I’m coming up on the tenth anniversaries of my first two published books.

The arrival of Auralia’s Colors was a great thrill, a dream come true, a privilege — all the clichés. To see some of my work published and set out on tables in Barnes and Noble… I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Nevertheless, I’m a little discouraged as that decade anniversary approaches. Publication inspired in me a belief and a hope that, by writing and publishing books, I might indeed find opportunity to do the work that college was supposed to prepare me for. I’ve always aimed to serve as a writer and a teacher: working with students eager to learn about creative writing or film studies or some other aspect of art, imagination, and faith. But five well-received books (one of which is has become a popular textbook at the school where I work) and 10 years later, those doors have still not opened. It’s become pretty clear to me that academic degrees, not publications or experience, are the credentials that really matter to schools when it comes to persuading them that I might have something to offer. Here’s a lesson, aspiring writers: A pile of books, many hundreds of articles, and 15 years of public speaking are apparently not much of a resumé if you’re hoping to teach.

But other days, I feel differently.

I think of all the friends I’ve found among my readers. I wouldn’t trade them for the fortune I would have made if my books had been best-sellers. I think of the cities, schools, and churches around the world I’ve been able to visit on invitations prompted by those books. My world might still be very small if it hadn’t gone this way.

And every so often, something happens that tells me I need to revise my understanding of what it means to teach. Today, I received a note from a teacher in Ipswich, Massachusetts — a friend whom I had just seen last weekend at a writers retreat. She said:

Today in Intro to Creative Writing, I arrived a little jet-lagged, and I asked students to talk in pairs about the kind of writing they wish to emulate. Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Vonnegut, Tolkien, Shel Silverstein, Judith Viorst, Judy Blume. The seventh or eighth student said, “Jeffrey Overstreet.” I asked which title. “The whole Auralia’s Colors series, but especially [The Ale Boy’s Feast].”

I said I’d just spent some time at a retreat with you, and she was almost undone. After class, she said, “I’m in love with the Ale Boy.” I said, “Well, who wouldn’t be?”

Now, I don’t share this to boast. I suspect that many little-known writers (novelists, poets, bloggers) like myself occasionally get a note like this; it’s probably very common. No… I share this for two other reasons:

First: To impress upon you that it can mean so much to a writer or an artist if you send them a little note about your appreciation of their work. This note from a friend made such a difference for my spirit that I’m compelled to pass it on: This week, I’m going to let some artists know what they mean to me. Those few lines on Facebook came to me like a shot of adrenalin, or a cure for what ails my spirits — a realization that the hardest work of my life may not be of any particular value to employers, but it was valuable to some readers here and there. It made a difference for someone somewhere, and even if I hadn’t found out about it, that would still be the case. I want to give that gift of encouragement to the artists whose work most moves me.

Second: In today’s publishing world, the publishers look to the authors to be self-advertisers, and I have not blogged about my four-volume series, The Auralia Thread, for a while. So, hear this: It’s still out there! Auralia’s Colors, Cyndere’s Midnight, Raven’s Ladder, and The Ale Boy’s Feast are still a bargain at online bookstores. And they still carry my heart in their pages. Those novels and my memoir of dangerous moviegoing, Through a Screen Darklyare the best fruit of born of my education.

And I hope they bring you some pleasure.

There. I’ve done my self-promoting duty.

I’m not going to go around claiming my books are “essential reading” or anything. When I read them now, I see that I still have a lot of room to grow as a writer. And I’m not going to spend my creative energies marketing myself — I spend close to 40 hours a week marketing a school for what its students and alumni do with their educations, and that’s enough marketing for me.

But I know from the joy that I feel when I write and when I teach that, even if they don’t earn me a paycheck, these are the things that God made me to do. Eric Liddell’s famous line from Chariots of Fire — “When I run, I feel [God’s] pleasure!” — comes to mind when I do what I do best. Even if I only get to do those things on my lunch hour or in my “spare time,” I offer these things with enthusiasm to those who will receive them.

If you’re at all intrigued… enjoy. If not, revisit one of your favorite books, albums, or movies… and then send the artist a note. It won’t cost you anything but a minute. And it can make somebody’s day.

It might even do better than that. Me, I feel more compelled than ever to write another story as soon as possible. Maybe I’ll end up just giving it away. Why not? There are many more rewarding jobs out there than those that anybody gets hired to do.