Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Memory

Emily Murphy recently posted the following comment on “Blitchton, Part 1”:

'Mr. Lee,
I'm a grad student in the University of Florida English Dept. and I'm currently working on a project with your papers. I was wondering if I might be able to ask you a few questions that would help me greatly in my work. If so I can be contacted at: . . .
Greatly enjoyed your memoirs. I laughed out loud several times :)'

She's referring to the collection of my papers in the archives of the University of Florida Library --

As we exchanged emails and I learned more about Emily's project, it occurred to me that she – working on her Master's degree in English – was sitting in some of the same classrooms where I sat when I was working on my Master's degree in English at the same university half a century ago. Carried on a wave of nostalgia, I remembered how I sat in those rooms at the age of 21 and dreamed that someday I would be a published writer. The image of my name on a book seemed as remote as an image of Jupiter in a telescope, but my conviction that I would be a published author stood up even against the kindly warnings of my professors that the odds against being a professional writer were millions to one, and that I should learn to look on writing as a hobby. More than once I was advised that even though I was a talented writer I should abandon the hope that I would someday see a book of mine on a bookstore shelf, simply because only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of people who wanted to be authors would ever find a publisher.

It was about five years later that my first children's book was published and won a national award.

I know this is a boastful post, but the memories that Emily evoked are too meaningful for me to ignore . . . and there's a lesson in this for students who'll be told by their professors of English, or art, or drama, or music that their dreams of professional success are too farfetched to bring to reality, and that they should resign themselves to enjoying their passion as a hobby while they earn a living doing something they really don't want to do. Teaching English, maybe?

Thank you, Emily.


  1. Fleming,
    I'm glad you ignored their advice. Your post made me think of some of my classmates who came from UNC and were told by their English professors that they wouldn't get a job so they shouldn't even bother applying to grad school. I too have had my own encounters with negative people. It's funny how, in life, we all encounter people who try and squash our dreams or make us feel incapable of doing great things, but then I guess if we didn't it wouldn't make succeeding feel as wonderful.


  2. Very good thoughts, Emily.

    Thank you.