Friday, February 08, 2008

Have a Heart

When JP and I made our ten year plan back at the start of 2006, my first step towards becoming a published author was to get back into the community. I needed to meet people, learn what was out there, find where the market was, remember how everything worked. And so I joined RWA and a few subchapters and I started reading author blogs. I noticed that one person in particular, Diana Peterfreund, was very helpful -- she answered questions with knowledge, she posted thoughtful and meaningful blog posts, and she just seemed like a downright cool person. So I always took care to read her posts and I learned SO much about the industry.

And I met a few more people, slowly learned more and the the summer came and it was time for the RWA National Convention. At this time I knew *of* people. I read a lot of blogs and yahoo group messages, but I was generally a lurker or one comment of so many that I was pretty sure that no one knew *me.* In fact, the only person I really knew was Diana and she was so sweet when she met me -- she made me feel like I wasn't quite the outsider that I felt. I actually like social situations and meeting new people -- but try going to a massive convention where you know *ONE* person (who everyone else knows as well) and things can get scary. But I forced myself to a chapter cocktail party and there I met up with two more writers who took me under their wing: Erica Ridley and Kelly Remick. These girls knew I was alone and they introduced me to their friends, made sure I was included. In fact, I'm a member of their chapter -- TARA -- even though I live states away because I felt so included and welcomed at Nationals.

I decided that this was the type of person I wanted to be. As I gained more knowledge of the industry, I wanted to share that information and take the time to pay forward all of the goodwill and patience that I was shown (and oh, was there a lot of patience involved when it came to me!). I wanted to make that new person (or any person) feel welcome and comfortable. I've been on the other side -- in the hotel room at Nationals terrified of walking into a room where everyone else is friends and trying to find a way in or trying to learn the ropes of the writing profession.

This is part of who I am now, as a writer, and I really enjoy it. I like trying to help out as much as I can (and I fully recognize I have SOO much to learn). I like encouraging writers, I like trying to inspire people and show them that yes -- you can sell from a query letter.

At the same time, I also to try to stay away from drama and intrigue. I try not to indulge in the negative and backbiting. I've been told it exists (some people think it runs rampant) and I've always been *so* proud of the people I know in the writing community because I feel like everyone I know is supportive, helpful and friendly. Of course not everyone is going to be besties, but I feel like the people I know don't bring personal issues out into the world for everyone to see and comment on.

I bring all of this up, because recently I saw some ugliness in a moderately public forum. I am not going to get into details because remember -- I like to stay away from the drama -- but there was miscommunication (what else, it's the internet) etc etc. Here's the thing -- I don't think it's appropriate to threaten the careers of our fellow writers. Bitch about them to your friends, fantasize that their books get riddled with typos, whatever. We are all colleagues here and we should all be professionals -- it's about the writing and shouldn't be about the personal lives of the writers and the choices they make. You will never see me speak ill of another writer personally on this forum -- I do not believe in it. I have no problem critiquing books, or discussing the implications of plagiarism, etc -- we're writers and writing is our career.

One thing about having a blog is that it's really easy to think that what you say might matter somehow. And if anything I say ever matters, I hope it is this: we are a community and we are all doing the best we can to follow our dreams and we need to support each other. Over the years, I've watched people get jealous and think that they can only succeed if other people fail. I disagree. I look at the surge of fantastic YA literature over the past few years and I look at all the amazing books on my shelves and I realize that it is because so many writers shine and succeed that YA is doing so well.

As a former litigator who could be so forcefully disagreeable at times, I find it kind of funny to be saying these things. But I know that I have benefited from the generosity of other writers. And that's the type of writer I would like to be.


Vicki said...

I'm so glad you are a sister TARAN. I wish you could have come for the retreat.

Your blog is one of my must reads. The knowledge that you share is wonderful. :D

As for the drama, I'm with you and so glad that we don't seem to have that in our group. It is one of the really special things about TARA.

Hey, are you going to Nationals this year? Hope so!

Diana Peterfreund said...

Awwww, thanks sweetie! How could I have missed this post when it first came out?

Anonymous said...

Vicki -- you're so sweet!! I so wish I could have gone to the retreat. I was just stupid not to sign up earlier (it was right when I was selling my book and I think I was too overwhelmed to think about anything else). I doubt I'm going to Nationals (too far away!!) but I plan on making it down to Florida at some point!

Diana -- you've been a bit busy :)

Anonymous said...

I cringe whenever I see writers being catty and melodramatic on their blogs.

Never mind the childishness of it. Google is cement. It'll come back to haunt them.

Lenora Bell said...

I completely agree, Carrie. I stay out of all the drama, too. It's interesting that you joined a chapter in another state. I never even thought about doing that.

I met Erica recently when she taught a storyboarding workshop and she is so sweet and smart! I'll have to check out Diana's blog...

Erica Ridley said...

fantasize that their books get riddled with typos


I [heart] you, Carrie! You're the best! (And I totally can't imagine you as forcefully disagreeable. Boggles my mind.)

So glad we met!!!