Saturday, April 26, 2008

Keeping the Thrill Alive

Wendy Corsi Staub (guest blogger)

When I was in third grade, my friends and I skipped rope and discussed—as little girls do—how our grown-up lives would turn out. Of course we all wanted husbands and children. This was the early seventies, and the women’s movement may have been in full swing elsewhere, but our little town took awhile to catch on and up.

Naturally, I, too, wanted a husband and children—but I also wanted to become an author. That bolt of blind ambition struck after my teacher, Mrs. Pizzolanti, proudly displayed my first essay—about Abraham Lincoln—for all the class to see. I raced home to tell my parents that I was going to write books someday. They—God bless them—promised that it could happen. Anything could happen, if I just worked hard enough. They always encouraged and believed in me; thus, I believed in myself.

My dream came true, thanks to my parents and third grade teacher (who, now retired in Florida, tracked me down a few years back and is now my email pen-pal), plus a lot of hard work and a single-minded goal orientation that propelled me from an elementary school classroom to the New York Times bestseller list.

Now, having published more than seventy books since my first hit the shelves back in 1993, I sometimes wonder when—and whether--the thrill of it all will go away.

Fifteen years after the exhilarating phone call from the editor who bought my first book, that has yet to happen. Okay, I’m no longer cloaked in that pinch-me glow through every waking hour, but I remain perpetually aware, somewhere in the back of my To-Do cluttered mind, just how lucky I am to be living my glorious childhood dream trifecta: author, wife, and mom.

Back in the “Once Upon a Time” stage, I spent hours gazing adoringly at my books, my husband, my babies. Now the pivotal phone call, the wedding day, the childbirths, are all ancient history. Life is a constant juggling act, but it’s good. Great, even. Your classic fairytale happy ending—which is, on a day-by-day basis, incredibly ordinary. All of it: the writing, the relationship-tending, the mothering.

Most days, I’m not compelled to detour into bookstores just to spot a row of my titles—just as the newlywed novelty of hearing myself referred to as “Mrs. Staub” has long since worn off (these days, I get a far bigger thrill when the cashier at the A&P asks me for ID when I buy a six-pack of Corona—even now that I realize he’s required to ask everyone and their grandmother. Literally.). And I’ll admit that after a string of deadline days alone at my keyboard, I look forward to chatting with the other moms at Little League practices almost as much as I do watching my precious boys at bat.

I’ve been known to complain about occupational hazards like galley pages unexpectedly popping up in my mailbox, needing to be proofed by next week. Sort of like I complain about the three men in my life leaving their clothes wherever they drop, picking around the green things on their plates, or—grr—forgetting to lower the toilet seat.

I guess it means I’ve settled comfortably into my world-- career, marriage, motherhood.

But life is too precarious to take any of those blessings for granted.

Thank God for the steady stream of moments and milestones that keep the thrill alive. Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, pub dates, of course—but unexpected sparks, too. My nine-year-old writing a heartfelt (and unassigned) poem about me, or my twelve-year-old letting me hug him in public (hey, with adolescence looming I’ll take what I can get!). My husband, without a dropped hint from me, tivo-ing a romantic comedy for us to watch with takeout sushi on a Saturday night. An email from a stranger pouring out how one of my books struck a chord, changed a life, re-ignited the forgotten joy of reading.

Moments. Milestones. They truly keep the thrill alive.

Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning New York Times best-selling author of more than seventy novels under her own name and the pseudonym Wendy Markham. She lives with her family in suburban New York City. Her current thrills include the release of two new titles in April, psychological suspense novel Dying Breath and young adult paranormal Lily Dale: Believing, and delivering the commencement address at her alma mater, SUNY College at Fredonia, in May. Two more novels, under the Wendy Markham name, will come out in July. Visit Wendy’s website at to learn more and enter her monthly contest with a $50 grand prize. She's also added a social network to her busy life. Wendy says, "Now you can interact with me and my friends, family and readers on the web at!"


Darlene Ryan said...

Welcome Wendy. I'm asking the question I always ask: What is it that draws you to the suspense genre?

BTW, Don't Scream was terrific. I read it at night in the middle of a blizzard and you scared me silly.

paul lamb said...

Margaret Atwood wrote in her nonfiction book Negotiating with the Dead that she had the chance to visit with the teacher who had inspired her to write. The teacher was well into her 90s, but after receiving Atwood, she excused herself and rummaged around in another room. She came out a bit later with some essays Atwood had written as a third grader. She'd kept them because she recognized the child's promise.

I think most of us who write can point to a teacher or other person who gave encouragement in the right way at the right time.

wendy corsi staub said...

Darlene, I'm a textbook psych 101 case: I think I'm drawn to the suspense genre because I am A) a big chicken and B) a control freak! Being afraid of everything, I've figured out that writing about my darkest fears allows me to be in control. :-)

Wendy Corsi Staub said...

Paul, that is so true! My mom was an elementary school teacher and when we lost her a few years ago to breast cancer, I can't tell you how many of her former students--some now middle schoolers, some adults with their own children--came to pay tribute and told us how my mother had inspired them. It brought us tremendous comfort to know that she touched so many lives.

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