When Students Succeed

I revel in good news from my students. Lately, there’s been a lot of it. Graduations; new work milestones; publications news to share. Two of my students had work in the recent issue of Talking River, and I was delighted that my work appeared alongside theirs. A former student ranked in Narrative’s 30 and below contest. Another was a finalist in a Glimmer Train story contest, a magazine I’ve been trying to break into for years. One of my advisees wrote a Modern Love column for the New York Times, a poignant and heart-breaking piece that, I was delighted to see, had perfect structure, precise language, and a brilliant use of metaphor.

Not that any of that reflects on me. I don’t see them as any way succeeding due to my help, support, advice, or cheerleading. These are talented, determined folks who are going to do well no matter what, because they have the determination, the intelligence, the heart, and the sensitivity to write really well, write things that matter.

Narrative has rejected everything that I’ve sent them, though. So has Glimmer Train. I’ve never even tried for the New York Times. When I get such good news, I also probe inside, to the dark recess of my brain where the little huddled grinch sits, munching on her own bitterness and despair. Sometimes she’s got a lot on her plate; sometimes she’s starving for something to be jealous about. There’s a deep competitive streak in me, and for a long time, when somebody else pulled ahead, my instinct was to focus laser-beam eyes on them to analyze their technique, figure out how they’d done it, and then apply their secret formula to my own endeavors, as if I could duplicate it.

Now, though, I’m happy to say that the seat where the little grinch sits is empty. I no longer feel competitive; I feel excited, pleased, and proud of my talented students. I’m glad that I knew them and got to work with them at a formative stage in their careers. I remember the good times we had in class—and the times I came down hard on them for a cliché, a mixed metaphor, or an awkward turn of phrase. And I’m very excited to see what they’ll do next.

It’s nice to finally feel like a grown up. Maybe I should try writing my own essay about that.

When Students Succeed

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