I grew up in the 1980s, during the Cold War, under the shadow of A Nation at Risk. In school we were taught to face the front and do our own work. There may even have been an intimation that you'd better not share because people might steal it from you. Like the Russians! I functioned very well in this environment, because I'm introverted anyway. If you met me in the morning you would think I was shy. If you met me at night, when I'm tired, you would think I was a dork. Actually I like to think of myself as an American spy.
So when I finished my first novel at age 20, I never let anyone read it. I just started sending it to literary agents, and when I ran out (yes, I probably sent it to every literary agent in existence), I sent it to publishers. When it didn't sell, I wrote another novel. Wash, rinse, repeat, seven times. And though I did have literary representation for a couple of books and I got some nibbles from publishers, I never made a sale.
For book eight, I decided to do something different. I was still deathly afraid of sharing my work with anyone. But not sharing it clearly was getting me nowhere, and the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I am not a good spy.
So I joined writers' groups, both online and in person, and my life changed for the better.
It really is that simple. Writing makes you weird. Or, being weird makes you a writer. In any case, it is hard to be weird. Even the most supportive family and friends do not understand you. Introverted or not, it does you good to be around other writers, who are the only people in the world who know what you're going through. In the bad times they hold you up, and in the good times, they celebrate with you and really appreciate what you've achieved.
Here is my good time! After Going Too Far was named a finalist in the RITA last Thursday, I went to a meeting of my local writers' group, Southern Magic, on Saturday.
Here is what greeted me when I walked in the door. You may know Laura Hayden as an award-winning author of multiple genres or as the director of the RITA awards ceremony in Nashville on July 31. I know her as the president of Southern Magic. Here she is on the floor, bowing to me and saying, "I'm not worthy!"
Southern Magic is about supporting each other in our publishing endeavors. But we feel strongly that author support goes well with a sugar rush. So we have a complicated awards system that often involves cake. Here is mine, brought by best-selling suspense author Christy Reece.
As I said at the meeting, what I love most about being an author is sharing it with my friends. And here they are, including Jean Therkelsen (in the white sweater, with balloons), who had an even bigger celebration because she just made her first sale, a three-book deal to Kensington. Congratulations, Jeanie!
Now that I examine this picture, I'm not sure what Laura (front and center) is holding, but I'm sure it's funny.
I had a lot weighing on me last week before I found out my book was a RITA finalist. I've got a book I adore on submission--and that is a very vulnerable feeling. I expect the proofs and the advance copies of Forget You to show up any hour now, and I'm also hard at work on my MTV Books release for next year. But the weight is not so weighty as it was, and with friends like these to share the burden, it seems a lot lighter.