Every October I'm reminded of the time I met Joan Bauer. I'd joined a critique group and one of my critique partners compared my story to one of Joan Bauer's. I'd only read one of Bauer's novels,Squashed, and enjoyed it, but still didn't completely take the comment as a compliment, though that's how it was meant. The day after that meeting I went to the library and checked out six books, all by Joan Bauer.
When I looked at her picture on the back, I knew her. I couldn't think when or where we'd met, but I was sure I knew her face. I read the books, returned them, and liked them so much that I recommended two as read alouds to the new teachers I was working with. But I couldn't shake the feeling that somehow we'd met before.
About a month or so after my first critique meeting Halloween rolled around. We lived in Brooklyn at the time and always took our kids on the same route--an eight block square. We reach the corner, the top of our apartment building in view. At this point my kids have lost all their manners (most of their minds) and are wildly digging through candy bowls hunting for Butterfingers and KitKats. I look up at the woman holding the bowl to apologize, and it's Joan Bauer.
"Oh my God, you're Joan Bauer," I say. She's very nice and says something nice about my rude children, then she asks, "Are you a writer?" I pause. At the time, I'd finished two manuscripts, one horrible and one less horrible. "I teach at the elementary school right down the street," I answer. She says more nice things and is all-around wonderful.
I immediately regretted not saying yes and still do every Halloween. My dream is to one day be a published author. I'm not yet, but now if asked what I do, I say I write children's books. If that means following up with saying I'm unpublished, I do. And it feels so much better than the answer I gave to Joan Bauer.