I’ve been watching Oprah’s Master Class off and on.

Wasn’t planning to watch tonight’s program about Grant Hill, because honestly I didn’t know who Grant Hill was.

I watch basketball sometimes, usually when my son in laws are over, but I can’t say that I’m a huge fan.

But watching Mr. Hill,  I must admit I learned a number of things!

I loved what he said about his father.

His father was a professional athlete too, a football player and when he’d make a touchdown, instead of spiking the ball and doing a ridiculous dance, he’d just hand the ball over to the official. Grant asked his father why he did that. Why didn’t he show off a bit like the other players did. And he said something to the effect that you have to act like you’ve been there.

Hmm. It kind of means that you have to act like it’s no big deal. And Grant went on to say you have to show class and not rub it in your opponents’ faces.

Unfortunately the unusual thing about Hill is that he’s a black professional athlete with two upstanding black professional parents.

And he felt how unusual he was keenly.

Among his friends, most of them did not have fathers who were engaged and interested in the upbringing of their sons, and as a result he felt that he needed to kind of stick a bushel over his head to avoid shining too brightly and standing out.

Eventually he learned to let his light shine. To go ahead and be really good at what he was doing.

I like that.

Then later in the show he talked about how when he joined the Detroit Pistons, all the success he’d achieved in college basketball didn’t matter any more. That you can’t rest on your past accomplishments. And I thought to myself, “Amen, buddy!”

But then I’d learned that lesson myself.

Coincidentally, my son asked me this weekend what was the time I felt the most discouraged.

I didn’t even hesitate when I told him it was after Wanting Mor was published.

But really I should have told him there was one other time I felt even more discouraged. And that was after The Roses in My Carpets  was published.

He was really surprised and asked me why I’d be discouraged after Wanting Mor.

It’s very simple, and it goes back to what Grant Hill said. You can’t ride on your past accomplishments.

With Wanting Mor I felt like I’d written this FANTASTIC book, a story that works on so many levels and yet within my home province it was completely ignored. And the only national Canadian award it was up for was the IODE.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I expect any nominations. I really don’t.

But when so many teachers at so many schools ask me why Wanting Mor wasn’t up for the Red Maple or Silver Birch or TD Literature award, I really have nothing to say. I just shrug and tell  them I don’t know why. It was up for awards in the Maritimes and Alberta and British Columbia, and in the States and in Singapore and England but nope, not in Ontario.

Do I console myself with the fact that it’s been published very well internationally and has garnered so much recognition INTERNATIONALLY? Absolutely! And that it has sold and continues to sell very well–Yup. Absolutely!

But it still stings that my home province didn’t even nominate it for anything.

It was even worse with The Roses in My Carpets.

Except for that award in Poland, it received very little attention. But then part of that could be chalked up to the fact that it was my second book and I was less known then.

Again, I console myself with the fact that it’s earned way more than most picture books (not for me–for refugees) and it’s done so much good in terms of establishing that library in the orphanage in Afghanistan.

But it does hurt when your best work goes unnoticed.

And when that happened with Wanting Mor, for a moment I thought of just giving up the hassles and the heartaches of the publishing biz. Concentrating instead on my family and what I’ve already accomplished.

I’d always have the storytelling. And the school presentations.

I really could just live on what I’ve already done. That’s precisely what some artists do. Especially storytellers!

But no.

It was a low point, and pretty soon, the feeling passed, and I got right back into things and wrote another novel.

It’s funny, because I was so doggedly determined, that all the fuss over Big Red Lollipop completely took me by surprise. Which shows how much I’ve come to terms with the fact that if I like the book, if I can stand behind my book, then really that’s all that matters.

But anyway, I have to push all that aside, just like all the wins that Grant Hill had as a college player didn’t matter once he made it to the NBA, all the awards that my past books have garnered don’t matter either.

I have to work out ways to make this Hajj novel shine like no book has ever shined before!

I know that’s a tall order, but hey, you gotta reach for the stars.

Grant Hill also said one more thing that I found fascinating. And I’ve watched enough basketball games to know exactly how unusual the win he pulled off was.

He was playing with Duke university, and it was for the championship against Kentucky I think. And 2 point something seconds left of the game, Kentucky shot a hoop and were up by one point.

The coach made a huddle.

He asked if Grant could make a down court pass to another player, who’d shoot the basket? Grant said yes.

So Grant had to throw in the ball under the opposing team’s net, and hurl it all the way down the court to the player who caught it! Dribbled it once, then shot the basket, and it went in! Duke won!

When they showed the play I gasped, even as I was walking on the treadmill, I gasped! It was an awesome play!

And the lesson: Always believe you can win!

That lesson makes me smile tonight.

And it really doesn’t matter what happened in the past. All that matters is this story right in front of me!

And darn it, I’m going to give it my very all!

I want it to be a winner, in my own court, and if it wins in anybody else’s then that’s just a bonus.



It isn’t easy to write your heart out and