I have to confess that, should I ever meet Gordon Korman, I might have to apologize to him. For years, I have hated him. Sort of.
Gordon Korman was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1963. He is the author of dozens upon dozens of books. But the main reason why I know him, and why I might have to apologize to him is because of his first book. He published This Can't Be Happening in Macdonald Hall in 1978. Do the math on the two years I mentioned in this post, and you'll see how remarkable this is. The story as I'd heard it was that the book was written as a seventh grade English project, and was deemed so good by Korman's English teacher that Korman was encouraged to send the book to Scholastic, who agreed with the English teacher and published it.
As Gordon Korman was a Canadian and a seventh grade student when his first novel was published, the book became almost required reading at our schools for many years. His work was featured on TVOntario's Readalong and Read All About It. I myself and my fellow students all knew who he was and why he was famous. And I think we kind of hated him for it.
Make no mistake: Gordon Korman was a celebrity to us, because he was Canadian, and he had done something to make him famous when he was our age. He was a celebrity that we could, in some ways, reach out and touch because he was not much different from we were. And yet, talk about pressure. Gordon Korman got published when he was 15. What had we done? Where were our books? Why weren't our English assignments of his quality? We knew in our hearts that there was no way that our stuff was going to get published, ever, so there was some resentment over how he'd managed to win the lottery, and not us.
So, yeah, this is my confession. My name is James Bow. I'm an author. And I've been jealous of Gordon Korman for most of my life.
Fortunately, it's a petty jealousy, and I know that it's petty. I'm sure that if I'm ever fortunate enough to meet Gordon Korman face to face, I will shake his hand and it will be an honour that I'll cherish.
(Unlike Terry Pratchett, whom I've sworn to punch in the arm (not hard) after reading his "felonious monk" joke in Soul Music out loud, but that's another confession for another time)
I think, if writers are honest with themselves, jealousy is a feeling we have more often than we care to admit. And not that this is a bad thing, as long as you keep this feeling in perspective. My jealousy towards Gordon Korman is merely an acknowledgement that the man accomplished something remarkable -- something that I kind of wish I had accomplished myself. But I haven't, and now I can't, so let's move on.
And I freely admit to being jealous of J.K. Rowling. Every author wishes that we were half as successful as she is. But my feelings of jealousy are tempered by my feelings of respect over the remarkable things she's done, the fact that her books are cracking good stories, and that the characters are people we can fall in love with. And then there's the fact that J.K. Rowling's success gave me the opportunity to launch possibly my most successful publicity campaign of my life. I'm jealous of J.K. Rowling, but I respect her (and quite like her, frankly, because she gives so much of her money to charity, and so on), and I use her as a reason to keep on doing what I'm doing. I can never be that successful, but it's still something to aspire to.
We look up to heroes in all walks of life, but I wonder how much of our admiration is tinged with jealousy? Heroes are people we aspire to be, but how can we aspire to be like someone if we aren't jealous of them? If we want something that they have, and we don't. Maybe this sort of inspiration is part carrot and part stick, with jealousy being the stick?