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: