Thursday, March 25, 2010

the face of the university?

Last month, I was interviewed for the Bulletin, an online news outlet that describes itself as "the people, news and ideas that shape NC State University". I knew that the article about my recent Kindle Best seller success was going to be accessible through the university website, but imagine my surprise when my good friend and colleague posted on my Facebook page, "OMG, you're on the NC State homepage!!!"

Sure enough, I opened the homepage, and there was my mug, beaming out to the masses as I held my books up in corny fashion.

My first response was something of a gasp, followed by incessant laughter. When I sent the link to another good friend, he replied, "You're the face of the university!"

This is a scary thought, considering I have a Wonder Woman doll in my office (and yes, I play with it), and think pop tarts are a food group. He also asked me if they know I was a relocated Yankee.

More surprising, however, is how many people actually read the article. Two of my former students, as well as my colleagues, contacted me to offer congratulations, which I appreciated. Half a dozen people sent Facebook Friend Requests and Twitter follows. Others contacted me asking for publishing advice.

Is this what fame is like?

I don't mean to ask that in a conceited way. I'm simply thrown off by the attention. Sometimes it still doesn't register to me that a big thing has happened, that I've achieved something that is so difficult to achieve. I overcame the X-factor without knowing what it is, or when or why I did. And I can't say I wasn't trying, but I also can't take all the credit for it. And I wonder how far the ripple effects go.

As for "the face of the university", well, I'm a long way off from where I started. Truth be told, I'd rather be teaching writing the way Andi does. These days, Peter Elbow's words "College is short, and life is long" echo in my mind louder than ever. If I am indeed to make a mark on the university, it is to return to the idea that we write because we have something to say; to make sense of the world and our place in it; to think way beyond the bounds of the classroom and the damn grade.

As long as that face is smiling, then I suppose all is well.


Elspeth Antonelli said...

Soon you'll be too famous to take my calls. I'll be shunted off to some assistant who will misspell my name. I can see it all now.

Elisa said...

Never! On the other hand, if I get my own Ian, then you won't want to talk to me anymore anyway...