Yogi Berra was famous for his funny, yet somehow sensible quotes. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.” “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.”
And my all-time favourite — “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
At this point in my life, that quote seems more than a little appropriate, because I believe I am standing at one such fork. I would have thought I’d be past all the forks in my life’s road by now, but it would seem I’m not.
Back in November of 1995, I burned out from teaching, and went on sick leave until the beginning of June 1996, at which point, I took a year’s leave of absence. Would I go back, or wouldn’t I? I was at a fork in the road, but I didn’t know which way to go, so I put the decision off for a year.
I had just received my first book contract with a respected publisher (Kids Can Press), and in my euphoric naivety, I was certain I had my foot in the publishing door. Teaching was quite literally killing me, and though it offered a decent income and potentially healthy pension, at the end of the day, the dread of returning to the emotional stress outweighed the economic security, and so I resigned.
It was a big risk, and the decrease in income was huge, but my husband and I have learned to live more modestly, so we’re fine. It means constantly looking for ways to bring in money, but that’s okay, because I think it helps me stay keen and mentally acute.
I’ve been at this writing thing now for over 20 years, and though I will keep at it until I die, I sense it’s time to change things up a bit. I’ve always loved historical fiction as a reader, but haven’t really tackled it as a writer. Waltzing Annie Home, a short story I wrote back in the late 1990s and my newest chapter book for young readers titled Isobel’s Stanley Cup are the only two historical stories that have been published. But I’m ready to do more, and I’m going to, even though I know publishers aren’t as open to that genre as they are to stories set in modern times. So I’m moving off the paved road and onto the gravel one. It’ll be tougher slogging, but I’m up for the challenge.
In addition, I want to tackle some projects that involve mythology and allusion to the classics. I shan’t say what, but I have a few ideas, and since what I have in mind is not even an existing genre, I shall be moving from gravel to a dirt pathway.
Finally, I want to do more with my art. I want to take on more commissions, and I would love to get into book illustration. This is totally uncharted territory. There is no road of any kind for me to follow, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost)
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy, and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence; Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.