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  • Erin Cleary

A Sign from the Garbage Gods

Each year in my town, we have a great garbage day. It’s basically a free yard sale day, located at the curb in front of many homes in town. It’s a chance for people to clear out their basements and garages. Not only is this a chance to purge, it is a chance to find those items you never knew you couldn’t live without. In past years, I have found baskets, pie plates, bookshelves, kids’ games, books, and more. Pretty much, if you dream it, you can find it one year or another. This day is considered a holiday by many of us—an extra Christmas, so to speak.

People also come into our community with their pick up trucks and rented U-Hauls. Some collect metal objects for recycling, while others are probably outfitting their apartments or finding items they can repair and sell. It is a total blast! Each year, my kids and I zigzag the blocks, looking for the thing that will catch our eye. We feel no shame as we dig through piles of things while the homeowners come out with more stuff. People are so happy to think someone will get use out of something they once needed but since have forgotten. Sometimes we chat or tell origin stories about the objects. It’s great community building time.

This year I found a stuffed dog that resembles my pup and a beautiful blanket. At one place it was a stack of picture frames and a lantern. A few doors down from that, I found a small basket that is perfect for the scrap paper I keep in my office. After I put that in my car, my daughter said, “Wait, Mom! That lady is chasing you!” I looked behind me to find a woman trying to get my attention. She had seen me pick up the small basket and wanted to offer me a big, beautiful basket she was in the process of dumping at the curb. I couldn’t believe my luck and timing!

This year, luck and timing have been a big part of my new venture. Having spent many years writing for children and then having children of my own who took over the creative energy I used to have for my craft, my timing and luck did not sync up. Now that my kids are more self-reliant, I have found some time to sit and write—and get serious about getting published. The need to write has seeped back into my cells. But I am filled with many questions about the process.

Other writers have offered guidance, as have my dear fellow critique group members—because even though I had stopped writing, I did not stop meeting with writers, critiquing, thinking about writing, and keeping a notebook of story ideas and sketchy drafts. But that hasn’t been enough. Even if a million people tell you and show you how to swim, you can’t do it until you actually jump into the pool. It’s the same with getting published.

And that’s where the garbage gods appeared with luck and timing on this year’s great garbage day. Atop a pile of junk on a curb four blocks away from my house, the afternoon sunlight caught the shining cover of a copy of the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 2019. Even though it is a year out of date, I have decided to see this as a sign that I am supposed to be preparing my cannonball into the pool. It is filled with so much useful information. I now have guiding answers in my hand, put there as a sign from the garbage gods.


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