Life Lessons

words by: Melissa K. Norris


Sitting on the wooden gym floor, I stared at the stands filled with parents, family members, and friends from my hometown. The scholarships were being announced. With each one, I held my breath, waiting to see if I would be the recipient.

Ever since I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be an author when I grew up. I took college English courses through high school and graduated third in my class. I was a cheerleader, participated in 4-H and student council, and worked a full/part-time job before and after school and on the weekends. All the things they tell you to do for college and scholarships.

As each scholarship was awarded, the lump grew in my throat. Every scholarship was being awarded to the same two people in our class. Surely they’d begin to call other people’s names. One, even one would let me start a semester.

Hope swelled past the lump—the last scholarship was announced. Tears burned my eyes, but I managed to hold them until I slid behind the driver’s seat. Sobs burst forth, filling the front seat of my hand-me-down Ford Tempo.

My dreams of going to college evaporated faster than the tears coursing down my cheeks.

Later that summer, I asked one of the committee members while I waited on his table why I hadn’t been chosen for any of the scholarships and was told, “Oh, we knew your dad could help you pay for college.”

Too embarrassed to correct them, I finished clearing the table. The reason I’d worked through high school was that my parents didn’t have extra money. In fact, I was given $100 a year for school clothes and supplies, including shoes, underwear, any coats I might need, and my cheerleading uniform because that was all my parents had to give me. This meant I worked from the time I was fourteen years old to help pay for my own clothes, as even in the late ’90s, you couldn’t stretch a hundred dollars to cover all your shoe and clothing needs for a year.




A few months later, I started attending a local writer’s group. Each Monday, we’d meet at a local restaurant and read our work out loud to one another. We’d share feedback, cheer each other on as we submitted our writing to various publishers and agents, and offer a shoulder when we got rejected.

I purchased books on writing, character devel-opment, and story arc, carefully reading each one and applying it to my stories. After work at the pharmacy, I’d plunk away on the used computer tucked into the corner of the single-wide trailer my husband and I lived in.

I attended writer’s conferences, plotting which sessions would serve me the best and which literary agents matched my genre and style the best. Then it happened: an agent asked me to submit my entire novel after reading the first three chapters of the book.

Every day I would check the mailbox for her reply.

Finally, my self-addressed stamped envelope appeared in the mailbox. A late summer breeze toyed with my hair, and golden light spilled over her response…


To read the full story, purchase a February 2023 back issue here.


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About Melissa:

Melissa K. Norris is a 5th generation homesteader who married a city boy… but that city boy quickly became a country boy and turned into a bonafide farmer when they moved to Melissa’s family property. With their two children they believe in keeping the old ways alive. She is an author, blogger, and podcaster. Learn more by visiting:


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