Tuesday, January 29, 2008

In the Company of Like Minds

In the Company of Like Minds...
Now since most of us here are romance readers, the reference in the title may be a little obscure, but it alludes to a wonderful science fiction novel from the late nineties—In the Company of Mind—by a talented, brand-new author named Steven Piziks. Its sequel, Corporate Mentality, was the first paperback that ever had my name in it—on the thank you page. I was a graduate student in biology at the time, and Steven had gone back to school to add to his teaching credentials. We had many common friends, and being two of the few married couples in that circle, Steven and his wife quickly became close friends of my husband and me. As well as slaving away at his studies, Steven was doggedly pursuing his dream of being a published author. He wrote, revised, and submitted with a diligence I didn’t fully appreciate until many years later. When he needed some physiological information for his novels, a few bits of my thesis research went into it, and a few years later, I got to see my name in print. What a thrill.

At the time, I had no idea that all the stories bouncing around in my head would one day demand telling, and that some years later, I too would find myself being an aspiring writer, albeit of a genre less appealing to most of our geeky friends. I’d say Steven mentored me, but that wouldn’t be entirely correct. I believe he would have, if I’d been open to it, but that wasn’t my path. I needed to forge forward on my own. But he did make the occasional comment here and there that kept me believing in myself enough to move forward on that path—I’m not sure I’d even told him I was writing, for much of that time. But just knowing that someone I knew had made it to publication was a huge boost. I knew it could happen. And I knew from watching Steven that it didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Writing is WORK. That was an invaluable lesson to learn.

In 2001, I finished a rough draft of my first novel, submitted it, and was summarily rejected (possibly with more kindness than that awful book deserved). I did join RWA, and the Greater Detroit chapter. The next year I joined my first critique group—with mixed results. Most of us had little in common, and it was not a terribly effective group. But I made friends of other writers, and that was a gift without price. Spending time at chapter and critique meetings and getting to know that there are other people out there whose minds work in the same weird, twisty ways as my own—it was an exciting, eye-opening experience. I was not alone! From my chapter and critique group, I learned so much about the craft and business of publishing, I can’t begin to explain it.

Teachers go to work everyday and in the brief moments between crises, talk to other teachers. Engineers go to work and maybe have lunch with other engineers. Likewise for doctors, accountants, lawyers, and mechanics. But writing is by nature such a solitary profession that it is very easy to withdraw into ourselves and forget that we have, for lack of a better word, co-workers. We need to have them. We need to know that someone understands why we cry over a bad review, even if the reviewer was clearly insane. We need to know someone who can share our elation when a new project is contracted. A spouse who mutters, “Well, of course it was!” is encouraging, but they never quite get it. To stay sane, or remotely able to pass for sane, at any rate, we need to have our water-cooler network. Whether that’s a monthly meeting, or an on-line chat loop. Face it, a lot of the great writers in history did go off the deep end. Maybe if they’d had a solid critique group, someone would have told them to seek help in time.

In 2006, I sold my first novel, and Steven was one of the first people I told, along with my RWA chapter. Since then I have had ten more contracts (or is it eleven?) and each one is still as exciting as the first. One of the best things that has come of it was my introduction to the on-line romance writing community. Now it’s here where I jump up and down or sulk as reviews and milestones occur. The encouragement and support I’ve received from my new cyber-friends has far outweighed the occasional bickering and backbiting I’ve seen. To all of you out there who have congratulated, commiserated, or helped me find that elusive bit of information, thank you, thank you, thank you! T

Tomorrow I have a new story released (Stone and Earth, from Ellora’s Cave—OK, I had to get the plug in somewhere) and it is dedicated to the members of the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, because without them, I am very sure I wouldn’t be here today. One of the more thrilling moments of the last year came when Steven emailed me and asked if I’d like to join his critique group for professional writers. Professional writer? Me? Really? Coming from someone you respect and admire, that’s such a huge validation. Of course I leapt at the chance and now have several new friends who support me and my writing. Some are multi-published with big NY houses, others have sold a short story or two, but they are all seriously working at their craft and careers. When one of them tells me “well done” I still beam like a kindergartener given a gold star.

So my one piece of advice for other authors? Find a support network and treat them like the gods and goddesses they are. Nurture and treasure those friendships with other writers. Whether you find your network through an organized group, an on-line chat, or a handful of friends at a coffeehouse, find yourself some like minds, and rejoice in their company!
Anyway, thanks for listening to me ramble. You can find out more about me at any of the links below.
Get your Happy-Ever-After Fix at...


Kelly Kirch said...

Author Support Unit reporting for duty. Hmm Author supporter is that like an athletic supporter? We lift and separate so you can reach the keyboard better??

Excellent blog Cindy.

suzanne said...

Your blog was excellent along with your writing!

Amarinda Jones said...

Excellent blog as always

Sally Painter said...

Welcome Cindy! We are thrilled to have you on the blog today!

I loved reading your post and it seems to be a story that is shared by so many of us.

Congrats to your friend, too. It is always so great to have others on the path with you.

Best of luck on your new EC release!

Anny Cook said...

Ahhh, great blog. As one of my critiquers, you have to know that you aren't the only one with a twisty mind!

Susan Macatee said...

Great blog!

And I know exactly what you're saying. For years I tried writing on my own and got exactly nowhere.

Since I joined RWA and a few of the specialized chapters, I was introduced to a great group of writers who offer help, support, cheers and a virtual shoulder to cry on.

I wouldn't still be writing with my first ever romance contract under my belt without each and every one of them.

Sheryl said...

It's always nice to know others are as stressed as you, as worried as you, as excited (eventually), as totally crackers...but in the nicest possible way!

Good Luck!

Judith Leger said...

Great post Cindy!

I know I would have given up a long time ago if it hadn't been for my fellow writers and friends who believe in me! Thanks for posting!

Ciana Stone said...

Thanks for blogging with us Cindy and giving us a look behind the scenes into how you got into the writing game!

Congratulations on your new release, girl. I hope it sells like hot cakes!

Hugs and thanks again!

Sandra Cox said...

Great blog, Cindy!

Nicole Austin said...

Hey, Cindy. Thanks for hanging out with us. Congrats on your book release!

I know what you mean about how important that support group of people who have had the same expereiences is. I was lost until I developed my support group. They are priceless!

Georgie Lee said...

Great story. I love your cover :-)

Deb said...

Cindy, love your blog. It is nice to know that being an author takes work and always has it's challanges.
Congrats on your new EC release!