Oprah said luck is preparation meeting opportunity.

And somewhere else I heard that it’s really good to ‘develop in the dark’.

That is, use the years that you are unknown, to hone your skills, so that when the spotlight shines on you, you’re ready to shine back.

And I think it was while I was watching the winter Olympics in Whistler, where I heard someone commenting on the figure skaters, that the Chinese lady who was unbeatable did what real professionals do. They skate their practices like they’re skating their gold medal events.

Even Oprah started with a small audience.

And Robert Munsch, I wonder how he became the Canadian phenom that he is now. His first book was published in 1976. That was the year I started my first novel at fourteen.

How many years did it take for people to actually catch on to his talent?

So that now crowds flock to hear him, bringing their kids and everything.

More and more I’m having experiences where people actually come out to see me at venues.

Last Sunday I went down to Old Fort York, a historical landmark in Toronto that’s nestled in the shadow of the Gardiner expressway.

It’s weird to see cars and trucks whizzing by on the overpass overhead while you’re surrounded by glass and old brick buildings of the fortifications of the fledgling city.

Toronto used to be called York until we changed it to Toronto which means ‘meeting place’, just like Canada comes from the Huron word Kanata which means ‘village’.

It was a hot day and I wore my purple outfit, (kind of a dark lavendar) that I’d had newly tailored. It’s a pretty simple outfit so I bought a patterned scarf to go with it.

And I met an old friend Shannon Thunderbird. She’s a native storyteller and singer, dressed in her regalia, she complimented me on my dress and told me that purple was the native colour for wisdom.

She was performing after me.

The person who was on before me was a storyteller who’s considered a master in the art. In fact I even took a course in storytelling from him.

It was such a strange feeling to go after my former teacher!

As far as venues go, it was one of the worst kind!

In a school setting it’s ideal. The classes are monitored by teachers, the audience can’t go anywhere. When you’re in a public event like this, in a small building, with low ceilings, and open doors, where people are walking in and out–just to get cool, and nobody has to stay anywhere, you can expect a LOT of turnover in the middle of your storytelling.

It wasn’t quite the worst place I’ve ever told stories, but let’s just say it wasn’t ideal.

I wasn’t expecting much.

But things started out well when an older couple came up to say how they’d seen me in Hamilton the year before and just popped by to tell me how much they’d enjoyed my stories at that festival. Then they left (probably to check out some of the other events).

Even my former teacher had a pretty limited crowd. But hey, I was being paid to tell and whether there were three people or thirty, I’d still get my fee, so I went ahead.

By the time I began my BIG RED LOLLIPOP story, instead of the crowd diminishing, it had grown. People had come in and stayed. And even though there was competition from some musical group outside, the audience sat completely still, fixed on me, and the little ones even did the motions for ‘big red lollipop’.

That was amazing! Very unusual.

Tomorrow I’m going to a school that had booked me for one presentation in the evening but had to change their arrangements when they got an overwhelming response to my arrival.

This is a school near a major masjid in Toronto. In fact when Hakeem Olajuwon moved to Toronto to play for the Raptors, he even went to this mosque once to pray. Oh how he stuck out in the prayer line!!! Head and shoulders above everyone else! My son had the distinction of praying next to him–but that’s another story.

So this school must serve some of the people who go to this masjid, and this school  has these parent nights and the administrator told me that the parents NEVER come out! They have such a hard time getting them to engage in these kinds of events.

Probably because the parents are so busy scrounging together a living for their kids. I know the type of hard-working immigrant community it must be.

But for my event, they had over 200 parents and children committed to coming to see me!

The school had to change the arrangements and book two shows instead of one.

This isn’t the first time this has happened.

Where the parents have come out overwhelmingly to see me at these literacy events. I remember another school where it was standing room only.

This must be word of mouth.

Grass roots support, so to speak.

To think that there are parents out there saying, “Oh you should go see Rukhsana. It’ll be worth it.” Or something like that, makes me feel as though all those years developing in the dark, were worth it.

Even now, in this age of technology, there’s no better advertisement than word of mouth.