I'm interrupting my self-imposed hiatus of silence to bring you a Happy New Year anecdote as a writer, a reader and a friend. This winter break I got to go to my Chicago hometown and laze about with my ladies in the family while enjoying food, friends, the city and the arts. Along with this was a luxuriant dive into my TBR pile that has been sorely neglected as I attempt to double my normal daily word count upon my return. That said, what I discovered was something that I call a Happy Accident.*
One of the greatest gifts of going to big book conferences is meeting fans and fellow authors. Another one is getting a ton of good books! Of course, it takes time to get around to devouring all of these good books and so I was thrilled to finally be getting a chance to dive into a long-awaited pile. One of the book covers that had snagged my interest was this one:
As a fan of twisted fairy tales and snarky takes on old tropes, I was curious about what I'd find in store. But as I started reading, I realized I had a thought-provoking introduction about the nature of what it means to be a teacher. (As a sympathetic reader, the message resonated but as former teacher, I realized that I recognized the poem as "What Teachers Make.") Confused, I flipped back to the cover again. Then checked the inside flap. No, this was supposed to be a bunch of amusing, satirical short stories written by Tim Manley. Curious, I removed the cover and this is what I saw:
It was the much-hailed book I'd heard of but never got around to reading, the musings--both poignant and poetic--of educator-activist-poet, Taylor Mali. How one book managed to get wrapped in the other's cover, I don't know, but I happily devoured the book I had in hand rather than mourn the one I did not. It was startling and touching and everything I'd hoped it would be back when this book had originally been on my radar and then been forgotten in all the Day to Day. Hence, my Happy Accident.
But it got me thinking about "judging a book by its cover" and the nature of surprise and the thrill of the Happy Accident. What if I could share that feeling of discovering a good book right in your hand? What if it could be like the brown paper project done by Webster Library? (Full story here.) What could we learn if we were tricked to go out of our usual reading/writing comfort zones and venture beyond our well-trodden paths? Would we be like Shel Silverstein and fall off the end of the sidewalk or be like Robert Frost and be profoundly changed from that point forward?
It's something to think about. And now I'm thinking...
Slightly NSFW but definitely Safe For Schools
* P.S. Most of my accidents tend to be UNhappy, usually of the injurious variety, so I savor that which doesn't attempt to kill me or make me stronger.