Today’s invitation to rejection

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, was rather stern. You might even have called her cruel.

I was a compliant kid who enjoyed being useful. You might even have called me a teacher’s pet.

One day, I asked Mrs. Smith if there was anything I could do to help in the class. She turned to me and hissed, “Get out of my hair.” Never mind that what little hair she had was white and limp and unattractive to any but the most stalwart louse.

I’ve never forgotten those words or the shrinking feeling I got that my assistance—and perhaps my very presence—was unwanted. That childhood experience planted itself deeply and transmuted into a desire not to trouble anyone.

Get out of my hair

For years, anytime I thought of letting the world know about my accomplishments I feared the world would turn and ask me to get out of its hair. Spreading the word about my fiction has been a challenge because I am reluctant to bother people. Asking “Would you like to read my book?” feels like an invitation to rejection. Saying “Here’s my new book” feels like an intrusion. Executing the marketing campaign I crafted months ago has required a fortitude I didn’t realize I’d need.

It shouldn’t have taken me fifty years to find the courage to speak about the work that consumes me, though the process has been a little easier this time around. Tiny Shoes Dancing and Other Stories seems to embody my brand as a writer of fiction with a dark edge about what goes wrong when human connection is missing from our lives. Almost all the stories are about fragmented relationships, people talking past one another, and struggles to build meaningful bonds with other humans.

You could even look at the book as my way of creating those bonds.

[Deep breath] The book is available

Today, I’m taking a deep breath and shouting out—all right, maybe just using a normal speaking voice—the fact that Tiny Shoes Dancing is available for you and your literature-loving friends to read and ruminate over. Maybe you’ll feel a little more connected when you’re done.

If Mrs. Smith were still around I’d give her a hug. I’d ask what was going on in her life that day that caused her to react so violently to my innocent question, because I’m pretty sure she didn’t become a third-grade teacher with the intention of snapping at an eight-year-old and shutting down her voice for decades to come.

Another leap for me: speaking on camera

Excerpts from early reviews

I cannot understand why the literary world doesn’t make a bigger fuss over Audrey Kalman. She’s as good as it gets! (Goodreads Review)

—Elise Frances Miller, Author of The Berkeley Girl in Paris and The Berkeley Girl: Rendezvous in London

Kalman’s courage in tackling difficult subjects (unplanned pregnancy, psoriasis, adultery, anorexia, autism, depression and death) her gift for language, and her understanding of human nature make Tiny Shoes Dancing a book to keep and reread. (Compulsive Reader Review)

—Ruth Latta

This is strong stuff. You start watching people at the supermarket, speculating about their inner demons, half-expecting an encounter. (Goodreads Review)

—Bill Baynes, Author of The Occupation of Joe and Bunt

Many of the stories are dark…[a]nd all of them are visceral, their emotional prose reaching not only your eyes and brain, but your heart as well. (Goodreads Review)

—Carrie Rubin, Author of The Bone Curse, Eating Bull, and The Seneca Scourge

Enjoy [these stories] one at a time when you’re ready for a wake-up call, preferably followed by a friendly cup of coffee and a recommitment to never taking the people in your life for granted. (Foreword Reviews)

Jessie Horness, Foreword Magazine, July/August 2018

Tiny Shoes Dancing

8 thoughts on “Today’s invitation to rejection

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  1. What your teacher did was horrendous! You are to be congratulated for your resilience and personal growth that has brought you to where you are today! Congratulations and onward and upward.

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  2. That was a touching story about Mrs. Smith and one I could relate to having had a similar experience with the same basic outcome you had. Glad you got “over” it. I’m still working on it. Congratulations on your book launch and happy birthday! I look forward to reading your book.

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  3. So interesting how these childhood experiences of rejection CAN hang on and haunt us for decades to come. For me it was the experience of stage fright I had in 6th grade, when, as the narrator of “Fiddler on the Roof,” I had to memorize large chunks of text and present them, alone onstage in the spotlight in front of a big audience. That moment of forgetting my lines, fleeting as it was (the teacher sitting in the front row prompted me and my frozen brain clicked into motion again) gave me panic attacks for years afterward when I had to speak in public. Like you, I’ve finally worked through that ancient fear and laid it to rest; now I quite enjoy public speaking!

    Brava to you, Audrey, for bringing this new book out in style! Can’t wait to read it and celebrate with you!

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    1. I think I remember you telling me about the stage fright incident. The process of transforming that pain into something else can be arduous, but worth it. And it makes us who we are…

      Yes, celebration is certainly in order!

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