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Climbing Silos

I remember as a child, spending every weekend with my grandparents on their farm, just a mile away from my own home. There were silos of grain behind the chicken houses and once we’d grown tall enough to hike our legs and reach the ladders that scaled the sides of those enormous, silver cylinders, my brother and sister and I would climb to their tops. It was a dare, a dream; breathtaking just to work up the nerve to try it. The metal rungs put blisters on my palms on my first climb, I held on so tightly. But it was worth it, that first glimpse of our farmland laid out before me from such a distance; an entirely new perspective.

We were so small.

I don’t know that I considered what I would see when I reached the top, I was so full of adrenaline and the thrill of the very real danger of falling so many feet, should I lose my grip. But once seen I could not unsee the truth: the blue hills and valleys of north Georgia rolled out in all directions and my home was beautiful there, but also barely an anthill by comparison. I came down from the silo a different girl, having conquered my fear of such heights, aware of the gift of my place in the world, vaguely disappointed for reasons I didn’t really understand, and certainly wiser and prepared to climb again on a better or brighter day.

Writing my first novel was, for me, like the anticipation of climbing my grandfather’s silo: challenged by the teasing and taunting of my siblings, coming to the decision that I couldn’t bear to walk away, and screwing up the courage to do the hard job of pulling myself up all the way. The process of creating story and expression and bringing inspiration and life to the page was filled with self-doubt, but it was also exhilarating and demanding, and sometimes it left me with sore places. Publication has been illuminating and heady, much like the view from the top of the silo. There is perspective to be gained to see your work in a sea of other works, but also the appreciation of its value and beauty as an individual and unique voice. Yet the moment is brief. You find yourself climbing down from that pinnacle of “debut author” sooner than expected. And in the descent you face promotion and marketing and social media and blogs and reviews, the reality of your hard work paying off and paying forward, too. Until, surprisingly, your feet return to familiar ground, stepping off in a new direction, making the tenuous first foray into a new work.

My toes are dangling now, just near the earth again. And I swear I can hear the voices of childhood in my ear. They whisper in awestruck wonder at the feat I’ve dared, followed quickly by the madcap squeals and scrambles of the next bold soul in line to take his chance.

But I love the climb best, I think. That must be, or I wouldn’t be so ready to do it all again. And again.