This week, I got copies of the final edits of my novel and photos of the prototype paperback version of my story collection. Both of these projects got series work while I was in Siberia, but both projects reach back years. It’s been a week of results—the best of which tend to come after long, long waits.
I got results this week, too, from a couple of literary journals. For those who aren’t intricately versed in the publishing world, most of it can be summarized like this: writers spend a long time composing, then send work to perspective publishers, attempting to match subject, tone, and character type to publishing homes that might have some interest. After the submission, there’s generally a long wait, followed by some variation of the phrase, “No, thanks.” The odds get a little better with experience and skill development, but generally writing is about waiting for and reacting to the word “no.” In the end, for those with the patience to wait it out, the word yes finally comes, and it is a sweet thing, followed by the inflated sweetness of the things that follow: the care editors take in continuing the honing process, the arrival of a product, the reaction of the audience. It’s a thing seldom experienced, but indescribably wonderful each time.
A state away in my former home, teachers and colleagues I admire deeply are fighting for another result. They, too, are putting in the work and waiting, just to be told no again. Not by publishers, but by politicians.
For the seventh day, teachers in West Virginia are on strike, seeking some semblance of fairness in pay, health care stability, and general respect from the governing bodies that represent them.
Each day, thousands of teachers including members of my family, dear friends, colleagues, former students, and acquaintances from my time in Huntington are joining their peers from across the state to demand in their loudest and firmest voices that simplest of things—respect.
For decades now, politicians have mangled the fact that public teachers garner salaries from the state into an excuse for derision and slander. In the Mountaineer State, they’ve tired of it. The slander still showers on them from certain parts of the political world, but the public seems to be getting the gist: public service makes teachers something closer to hero than anathema.
A framework deal was struck earlier in the week, but as too frequently happens, there are obstructionists more invested in personal gain than public good who block, negate and shout from their elected spaces, “No.”
The good teachers in West Virginia—as well as the miners, professors, and public workers, and laborers who have joined them—will be told no plenty of times. So will the teachers of Pittsburgh, should they follow through with a planned strike of their own, and those around the country, should they follow suit. But when the result comes, it will be sweet. Every time.
Brooks Rexroat was a 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar in Novosibirsk, Russian Federation, who now teaches at Brescia University in Owensboro, Kentucky. His debut short story collection Thrift Store Coats, explores working life in the postindustrial Midwest.