightlier in the brain-pan than they are today.

It was my pleasure to point out the correct shape for scones ;). Also, because I don't think I alerted you to the fact, I mean to post my own review of ANON, SIR, ANON on Vintage Novels tomorrow.

Lady Bibliophile said...

Oh, haha! I would never have noticed the different scone shape, being American. Good for Suzannah! :)

Rachel, have you said yet when you're doing a cover reveal for Anon, Sir, Anon? I can't wait to see what the designers have come up with.

And my review should be out Friday. :)


Rachel Heffington said...

Suzannah and Schuyler: Looking forward to reading your reviews. Thanks so much for volunteering your advance-reading skills. ;)
Also, Schuyler, I am hoping to have the cover out by the second week of September. I'll let you know. :)

Morgan said...

Amen! So true. Great post!:)

Anonymous said...

So very true! Your grandmother sounds a lot like mine ...! I definitely have a heart for the older generation. So much to learn from them about determination, hard work, faith and life. I constantly feel like I want to hang on my grandmother's every word. When she and others like her pass away, a great generation will also be passing away. Great post, and good luck with your book!

C said...

When's Anon, Sir, Anon coming out? I'm sure you've mentioned it, but I don't remember. Also, seeing as I'm not a very distinguished author or anything, is there a chance I might get to read the book before the masses? I'd jolly we'll love to, although I don't think you'd want a review or anything from me because it sounds like you're nearly finished with the editing? Either way, I can't wait to read it :)

C said...

And you're grandma is awesome!!

Rachel Heffington said...

Charity: I know you are not a famous author, but I wouldn't be opposed to you reviewing Anon on Goodreads (early) all the same. Shoot me an email. :)