By its very nature, writing fiction is a lonely business. It’s just you and the words that you can wring out of your mind. It’s tough — not in the sense that, you know, actual physical labor is tough — but on the bad days, writing fiction can leave you wanting to do something (anything) else.
The hardest part is when there’s really no support. No one in your real life knows what it’s like to beat their heads against that particular brick wall until the skin breaks and the blood flows (that’s a metaphor, folks).
It’s one reason I crave friendships with other writers. They KNOW. They understand where I’m at, where I’ve been, and (hopefully) where I’m going. They’ve been rejected, dejected, and (finally) selected. I have very little literary support in Tuscaloosa — which is a shame. The University of Alabama has a great creative writing program, but that’s about it. There are no writers’ groups in the city (that I know of) that aren’t associated with the university.
This past Saturday, I got to attend a meeting of Southern Magic, the Birmingham-area chapter of the Romance Writers of America. No, I don’t write romance, but I had a chance to be in the same room with two writers I greatly admire: Jennifer Echols and Lexi George. I got the chance to meet several other writers, either published or agented.
Let’s just say I was a wee bit intimidated. I rarely ever have social anxiety — but on this day, I had it. Upon introducing myself to Jennifer, I think I gave her my professional background in about two minutes. I shut up when I realized what an idiot I must’ve sounded like. Hopefully she won’t think I’m too insane. (Just insane enough, I suppose.)
But I shouldn’t have been too worried. They were all SO welcoming, so fun, and so supportive. Just a great group of folks. And I got reminded that even though writing is a solitary pursuit, there IS support out there. You have to look for it sometimes — but I was fortunate to visit a group of folks who just sort of accepted me into their meeting with few, if any, reservations.
Lexi even said something nice about the premise of my WIP, which thrilled me to no end. When a professional novelist says you have an interesting premise, it’s the sort of thing that buoys you in the dark days before publication.
It didn’t seem to matter that I don’t exactly write romance — the important thing, I think, was that I was also a writer looking to publication as the goal for my work. I can’t say enough good things, especially about Jen, Lexi, Laura Hayden, Heather Leonard and Lisa Dunick. All were super friendly, open, and just generally awesome. Thanks to everyone there for their kindness during my visit. 🙂
The program (on how to pitch to an agent) was hugely informative and really confirmed to me that I need to attend a professional conference (most likely Killer Nashville this summer).
The group’s attitude and acceptance gave me a great dose of energy and inspiration to get back to the keyboard and pound out this WIP. For that, I owe them a huge debt of gratitude.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to officially join them, but I absolutely support their goals of advancing the professional interests of writers, as well as encouraging and advocating for (romance) writers — though, as I said, I certainly felt that support, even though I’m not exactly a romance writer.
The lesson I took away from Saturday, though, was this: being around other writers is life support for me. Thanks to Southern Magic for giving me a huge boost when I really needed it.