I have worked so long with children fighting cancer [because] they have drawn me in, they have invited me, they have accepted me into their fierce and fragile worlds. I feel proud because they have. For some reason that I realize, finally, doesn’t matter much at all, I stagger under the weight of the losses I have encountered with these children, but, miraculously, I haven’t fallen. –from “You Owe Me”
I was speechless to find out, earlier this spring, that the most important essay I have written was selected for inclusion in Best American Essays 2012!
The essay “You Owe Me” was first published by Michigan Quarterly Review, and is about my experiences teaching for Writers in the Schools at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. I worked there during a very magical period, when there was a classroom full of teachers and kids pulling each other through the obvious difficulties of living in a cancer hospital. I couldn’t write a word about any of this work during almost a decade of teaching, but when it came out, it flowed non-stop. I am so proud the essay was noticed (and astounded and thankful).
The series editor, David Atwan, told me it fit well with the other people who will be in the book: but I don’t know who they are yet! I was too shy to ask, and now I’m not going to look until I get the book, but I’m really excited to find out. It sort of feels like I’m at a surprise party, hiding in the dark with a bunch of strangers who might turn out to be not strangers, after all, but my literary heroes.