Monday, May 2, 2011

M.P Kozlowsky on Fear

I'm so happy to welcome M.P. Kozlowsky, author of Juniper Berry today.

The greatest guide in life is fear. We are lucky to be susceptible to it. How else would we know if we are making the right decision? The difficulty comes in fighting through it. For many, it is quite easy to succumb to such inner turmoil. I did for a good many years – I should have been writing at a much younger age. Understandably, there is much to fear when deciding what it is one wants to do for a career – Will I succeed? Will I be able to support a family? Will I be happy doing this? And so on. So, when I had to choose between being a teacher and a writer, naturally, I decided on the former. As a writer there was no guarantee that I would succeed, there was no guarantee I would make money, enough to live off it, enough to be happy, and just about everyone always said something along the lines of, “Do you know how difficult it is to be a writer? It’s like being a baseball player or getting to fly a shuttle into space. What are you going to do for an income, health insurance? You really want to be a starving writer, sleeping in a hovel? Is that what you want?” It just went on from there. Such constant berating – some of it, I admit, completely relevant – is sure to wear a person down, such as it did for me. So, I decided that with teaching there was a guaranteed paycheck, health insurance, plenty of time off to spend with family and to write. I did it for every reason but to make me happy. I did it because of fear. The fear of failure. Who was I to defy the odds? I felt no different than anyone else. And so I went to college, not the least bit interested in the subject matter and emerged to teach high school English, which I did for three years.

It usually takes about this long before a teacher realizes whether or not they could do this the rest of his or her life. I realized I could not. For one, if there is no love there, the amount of work thrust upon a teacher is relentless and overpowering – it is not a simple job, as many would have you believe. The greatest teachers you will find, are the ones with incredible passion, of which I lacked, and thus was providing a disservice to my students. Second, I wasn’t happy. As much as I enjoyed connecting with the children, instilling them with my love for literature, something was missing within me. I wasn’t fulfilled. But in order to be personally fulfilled I had to overcome my fears. And so I gave up a wonderful job, a great career with security and a pension and plenty of time off. I packed up my belongings, moved to Manhattan, and gave myself three years to become a writer – something I should have been doing for much longer. I knew I had talent, but I had no formal education in creative writing. Everything I learned was from the great authors I read voraciously.

I had a small sum of money from my father’s death and it was draining fast. I wanted to make his death count; I wanted to make him proud – his life was short and most of it was spent suffering. I wrote and wrote and wrote -- novel, memoir, children's book -- and nothing was happening. Rejection after rejection after rejection. One could imagine the torment in my mind: What did I do? I squandered the money my father died for. I gave up a terrific job. Do I have the talent? Is it the industry’s fault, society’s? I struggled out of bed, I grew thin. Then, something amazing happened. The bank cleared my account, sending me my last fifteen dollars, the very same week that I discovered my book, Juniper Berry, would be published.

Nothing is more important than fear. It is how almost every decision should be based. If you are scared, confront it. The feeling on the other side is always worth it. Whether it is committing to a relationship or traveling abroad with nothing but a toothbrush or taking that job or packing that van and moving to that sunny location. Fear is meant to be overcome. And it is easier to do than one thinks. Dreams are achievable, it’s just that one little inhibition, that four letter word, that gets in the way.

About Juniper Berry
Juniper Berry's parents are the most beloved actor and actress in the world—but Juniper can't help but feel they haven't been quite right lately. And she and her friend Giles are determined to find out why.

On a cold and rainy night, Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and enter the woods. What she discovers is an underworld filled with contradictions: one that is terrifying and enticing, lorded over by a creature both sinister and seductive, who can sell you all the world's secrets bound in a balloon. For the first time, Juniper and Giles have a choice to make. And it will be up to them to confront their own fears in order to save the ones who couldn't.

M.P. Kozlowsky's debut is a modern-day fairy tale of terror, temptation, and ways in which it is our choices that make us who we are.


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