Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Cork Board of Awesome: A Look Back on 2010

As humans, change is the only thing we can truly rely on. We couldn't stop it if we tried. Well, okay, that's not true, but I'm not planning on cryogenically freezing anyone in the near future. So if change is so reliable, why are we so intimidated by it? I'll admit it, I'm terrified of change. But I can't help wonder why. Change is good. Granted there can be "bad" changes, like the death of someone you love or a traumatic parting of ways. But in the end, I believe everything happens for a reason. If that old girlfriend of yours that you were just SO in love with didn't break up with you, you may have never met your wife. And if your beloved grandfather hadn't died, you wouldn't have learned how to cherish life. My point is that change isn't spontaneous. Change happens because there is a need for it. And yet, even though we understand this, we're still so often frightened by it. 

To help prove my point in an unorthodox way, I share with you the small cork board that hangs above my desk. To the uninformed eye, it looks quite random. Actually, it looks quite random to me sometimes as well. In truth, there are some random things on here. There's a black ninja bumper sticker that my dad gave me. The ticket stub from the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 (the first Harry Potter where I gave into the craze and actually dressed up.) There's another ticket from when I saw Promises, Promises with Kristen Chenoweth and Sean Hayes on Broadway last summer. But there are a few more substantial things; things that truly mean a lot to me, no matter how silly the are. 

I know I've mentioned this before, but a year ago I was a completely different person. 2010 (and the last six months of 2009) was a rough year for me. I had a lot of personal issues. The only change that I wanted was a complete escape. And though I never ran away or became a hobo, I did change. I discovered something; something that's been there for me since I was a child. Yes, I became a writer. You see, writing gave me confidence; something I thought I would never have again. Writing gave me life; something that I was convinced I didn't want. Writing gave me hope; something that I thought didn't exist. And over the months that I outlined and wrote, re-outlined and rewrote, then re-outlined and rewrote again, I acquired some souvenirs. These artifacts are a symbol of a rebirth, which was just as awkward and glorious as my actual birth. I'll share a few of these wonderful mementos with you. 

Up in the top left corner is a pen, held up by two tacks. To an outsider, it's a seemingly normal pen. However, that is the pen James Dashner, author of the 13th Reality series and The Maze Runner trilogy, signed with at one of his book signings. I was there. I met James, he's an incredible author and one of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met. Since there weren't many people at the first St. Louis book signing he went to, I had the opportunity to talk with him quite a lot. I learned so much about the struggles and rewards of writing from him. 

Similar to the pen hanging on the wall, there's multiple Beautiful Creatures and Beautiful Darkness merchandise on the board. These are also the products of a book signing. It was a release party for Beautiful Darkness that was hosted by the authors themselves, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Accompanying them were Heather Brewer and Kaleb Nation. I listened to the inspiring talks they all gave and was thrilled to hear them speak about the new book. As they were talking, I realized that the writing community, although difficult to get into, was quite rewarding. These authors truly enjoyed what they were doing. They had a career that they loved, and I was envious. You shouldn't write for imaginary fame or fortune, you should do it because you love it. Margy described writing as a drug. It's addictive and gives you a sort of high while you're doing it. Although not the best analogy for the younger audience, she's completely right. 

Finally, my favorite. I'm staring at it right now and can't help but smile. In the top right corner is a note. A note scribbled on inconsequential post-it. This note is from author Leah Clifford, who's debut novel A Touch Mortal comes out next month. The note reads, "Matt, congrats on winning and happy writing! Best, Leah." It's something so simple, yet means so much. You see, a few months back I won a contest on the amazing youtube channel the YA Rebels ( The contest was for a Barnes and Noble gift card, and was hosted by Leah. I emailed her my address and such and we got to casually talking over email. I won't exaggerate, she wasn't taking me under as her apprentice or anything drastic like that. She simply spoke inspiring things about writing and all that comes from it. Her emails, although simple, filled me with so much hope. And when the gift card came, this note was enclosed. When I saw it, I was beaming. Leah gave me the hope that I could be whoever I wanted to be. If I wanted to be a writer, I could be a writer. Even though dreams sometimes seem unreachable, it is possible to catch them. And with a lot of hard work and failure, I could make something out of myself. I'm sure Leah didn't know that such a simple little note would inspire me so much, but it did. Years ago I believed that hope was simply a distraction and that it only brought disappointment and pain. But I've learned differently. I've learned to accept change, and not run away from it. I've learned to seek dreams, because I know that I have a chance. And thanks to people like Leah, I've learned to be happy.