The Power of One

Hello, Wicked People! Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, watching the leaves begin to change…

The other day something occurred to me. And it freaked me out a little, in the way that profound revelations sometimes do:

Where I’m at, professionally, is attributable to one person. And that person is not me.

Well, of course I had a little something to do with it, and maybe I would have ended up in the same place via a different path if I hadn’t met her, although I’m not at all certain about that.

Let me take you back a few years. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I could never get past the twenty-page mark in any one work. I’d start. Perfectionism and fear (which are pretty much the same thing in my book) would rear their hideous heads. And I’d quit. Then I’d wait a long time, and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One January, I heard about a writers’ group that was starting up at my local library. Now, the public library is about a hundred yards from my house. I wouldn’t even have to get in the car to go. Still, I tried to think of reasons not to. Finally, I looked myself in the eye and accepted that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it on my deathbed. Getting published was not even on my radar–for my own self-respect, I needed to get from “Chapter One” to “The End” and have a whole story, no matter how sucky, in between.

So I put on my boots and coat and hat and scarf and mittens and slogged through the snow to go to that meeting. I stood outside the door in the cold, and almost chickened out. But I went in.

There were six other people there. I sat down next to a woman, and the librarian who was running the group started talking. I stayed. And the woman I sat next to? Well, we connected. She was a little bit ahead of me in her writing journey. She was a  LOT more confident than I was. And we agreed to support each other as we wrote.

A year later, we each had a novel. Mine, with a bit of revision, became Feta Attraction. My friend ultimately decided to self-publish her book, and she asked me to edit it, which I did.

Fast forward a few months, and we had both become members of a bigger writers’ group, the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America (www.ctrwa.org). During the member news portion of the meeting, my friend stood up and proudly announced that she had self-published her novel. And she thanked me for editing it. At lunch, another writer came up to me and asked if I would edit her novel. And so, a freelance editing business was born, just like that.

Now I’ve left my unfulfilling corporate job far behind me, and I work full-time in the book business. I can honestly say that I am living my dream, and I love what I do for a living. So Jen M., my very dear friend, rock, and partner-in-crime, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your friendship changed my life.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your Jen M.

 

I Don’t Have Time to Read

I don’t have time to read any more. Ironic, isn’t it?

All my life I’ve been a reader, starting with Winnie the Pooh, then graduating to Nancy Drew, and moving on to a broader world of books as I grew older. And when I was in my twenties, I thought I had all the time in the world. Since I wasn’t dating a heck of a lot (like, uh, never?) I had plenty of quiet time on Saturday nights to read—classic science fiction, contemporary novels, and of course, mysteries.

TBR pile 1

The pile next to the bed

I watch Jeopardy now, and I’m amazed by how many older books I read and still remember. After college I did have a life—friends, marriage, a child, travel, home improvement, community activities. When did I read all those books? But I know I did, because I kept almost all of them.

And then after a long time I started writing in 2001. I figured by then I had collected enough knowledge of styles and themes and genres and whatever to try my hand at it, and I was stubborn enough to stick to it until I got it right (it took a while, and (unsolicited endorsement) it would not have been possible if I hadn’t had a working spouse with an income).

I’ve heard many of my writer friends say that they can’t read within their own genre while they’re writing because they’re afraid of imitating what they’re reading. That’s never been a problem for me (maybe because I can’t analyze styles all that well). I love to read cozies. I try to read the new ones that my friends publish—but there are just too darn many of them (the new books, not the friends!), and they keep coming. I applaud their productivity, and their creativity, not to mention their energy. But when do I get to read them?

TBR pile 2

The stack in the hallway

Then there are the books I know I won’t have time to read any time soon—mostly non-fiction—because if I don’t buy it when I see it or read an intriguing review, I’ll forget and never find it again. That stack is about five feet high. Every now and then I actually manage to read (and finish!) one. And I won’t even talk about the books I plan to use for research (such as The History of Underclothes, that might come in handy someday).

There are a few writers whose books I will read as soon as I can. There are a lot more writers whose books I want to read if I can ever find the time. On the flip side, there are writers whose books I reject for purely arbitrary reasons (and I apologize, because I’m sure they’re well-written and interesting, but I have to chop something). For example, I find it hard to read historical fiction, in part because I was an academic and I keep questioning the accuracy of the facts presented. I don’t read science fiction any more. I’ve never gone near YA or new adult or any of the “new” genres—no time. I used to read women’s fiction, and thank goodness it’s kind of disappeared (what? That author is still alive and writing?)

What about you? How do you as readers decide what to read? By genre? Based on past books by an author that you’ve enjoyed, or because someone has recommended it to you?