Although Shades of Gray is in print, bound and on the shelves, I am never completely done. One of the great upshots of publishing a semi-autobiographical novel is that people are actually interested in my opinion on various topics my book touches upon. I’ve visited a few colleges to meet with their social work and teaching programs and loved every minute of being able to talk about that time in my life when I was in the classroom, inspiring young minds to keep at the grind and stay in school. I have said it before and I will say it again; loudly, teaching in a dropout prevention program was the most gratifying job I ever had (although I am still beholden to the auspices of motherhood). The college classrooms, filled with teachers-to-be, are brimming with energy that I can not only remember, but feel each time I open Facebook or hear from an old student. The satisfaction of knowing I did some good and now I am able to, hopefully, impart a little of my wisdom and a lot of my enthusiasm is a true delight. The college classes don’t know it, but as they ask questions like how to keep kids’ motivated; I am basking in a glorious reminiscence each time I share my stories. My overall message is to keep the love in the classroom. I try not to sound radical or unrealistic when I preach to find a way around the ugly red tape that binds the hands of teachers today, so they won’t be afraid to hug a student or get somewhat personal. A shoulder rub or hug on the way out the door may be the only one that your student may get all year, I remind them. Be firm, but loving and I assure you the love you will get in return is like no other and certainly nothing a larger paycheck could afford you. I find that talking with these soon-to-be teachers makes me miss the classroom sometimes too, but if sharing my history inspires and encourages, than I will keep visiting and writing and hope that this is enough to play a part in spurring more young minds to not be afraid to get in there and teach, regardless of the red tape, tough schools and pathetic pay (I had to say it, because at some point we all have to realize that one the reasons we don’t have more earnest teachers is, because not all great minds are willing to work for peanuts.) When I began Shades of Gray, I never thought about its possible impact. I wrote a story; part of it mine, part the fictional Olivia’s. It didn’t occur to me that its last page was not the end and I couldn’t be happier to not be done.