This means a lot to me, coming from Kelly, because she's actually been a great inspiration to me. Kelly is the epitome of the thoughtful blogger, one of many I have discovered since joining this awesome community. You'll notice that her comments appear after many of my posts, always delightful and encouraging. As I visit other blogs in the cyberworld, I notice she has done the same for them as well. Because of her faithfulness, we are happy to visit her blog and offer encouragement with her upcoming wedding plans, her new family, and her busy school schedule. That's just how it works in this blog world, I've learned, and I must say I truly adore it. I think that's why I love Kelly's award so much -- because it's titled "Circle of Friends," which is what I most certainly have found. Thanks, Kelly, you ROCK!!
Kelly's award, actually, couldn't have come at a better time, because it ties-in perfectly with what I was planning on writing about today. Here's the story I had in mind:
When you're a performer in a theme park as I was for over sixteen years, you soon learn that there is a definite "pecking order" in the show biz community. High at the top of the list, of course, would be the A-list movie stars; your Deniros and Streeps, Pitts and Jolies. Next would probably include all Broadway performers, maybe your B-listers, followed by sit-com actors, then reality TV cast members. Then way, WAY down at the very bottom of the order, we lowly theme park entertainers would rest.
After all, it was decided by some unseen "powers-that-be," what we were performing wasn't exactly Shakespeare, right? We were appearing on colorful, cartoon-like stages, sometimes out-of-doors, alongside Mickey Mouse and Woody Woodpecker. Surely, no one would consider this "acting." We "theme parkies" learned to accept our position and dealt with the silent but ever-present disdain held by our colleagues who chose more reputable positions in the show biz community.
Truth is, we "Parkies" were crying all the way to the bank! While our more cultured colleagues were struggling to pay the bills, waiting on tables to fill the monetary void in between gigs, we weekly collected above-decent paychecks, complete with 401k plans and health benefits. While our artsy friends were huddled alongside seven roommates in overpriced, tiny apartments located in Hells Kitchen, NYC, we lounged poolside, sipping pina coladas, in the backyards of the homes we'd purchased ourselves. We performed lavish, well-written shows everyday before crowds numbering in the thousands. Some of the shows included audience participation, which not only sharpened our improvisational skills, but also meant that each show was completely different from the last.
I can honestly state that some of the most talented singers, dancers, comedians, actors and writers I've ever known, I've met working in a theme park. We all knew we weren't going to win any Tonys or Oscars, but we loved our work and we were pretty damn good at it, so we didn't care. But since I've left performing behind me and have dipped my toe into this new literary world, I'm finding that show biz is not the only community with a dreaded pecking order.
I first became aware of this fact when I attended a Penn-Writers meeting at our local Borders bookstore. Their flier promised that all authors were welcome and everyone's work would be shared and discussed. I was nervous, but I printed out a few of my favorite blog entries and joined my fellow writers at a table set up near the back of the bookstore.
Since I was new, the group leader, Mary, asked me to introduce myself and tell the others on what I was working. I smiled at these members of my new community and said, "I'm Joan. I'm very new to this, but I've been doing a lot of work writing in my blog." Complete. Silence. Seriously, you'd have thought I'd just proclaimed, "I'm Joan. I like Nazis and kicking babies." Everyone stared in horrified shock. I think one woman placed her hand over her mouth, stifling a scream. Finally, Mary quipped in a condescending tone, "A blog. Yes. I'm going to have to figure out how to do that someday." I sheepishly placed my manuscripts back in my bag, message received.
I then sat quietly while they each produced their work, passing it out for all to read. None of it was great, but I understood this was work in progress, so when it was my turn to offer an opinion, I tried to be encouraging. "I like the nurse character, you've really done a great job describing her in detail." Then the guy next to me had his turn. He began, "Um, yeah. I noticed in paragraph two that you used the word 'cheerily.' Shouldn't that be 'cheerFULLY?'" The author, feathers clearly ruffled, shot back, "Actually, both are acceptable. I chose 'CHEERILY.'" The man shrugged his shoulders, palms upward and performed one of those "Ok, if THAT'S what you WANT, even though it SUCKS..." expressions. That's pretty much how the rest of the evening went. Man, I had no idea writers could be so CATTY!
Skip ahead to my writing class I've been attending over the last couple of weeks. I should say in advance that I genuinely like my professor. He's a published author, a thorough teacher, and he's been infinitely helpful to those of us just starting out.
To his credit, he only twitched ONCE on that first day when he went around the room and asked us each on what, if anything, we were currently working. I told him, "I write a blog." He paused, gained his composure, then said, "That's actually a great way to practice writing everyday." Then he turned to the class and asked, "Who here has written something in the last two days?" Guess who was the ONLY one to raise her hand? You got it -- ME, Lowly Blogger Girl!! Yay!! Someone in the literary world didn't snub their nose at my chosen medium -- excellent!! Maybe there was hope for this community yet!
I was so encouraged by my prof's response that at the end of class I gave him my card on which was written the link and title of my blog. "I'd love for you to read a few of my posts and tell me what you think," I said. He looked down at the card in his hand. "Whoa!! 'NAKED man?!!' What kind of blog is this?" I explained that my title was in homage to an expression my dad used to always say. He seemed unconvinced. "Yeah, but...'NAKED?!!' That's pretty crazy!" Wow. Really? What are you, seven? Ok, he was allowed to hate the title, to each his own, after all.
All week long I imagined him reading my blog. I kicked myself for not having directed him to my favorite posts, but hoped that he would take the time to peruse at least a few of them. When I arrived in class the next week, I tried to appear nonchalant and resisted the urge to pounce on him immediately and ask if he'd visited my site. After an eternity, he turned to me and said,
"Hey I read some of your 'Naked' blog." (Geez.)
"You did?! Wow, thanks! What did you think?"
"Man...you really jump around a lot on topics don't you?"
"Um, yeah. That's kind of the whole idea of a blog. You pick a topic, then you write about it."
That's IT??!! Actually, yes, that was it. The subject was immediately dropped and I tried to hide my disappointment. Apparently, the case was closed and I was to now take my place down at the bottom of the literary pecking order.
So my dear new blogger friends, I'm afraid I've discovered that this is our reality. They are champagne and caviar, we are pizza and beer. They are Streep and Redford, we are Mickey and Goofy. But just like my awesome theme park friends, we know differently, don't we? We know we are thoughtful, talented, hard-working writers who support each other with encouraging words and constructive criticism. There are no Nobel Prizes for Literature in our world, but there are Beautiful Blogger and Circle of Friends Awards that, quite frankly, are FAR sweeter, as far as I'm concerned. In short, I'm proud to share this "bottom rung" with such lovely, inspirational souls like you!
Think I'll CHEERILY go visit a few of you right now...
Thanks for Reading!!