Friday, March 27, 2009

Writers Can Have Friends

Before I tell you exactly why writers can have friends and how, and where, and whether they really should... let me announce that we have a winner for this month's giveaway promotion.

Who, you ask?

Melinda Walker, dear heart, you have won the Patti Hill library of books! Now all we need is your address. Would you please contact us by clicking the contact tab above, and let us know what it is? You're in for some happy reading hours, and we can't wait to send you your gift.

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness, but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day." ~ Ernest Hemingway

Ahem. We should note that Hemingway took his own life. In all due respect to the great icon of Western literature, um, well, we can do better. At least in one way. At least we can palliate our loneliness and feel just fine about it.

I remember too well how it felt. I had some notable encouragers, but they were up against formidable foes, both inside and outside my skin.

You've heard the inner voices: "Look at your work: it's amateur stuff. Why waste your time on it when you could do something useful? Something profitable? Something practical? Something normal? Anything, anything else would be better..."

Then there were the outer voices, notable not so much for what they said but for the way they said it. I remember telling people I wanted to be a writer, and they'd get this wonky look on their faces and say, "oh, really?"

I must be fair. Perhaps those folks were giving me encouraging looks, and it was those voices, those endless voices in my head that turned the whole thing ugly.

But it was ugly. I faced eternity, or the lack of it, each day. And nothing got written.

Then I met a friend, Sharon Huffman, who talked about literature and thought as though they were the most important things to talk about. One day I ventured six timid little words: "I want to be a writer." And she took me seriously! She told me I had to get myself to The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

My husband, who also took me seriously, gave me money we couldn't afford to waste, and pushed me out the door.

When I got there, I met hundreds and hundreds of people of my own species. I didn't know I had a species, but there we all were, pecking for sustenance among the words, ideas and dreams growing low to the ground beside the blossoming cherry tree.

I tried to start a short story and found a mentor, Gayle Roper, who said I'd goofed and started a novel, instead.

I found a friend, our own Sharon Souza, who had made a similar mistake, so she and I began pacing each other, all the way to finished, published manuscripts. Two of 'em apiece, so far.

I found other friends, among them, Debbie Fuller Thomas, who shared the journey.

And most recently, my agent, Janet K. Grant and her partner, Wendy Lawton, introduced me to Bonnie Grove, Patti Hill, and Latayne Scott, so that the circle of friendships could expand to include each other.

And to include you.

And what is the good of such friendships? Let me haul out my Bible, and turn to Hebrews 10:24 (WEB): "Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works..."

That's what we're here for, all of us friends. To provoke each other to love for our readers, for our craft, for the God we write for. To provoke each other to good... well, ultimately, to good books.

Now, some footnotes:
  • Garrison Keillor has a great page about famous literary friendships.
  • Perhaps you are a writer looking to find more of your own species. Please consider attending The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this coming April 3-7. There is still time. All six of us Novel Matters ladies will be there, and we would love to meet you. (Let us know if you're coming so we can share a meal together.) Not only that, but the place will be crawling with authors and agents and editors, and you need to acclimate yourself to their presence if you ever want to take your writing seriously. If money is an issue, contact us by clicking the tab above. We may have an idea that will help.


Anonymous said...

Oh yay! (It was kinda fun seeing my name on your blog this morning.) Thank you so much! I’m really looking forward to those books!

And Kathleen’s post was so pertinent, too. My Inner Doubter kicked in yesterday. (I’m far enough along in the writing process that I didn’t pay it too much attention, but it’s not a nice feeling at all.) So it helped me get a good start this morning to see some of those things expressed by a friend, as she said.

Lori Benton said...

I'll be at Mount Hermon. I'm looking forward to meeting you all. Thanks for sharing your story, Kathleen. I, too, have found cherished friendship with fellow authors scattered far and wide. They are among God's greatest gifts.

He connects us, and His Spirit inspires us to encourage and seek encouragement. It's there for the asking, and the giving.

Now I must go away to my solitary place, and get some writing done. :)

Latayne C Scott said...

What a great post, Katy. It's true that though for most writers their job must primarily be done alone, we crave feedback.

Hey, Melinda! Congrats! You are in for a real treat!

And Lori -- come find us at Mount Hermon. We'll be the group of ladies with the welcome-mat grins.

Latayne C Scott

Anonymous said...

Lori, we look forward to meeting you too.

I worked for years in a vacuum. Years! It wasn't really until I went to Mt. Hermon the first time that I began to develop a writing community, includng my own wonderful critique partner, Katy Popa. I remember sitting in the dining hall one night at the conference, hardly able to hold back the tears, as I realized I was in a room with 400 other people who understood me! That alone was worth the cost of the conference.

Kathleen Popa said...

Melinda, congratulations on winning Patti's books. You are going to love them. Yes, you are among friends, and it makes our day to think you've found empathy and encouragement here.

Lori! I'm delighted you will be at Mount Hermon. Please do find us. We'll be so pleased to meet you.

Have I mentioned that this year's conference will be the first time all six of us have ever been together? So yes, we'll be the ones with the welcome-mat grins.

Bonnie Grove said...

At Mt. Hermon, I'll be the voice crying out in the wilderness:
"HALP! I'm LOST! Come get me!"


Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

I've got a tentitive plan (read: dream) of attending once I've sold my first mms.

I know that's probaly the wrong order to do things in, but I'm in Alaska, so it's no small thing to go to *anything* out of state.

Certainly a hard thing to go alone. I've never had to drive "blind" in a new city, and I get nervous just thinking about it. But I have time...

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Amy Jane, you should come. Considering the economy, I'm sure they have room. You can arrange in advance to have their van pick you up at the San Jose airport and take you straight there (& back). No sweat.

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Driving is just one element. Shipping and sleeping combined are more than a house payment, so nothing that's going to happen "spontaneously."

We'll wait till I've produced enough income to cover some of that cost.

Patti Hill said...

Melinda: I have the books signed and packaged. I'll be off to the post office in the morning. I hope you enjoy them.

Lori: I'm thrilled we'll get to see your lovely face!

Amy Jane: I first tried to attend Mount Hermon in 1975! I didn't get there until 2006. I appreciate that some things require planning. Until then, you're in the right place. Write. Write. Write. And then stop by and see us.