Monday, November 2, 2009


I think I'm supposed to write about rejection. Or maybe that was reviews. But it's rejection that comes to mind. More specifically, it's rejection when someone puts their talent out there publicly on the line for everyone to see. And ummm, review. And ummm, reject if they feel well like it. Publicly. Basically - to be open to public humiliation to the highest degree. 

The greatest jump for me as that quiet introverted child was to put my talent out there in public in a major way in the third grade. My talent at the time was piano. I practiced and practiced over and over. If I remember correctly my piano teacher helped me choose the piece and Lord help me, while I can hear the somber tune in my mind I certainly don't remember the title. Perhaps if she had helped me choose something that was a happy diddy - but noooooo. Not only did I cause the entire class in 3rd grade to walk duck style out of the room to the only room with a piano, which caused quiet a set-up for me to fail if you ask me. You have to consider that expectations were flying sky high with all that enthusiasm for walking through the cold halls, then to a dark, dusty room where the sacred piano sat in an unused corner. I remember the darkness in the room. Remember those children standing against the wall in the dark, lined up there like it was a firing squad, and commanded to play attention while I played. The teacher hushed them and then told me to begin and within the first few unhappy, dramatic, notes - the children began to giggle. First one and then another. And no matter how much the teacher hushed them, the giggles spread like wildfire and continued. And I remember my frozen eight year old back as my fingers continued playing in spite of the unwelcome noises behind me. When my piece was completed, I closed the piano and then walking with these same turncoat cutthroats otherwise known as my precious classmates, back to our room where I was solidly beat in a landslide vote by a tap dancer in a tutu. The results of the talent show competition were read off on slips of white paper. One by painful one. The results were marked publicly on the black board in white chalk. I received two votes. One of them was mine. The rest were for the tap dancer. Walking home from school that day was no doubt a painful, learning experience. Shortly thereafter I quit piano lessons much to the dismay of my mother. I refused to go. She consented. Later I gave her a real hard time about this for relenting and allowing me to quit. Bless the heart of mother's every where trying to make the right decisions all the time for their depressed, morose, artistic writer children. I think I buried my pain somewhere between Gilligan's Island and Flipper. Thanks be to the pain relief of brainless television particular during the age prior to reality TV. Who needs reality when you are eight and have just had a public humiliation to last a lifetime. 

All that true stuff to say this. I may have quit piano lessons ultimately but those scales really paid off because boy can I type fast.  And even at eight- I kept a stiff upper lip, kept on hitting those keys when those behind my back were laughing because my particular genre wasn't their cup of tea. 

And when it came time to vote, I believed in myself to scratch my own name down on that white paper. 

Rejection? Oh yeah, I've had my share. But my fingers are on the keys, there's a music in my ears, and I'm just gonna keep playing my song. 

(River Jordan is a critically-acclaimed literary author. Her most recent novel Saints In Limbo, has been hailed as a Southern Gothic Masterpiece by Paste Magazine. She has recently completed a new work of fiction due out September 2010. River lives in Nashville with her husband Owen Hicks.  The author no longer plays the piano but folks say she types likes nobody's business. The author can be contacted through her website at  )


Shellie Tomlinson said...

All kinds of precious, that's what this is. River Jordan storyteller extraordinaire, I was so there in your story-- wanted to bust those other kids lips and walk home together all the while explaining to you that the tutu girl paid 'em off!


River Jordan said...

Shellie you make me laugh this am as I catch all my typos (sorry guys - fighting my internet connection on the hill STILL and was typing as fast as I could - )
Those precious 3rd graders couldn't help themselves. It wasn't even that they didn't LIKE me. My BEST friend obviously voted for the tapdancing tutu. All that glitter and glamour is a hard spell to shake. And looking back my song was a very SERIOUS Eyore kinda piece. Today I would have realized I needed to play something very Tiggerish to win them over - maybe while tapdancing in a tutu at the same time - :)

Jackie K Cooper said...

My mother was ahead of her time and always taught me if I didn't think I was good enough to win then not to enter the contest. If I entered then I should have enough confidence to vote for myself. My friends were taught to be polite and vote for others. I liked my mother's way better.

wilsonwriter said...

I've never felt like I was lined up for a firing squad while reading your books, so the resiliency must've paid off.

The music world may have lost a hidden treasure, but the world of literature is much richer for it!

Anyway, I hate tutus.