Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Gotta Have Friends . . .


I was delighted to stumble upon a Blog Hop made for writers, one that addresses one of our less talked about idiosyncrasies: We’re all in need of a security blanket when it comes to our careers. You’d think after 25 years in the biz, I’d have an obnoxious amount of confidence. Not so. All it takes is one review to put me in a fetal position, just like any other author, from first completed book to USA Today.
Writers often get the mistaken idea that what we do is a competition. That we’re cage fighters going after the same prize, that it’s a cut throat business if we want to get ahead. Silly writers, you gotta have friends.

Writing is the most isolating profession I can think of. An idea with only a flashing cursor and green screen for a sounding board. No time clock. No co-workers. No reason to brush your teeth or get out of your pjs. Just you and your muse in it for the long haul. Day after day. Alone. Geez, that’s depressing!

That’s how I started out in my writing career. Just me against that army of my peers scrambling for publisher slots, clinging to my “What’s in it for me?” mantra. This was before the Internet, before writers groups, before I knew there was another flesh and blood writer living in my state! I had no creative social skills. I was reluctant to share, unwilling to participate. It was just me and that future bestseller struggling to make a mark, afraid of all those around me who held that same goal. If it was lonely at the bottom, I could only imagine how solitary it would be at the top, trying to push down all those eager newcomers who would try to steal my flag.

It wasn’t until I met two wonderful writers who had no reason to help me, but extended their hands anyway, that I understood what it meant to get the most from what we do.

You gotta have friends.

My first guardian angel I met as a conference virgin in Seattle in the madhouse that’s RWA. I was overwhelmed and reeling when an enthusiastic woman approached me to say she’d been looking for me everywhere. She’d judged my book in the then Golden Medallion contest and wanted to tell me that if she’d had her way, I would have won. She took me under her wing as a newbie, talked to me about the industry, about its quirks and ups and downs and how to deal with emotions that only a writer can understand. When I was looking for an agent, she introduced me to hers. She became a warm, supportive fairy godmother during my early career, and even though we only saw each other at conference time, her genuine concern and friendship kept me going through those rocky years. She was a contemporary author. Her name was Debbie Macomber.

Mid-career came with new challenges, mainly the slice and dice of midlist authors who were now floundering and looking desperately for homes. Many dropped out altogether, but I remembered another acquaintance and a conversation we’d had at a local restaurant over our fickle choice of employment. She was the first to break the veil of silence and honestly talk numbers with me, to compare contracts, to clue me in to the business of being a writer. It wasn’t just luck. It was work, she told me. You had to make your own luck to get what you wanted. We both loved and wanted to write paranormal romance but the bottom was gone from that market. I moved on to another genre but she had a different idea. She was going to make a place for the books she wanted to read and write by beginning one of the first genre small presses. And when I needed a place to go, she took me along for the ride. Working on a shoestring with her garage as her warehouse, she launched unique author voices with the TLC only another writer could understand. It was the first time I’d ever had a say in my cover, my blurb, and in all the other elements that actually sold my book. She breathed life back into my vampire romance series that had been buried years before, and even after fifteen years, I still get royalties. We were a team, getting books into the hands of readers who’d love them. She was the founder, publisher and editor of ImaJinn Books. Her name was Linda Kichline.

I cried like a baby when I heard Debbie’s name spoken during the premier of her Hallmark Channel television series, Cedar Cove. Just a short while ago, I cried again when I heard Linda had passed away after suffering a stroke.

Getting to the top just became less important than who accompanies me on the journey.

You gotta have friends.

Who has been the most helpful and supportive of your career? Take a minute to thank them for making the road a less lonesome place.


Follow and Hop Along:

11 comments:

  1. Friends, indeed. You gotta have 'em. Nancy, you've certainly emulated your angels by being one to others, including me. Thanks for all your help and support.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'd be dead without my friends. I"m convinced of it. This writing support group has helped me cope with a lot of my writing angst. Nice to meet a newbie. Welcome.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So true, Nancy. I think the internet has changed the very nature of writing. I have some great virtual friends I'll probably never meet.

    BTW, your book looks fascinating.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow. Truly and deeply. Thank you for sharing this. I had a writer take me under her wing as well, when I began this journey for real instead of just in my head. Her name was Jill Jones and she became one of those sliced. I miss her books, but she is still a wonderful inspiration to me. You continue the 'tradition' by giving so much to this post. Thank you again.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah, this brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me of my first critique partner, Jan. She has since passed away too. It's quite wonderful the way God brings these people into our lives. It's a blessing.

    I'm guest hosting today, Nancy. It's so nice to meet you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a wonderful idea to connect writers! I'm so glad I found it. Thanks for your hard work to put us all together.

      Delete
  6. Thank you, dear friend. I have your voice in my head when I write. You keep saying, "Watch those repetitions, Girl. No more passive voice! Get busy and write!"
    Hugs to you for all you do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As long as my voice is the ONLY one in your head at the moment. I don't want to share. Now get busy and write!

      Delete
  7. Love this!
    I'm barely starting out now but I agree that it isn't a competition at all. We all need friends in this lonely job.

    It is so sad about Debbie and Linda, but you are right, its more important to focus on those who are with you on the journey. Very touching post.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yes, writing can be a lonely road and you are right, you shouldn't have to walk it alone. Welcome to the group.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a beautiful, touching post. I can honestly say I have never written as much or as well as I have since I founded a writing group with three other women. The support, the cameraderie and even the unspoken comptativeness between us has all served to make us better writers.

    Writing only seems like a solitary pursuit, but you have to get out and create a support network to really live a writing life.

    ReplyDelete