When student trumps teacher

BalloonCropA member of the Creative Writing Circle I get paid to facilitate had a 900-word, personal essay published in the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers.

I’ve submitted two personal essays to this publication. Both have been rejected.

How does one feel when the student trumps the teacher?

I haven’t been a creative writing coach very long so this is a new experience for me. I use the word coach rather than teacher because the latter implies I am somehow an expert on the subject. Which leads one to ask, ‘if you’re so smart how come you’re not rich’, or in this case, a bestselling author? To which I have no answer and so I “coach” rather than “teach”.

Up until now, I’ve had mixed emotions about the success of other writers. When I read the work of the prize-winners in competitions I’ve entered, I often think they must be having a personal relationship with the judge(s), are the judge’s student, or are from the same alma mater. The fact the competitions I enter are all judged “blind” does not vindicate them one bit in my tormented mind.

I’m also immediately suspicious when other writers I’m acquainted with boast about a work being published. If they’re a good writer (better than me – lots of room there) I’m inspired to work harder. If, in my opinion, they write poorly, I immediately check the publication. If the only success they’ve found is in an obscure e-zine that doesn’t pay for their work but promises unlimited internet exposure, I breath a sigh of relief.


The same goes for flattering reviews of bad writing. When I check out the review I most frequently find it’s either written by a quasi-literate reader as payback for a free book, it’s an author review-swap, or worse, its been penned by a friend or relative, likely at the urging of the author.

I find exposing these delusional attempts at self-aggrandizement heartening, but I’m saddened for the author. I know about grasping at straws

If somehow a lesser writer than me manages to get published and paid in a publication of significance I remind myself that I write because I have to. Whether or not it gets published is not a priority.

I’m hoping if I tell myself this often enough I’ll begin to believe it.

So back to my student for lack of a better term. Her initial essay was very good. The participants of the writing circle made suggestions, as did I. In her published work it was apparent she heeded some, though not mine.

When I read her work prominently displayed in the Globe and Mail I was, surprisingly, excited for her. I felt proud of the contribution the group had made toward improving her overall writing as well as this piece. I was pleased these suggestions had been presented in such a way that she was open to accept them.

The only credit I’m entitled to, if any, is I have created an atmosphere where people can present their writing and all that entails – insecurity, vulnerability, even delusion, and can come away encouraged, nurtured, perhaps a little more knowledgeable, but most importantly, excited about continuing on this wondrous journey to wherever it might lead.

Does my student’s success prove I’m becoming a better writing coach?

Not likely.

Better person?

That would be nice.

Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels, Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.


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