I work in an industry where everyone wants to be famous. Not only do they want to be famous, but success is measured by what degree of notoriety you have. I do two things. I host a show on local TV about books called Beyond the Book. For the show, I interview touring authors, talk about what’s happening in the local libraries, and (my favorite) visit and discuss local places that have been mentioned in books. More than almost anything, I’d really like the show to grow and be successful. I also teach College English, something I get equally enthusiastic and zealously passionate about. I have opportunities to read the beginnings of a could-be novel and at the same time, make sure students know their way around a comma splice. Geeky, right? It’s pretty awesome.
Working on Beyond the Book for the last few years has absolutely had me thinking about a next step. Could I bring the show to a larger network? Do I think it could ever be national? What would happen then? What would it be like to be famous? Fame. Walking down the street and someone recognizing your face. What would that be like?
Walking into school every day feels like someone just gave me a license to have meaningful input in what our next generation is learning. I can’t believe I get to be here, giving these people what was given to me in school and telling them things I wish I would have known a few years ago. In the classes I teach, I often require a paper, a script, a poem, or a short story, among other things. There have been a few times that a first draft has been so good-so inspiring and hopeful, that I read it and it’s hard to breathe. Teaching itself is beautiful, but anyone who teaches knows the politics that come with it. Working under a Dean, dealing with HR, and trying to work within or teetering between often pointless politics can suck the life out of you. Reading such a paper can jolt you back to life. It can make you want to reach through the lines of the page and hug the person who filled them with such untainted literary bricks of gold. It happened recently. A student handed me a poem that wasn’t perfect, but it had some perfect pieces, and it had heart. We sat down and I began to tell him how taken I was with what he wrote. Maybe the next step could be working towards publication. This student is in school studying graphic design, but my interest in his work sparked some excitement.
Ms. G, do you think I could get all my poems together and write a book of poetry? I also have some short stories. Maybe I could get them all published. I could do comical essays like David Sedaris. Did you know he was on Letterman? I could definitely imagine myself being famous. Why would a graphic designer ever be on Letterman?
Fame and celebrity have a pull that affects all of us, and I don’t pretend to understand why. I just have observations, and things that I make sure I tell myself when identifying why something is important to me. Success in the grandest of senses doesn’t always mean fame. What is celebrity anyway?
-- Rachel Fayne Gruskin