Life Fact Fiasco

So, as promised, I have to confess why you should always, always, always, always, a million times always, double check your facts, even when it comes to your own life.

In my school visits throughout the year, I have shared with the kids about how my creative writing class in high school led to three big breaks for me. First of all, we had to write a poem for a local magazine and submit the poem. I did and they loved the poem so much they put it on the front cover of their magazine. The magazine was Chalkdust Magazine, the October 1992 issue. For another big assignment we wrote to our favorite author. I chose Bodie Thoene who, I am still ever so grateful, actually took the time to write me back. Based on her advice and the final important assignment, I wrote an article and sent it off to a national magazine, Campus Life. They accepted my article, paid me thirty-five dollars (the kids are always so impressed) and mailed it out to teens all over the nation--all before I graduated from high school at eighteen years old.

At least that’s how I remembered it happening.

When I filled out my publisher’s bio slip, I mentioned that I have been a nationally published author since the age of eighteen and this in turn found its way onto the book jacket. I also included it in the “How A Boy-Crazy Little Girl Who Sneezed A Lot Became A Writer” feature on my website for kids.

After the book printing, after the book headed to bookstores all across the country, and after I finished my website, proud as punch, I e-mailed everyone in the world who contributed to the crazy, sneezing girl becoming a writer. I received lots of congradulation e-mails back from people. Including, bless them, Bodie Thoene and Chris Lutes, editor of Campus Life. Chris Lutes immediately wrote me back; he remembered me, so kind of him, and decided to reminisce by pulling up the article. He asked me what year that was and I e-mailed back 1993.

He e-mailed me back that he couldn’t find it.

That can’t be. I took the class my senior year . . . And then it dawned on me. What my crowded memory had failed to recall is that the publication process takes six months. I had submitted the article before graduation, but it was accepted just after I graduated. Chris Lutes had written me a letter in August (which I framed) of how much he enjoyed working with me.

I e-mailed Chris back to have him check 1994.

He found it. I had turned nineteen on January 1st. The article had come out when I was in college, exactly two whole weeks after I turned nineteen years old. I finally remembered the moment I carried it up to my dorm room. All the girls crowded around me for a look. We all sunk to the floor right there in the hallway, reading it together and passing it around.

So the book jacket tells an altered tale. I have not been a nationally published author since I was eighteen. It feels good to come clean, after keeping up the charade all year to avoid explaining the long story over and over. Some people know. In fact, we’ve made a joke of it at the local library, using our fingers to put quotes around how I’ve been a published writer since I was “eighteen.” And I’m keeping up the charade as I speak to schools and conferences and libraries and teacher’s meetings . . . It’s too time consuming to fit the whole long winded explanation into my speeches unless I speak on the significance of fact checking. Only here in my confessions will you find the truth.

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