As I enter another year as a published author, it’s fun to reflect on how my most public humiliation has helped me in my new career.
Allow me to bare it all: In 1980, disco was still queen. I had always dreamed of dancing and singing on stage, and the opportunity arose for me to audition for a spot with a performing troupe led by my college’s music teacher. I would be performing in the summer show at Boblo Island Amusement Park, situated in the middle of the Detroit River. My husband and I had been married for six months, and we planned for him to work the lights and sound while I performed. But that’s not quite how it worked out.
On audition day, my husband watched me dance in the arms of another guy. He didn’t care for it. He decided on the spot to audition for a performing part. This tall, skinny chemistry major, this “nerd,” who’d never danced or sung in public before, floored everyone with his single-minded determination and dance moves, long arms and legs ready for the next step. Thirty-five years later, his nickname is still “the Rubberband Man.”
By the way, single ladies: “nerds” make great husbands.
As soon as the semester ended, the Boblo Rhythm troupe headed for Amherstburg, Ontario. Rubberband Man and I shared a seedy apartment with two other couples, and the Deputy Dog wallpaper in our tiny bedroom in no way dimmed our excitement. Every morning, we walked through the quaint town to the bakery, ate hot rolls, and spent the morning reading Mary Stuart. We took a ferry boat to the park, put on our makeup, and psyched ourselves up for the day’s four performances.
If I’d known what shame would befall me later, I’d have thought twice about this whole venture.
Our show consisted of thirty minutes of high energy singing and dancing. Believe it or not, the show was inspired by an Ethel Merman disco album from the seventies, and arranged by our talented music professor. We had six costume changes, so before every show, we lined our costumes up in order. After each song, we rushed backstage, threw our clothes off, and slammed on another costume. Chaos reigned for the first week, but we soon got the hang of it, and the show was a hit.
The show began in semi darkness. The curtain opened to find us in a straight line, our backs to the audience, hands clasped above our heads, heads bowed. The men wore shiny polyester shirts, and the women wore matching body suits and wrap-around skirts. The lights slowly went up and we swung our hips to a pounding bass beat.
Then, “I’ve Got Rhythm,” or as we sang it, “Boblo Rhythm” began. After that, we hurtled backstage and threw on our leprechaun outfits for “McNamara’s Band.” Costume changes could take no longer than thirty seconds, and it was always a close call. Talk about an adrenaline rush! We sang and danced our way through “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and eventually a reprise of “Boblo Rhythm.” They loved us, four times a day. During our breaks, we rode the rollercoaster. What could be better?
Then the fateful day arrived. We heard rumors that a reporter from the Detroit paper was coming to see the show. We agreed this would be our best performance ever. We took turns peeking at the packed crowd. As I stood in my opening position, I chased the gathering butterflies with a deep breath, and the show began.
Then, as I danced my heart out, a gust of air chilled my legs. I looked down to find my skirt pooled at my feet. Time stood still as the laughter of five hundred people echoed in my head. To make matters worse, I had frugally donned a pair of panty hose epically ripped at the thigh, thinking they wouldn’t be seen. It seemed like I stood there for hours, but time can’t stand still for long when you’re supposed to be dancing.
I longed to run off the stage and stew in my humiliation, but with a pounding heart and burning face, I did the only thing I could do. I smiled and kicked my skirt out of the way, to the crowd’s amusement. I finished the rest of the show, with google-eyes and a shaky smile on my face. It took a few weeks to get my mojo back, but the show must go on.
I learned some things from the experience that have helped me with my burgeoning writing career:
There would be many more embarrassing moments. It’s a new career, so mistakes are bound to happen. I’d best learn how to deal with them.
When my edits don’t turn out like I planned, I’ve learned to take a moment to pout, then I kick off my skirt and keep on dancing. So to speak.
When I get stuck in the middle of the story, which precipitates enough negative thinking to fill an empty auditorium, I pretend I know what I’m doing, and keep dancing. Under my desk.
When I screw up, I try not to take myself too seriously, because there is always some other poor schmuck waiting in the wings, poised for disgrace. So when I walk into the men’s restroom in every foreign country I visit, it will soon be forgotten.
Above all, I advise you to heed Mom’s advice: always wear good underwear. You never know what’s going to happen next.
Strange things are happening in King’s Harbour. Midwife Maggie Wilson vows to find the person who almost murdered her sister. When her sister’s behavior ignites old superstitions, the townspeople threaten to send her to an asylum. Maggie turns to handsome Ian for help in a town where everybody is against her.
Apothecary Ian Pierce wants nothing more than to feel whole, as he does when he is near the beautiful midwife, singing to her soul with his music. Only then can he forget the horrors from his past when false accusations send him to Bedlam.
When they unearth the deeds of a sinister killer, Ian’s most daunting battle will be to safeguard his sanity…and win Maggie’s heart.
The door swung open, and Mr. Pierce, the singer from the kirkyard, thrust himself into the room. He carried a body in his arms, covered in a cloak. Blue-tinged, slender feet dangled from the tattered, mud-soaked hem.
Samuel stared in slack-jawed shock and backed away. “Why have you brought this body here?”
To Maggie’s astonishment, the body began convulsing in great spasms, and the singer struggled to hold it. The cloak fell off, revealing a shroud-wrapped body, only the face exposed. The eyes, ice blue, stared wide and unblinking and blank with terror.
Sarah’s eyes. Her lips blue, dirt-encrusted eyelashes, cleft chin. “It cannot be,” Maggie whispered, and shrank back. Coldness enveloped her, as if she had slipped into a frozen lake, cold water surrounding her, and could hear only muffled voices, echoing urgent and sharp. She saw only shapes above the icy water.
A voice, masculine and hoarse, broke through the ice, and she stared into the singer’s eyes. They steadied and warmed, pulled her out of her daze.
“We must move her by the fire and rid her of this shroud,” Ian urged.
She took a deep, shaky breath. Yes. It was Sarah, yet the eyes stared unseeing in a blue-mottled face covered in dirt.
Samuel’s voice escalated in panic. “She was buried, she was dead. I saw her. How can this be?” He turned his head away.
Maggie grabbed him by the shoulders. “Samuel, you must look at her. Somehow it is our Sarah.”
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Jennifer Taylor is the award-winning author of the historical romance, Mercy of the Moon, Book One of the Rhythm of the Moon series, published by the Wild Rose Press. She spent her childhood running wild on an Idaho mountainside. Although she’s lived across the U.S., she’s still an Idahoan at heart and a notorious potato pusher. She has a degree in Human Services and worked as a roofer, a hoofer, a computer data entry operator and a stay-at-home mom.
Music has ruled Jennifer’s world since birth. She shimmied out of the womb with a bad case of Boogie Fever, but soon fell in love with the lyrics, how the words fit together perfectly like a jigsaw puzzle. She has dreamt of writing romances since reading Wuthering Heights at the tender age of twelve, and now lives that dream, using music on a daily basis to uplift and inspire her writing. She can often be found singing at her desk. It’s no coincidence that Ian, the hero in Mercy of the Moon, uses music to win heroine Maggie’s heart.
She lives in rural Florida with her husband and Great Dane puppy, and enjoys frequent visits from her three grandchildren and three grown children. She feverishly lobbies for the return of breeches and would really love to see her husband of thirty-five years in a pair. Jennifer can be found online at: jennifertaylorwrites.com