There’s a moment in most mentor/apprentice stories, usually toward the end of the tale, where the wiser, more experienced elder quietly acknowledges the hard-earned success of his or her younger protege. It’s a bit of a cliche, but writers use it because it works; whichever role we fill, most of us can relate.
But the reverse scenario — a student moved by the achievements of his teacher — doesn’t lend itself so readily to words, which is why I’m struggling to find the right ones to describe how happy I am for Joe Schuster.
For an all-too-brief period (which happened to overlap with the day he started the novel that became The Might Have Been), Joe Schuster was my instructor, academic advisor, and — inconceivably, to me — my advocate. He’s not the reason I am a writer; he’s the reason I try to be a better one.
"I’ve known people who get to a certain age and are consumed with regret and bitterness about the way their lives have turned out; it sometimes becomes the main fact of their lives at that point. When I thought about what I wanted to do in my own life and hadn’t to that point — I wanted to write novels. I had no idea whether what I wrote would get published, but I knew that if I didn’t at least work as hard as I could to write the best novel I could, I might turn out to be one of those people who were filled with regret. I didn’t want to do that, and so the only way I knew I could avoid it was to keep working at the novel. It might not end up published, I thought, but at least if I finished it, I wouldn’t wake up one day years down the road and think about how I hadn’t even tried to do what I wanted to do."
Joe had faith in me, and that will always mean more to me than any grade or advice I received from him; but it means even more to me that he had faith in himself.