I broke out in a cold sweat hearing this over the telephone. How could I ever follow through with some stranger? Step outside my comfort zone and heavily guarded "box?" How could I not, and let the opportunity pass. I gathered a list of questions then called, my heart slamming my spine the moment she said "hello."
We agreed to meet at a small cafe in the artist community she lived the following Saturday for coffee. I swear I lost ten pounds from the involuntary weight loss program that took over the second I hung up the phone and continued throughout the week.
Slow as molasses, Saturday finally came. I walked through a natural arch of blooming desert willows and saw a woman parked under a tree on the restaurant patio at a table for two. Ivy Ruckman. The second famous person I'd met in my life (Robert Redford waited in line behind me for a chair lift at a ski resort in Park City and we exchanged minor pleasantries as I apologized for sliding backwards across his skis. First timer. He was the gracious gentleman and helped me negotiate the small hill as I boarded the chair lift for a much larger one, thanking me for the warning so he could ski down another run from the one I'd be traversing.)
"Gracious" comes with notoriety I soon discovered. She introduced me to my first jamocha frappe and proceeded to answer my barrage of questions. We sat under the tree for over two hours becoming friends and before I left, she asked if I trusted her enough to let her read my first two chapters for an opinion. Immediately, I worried the chocolate frappe would travel the well used route and exit my body that very moment. "Thrilled" didn't begin to explain the massive fluttering in my stomach. I agreed to mail the pages to her.
Three agonizing weeks passed. I checked the mail every day waiting for my return envelope. What I received instead was a phone call requesting my presence at her home the following Sunday afternoon. I felt like I'd been summoned to the principal's office.
I remember the rain. I live in the desert, so storms are few and far between, and usually pack a wallop of water with fierce thunder and lightning. But this storm was gentle. A fine curtain of water falling quietly with no fanfare, bringing the scent of the desert--damp red loam, blooming cacti, the spicy scent of desert orchids, to fill the cooled air. We sat on her porch, the constant gray drizzle from her roof splashing the flagstone path serving as the calming soundtrack I desperately needed.
She held my manuscript in her hands and questioned me again as to whether I'd ever had formal writing lessons, to which I answered nothing outside of a creative writing class in high school. Her next sentence stole my breath--something that hadn't happened since my husband proposed marriage.
"Then all I can say is that I'm shocked." My heart dropped to my toes and my face mottled with embarrassment, expecting shame, not praise. "My dear, this is really good. I did not expect to see such talent nor read anything quite this delightful and that's why I asked you here--to tell you in person." I started to cry.
Among the several things she taught me that afternoon by having me read my first chapter aloud ("caught my eye" is a phrase I'll never use without thinking of a fish hook), she, just a stranger who wanted her internet fixed, gave me the words of encouragement (laced with ample warning of the hard road I faced) I needed to pursue this challenging, heartbreaking, yet personally rewarding course. Flattery and pats on the back from family and loved ones are so important, but until a stranger whose walked the same path, and succeeded, tells you that you have what it takes to actually fly, you keep your wings tucked away.
Ivy Ruckman became the wind under my wings, and while I flew upside down and sideways for a long time, I'm finally soaring. Designer Genes had to be published just so I could dedicate the story to her. Thanks to a regal lady who believed in a quirky stranger who embarrassingly, slurped her first swig of jamocha frappe.
For a glimpse into my newest release, "Designer Genes - The Boyfriend Cut," click on the following link to see my fan page on Pinterest. Follow me on Facebook as I get ready to launch a piece of my soul June 18th. As always, thanks for stopping by!