Happily Ever Grateful

“It will never hurt your career to help another author.” Julia Quinn included this admonition in a recent speech to a group of romance writers, myself included. She had other gems to impart, but this one stood out to me and garnered immediate applause.

I haven’t been writing that long, but I’m confident of my facts when I say there is an ethic—not just a habit, not a tendency, but an ethic—among romance writers of mutual support. When I go to writers’ workshops, I hear the science fiction/mystery/thriller/literary writers complimenting the romance writers on the extent to which we encourage each other, share what we know, and go a long, long way to get each other published.

This attitude of shared endeavor was an enormous surprise to me when I started writing. I’m a lawyer, and maybe that predisposes me to adversariness. I’m also used to figuring things out for myself, relying on myself, and generally making my own way—and those characteristics were present before I studied law (says my mother).

So when a book of mine hits the shelves, and somebody emails me offering to give me a guest slot on their blog, I’m surprised and thankful.

When I sit down at a signing, and the authors on either side of me immediately introduce themselves and admire my book covers, I feel bashful.

When readers shoot me “enjoyed your book/keep ‘em coming!” emails, I am shamelessly flattered that they’d take the time to appreciate something they paid hard earned coin to own.

When my editor spontaneously gathers up all her authors for a meal at a conference, and gives us a chance to hear from one another about what we’re working on, I forget the food on my plate.

Having my books for sale is encouraging for somebody who does not view another twenty years in the courtroom with boundless glee, but being in a healthy community of writers is… well, it ought to be the last item in one of those credit card ads, the one described as priceless. People pay money to spend time in groups where they’re listened to, encouraged, mentored, made welcome, and supported. Short of family and the occasional church group, that kind of interaction is rare and precious.

All of which is to say, I’m grateful to write romance novels. In the greater world, and the literary world in particular, romance novels are not considered a significant contribution. Our readers feel differently, because, as Julia Quinn also said, “we make people happy, and that matters.”

I’m proud to associate with the people I know who write romance. The overwhelming majority of them are generous, courageous, kind and honorable. Maybe it’s because we believe in the love we write about, maybe it’s because writing is a fundamentally humanizing pursuit.

I don’t know why I’m privileged to associate with such a group, but I’m profoundly grateful to call myself one of them.

What about you? What was your first experience with being part of a group you were proud of and grateful to?

To one commenter below, I’ll send a signed copy of “Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight.”

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29 comments on “Happily Ever Grateful

  1. I can honsetly say I was most proud that I was a Girl Scout. What a great organization teaching young girls to believe in themselves and make the most of the world around them, improving it and making it a better place for ALL people. Looking back I am proud to have been a part of such a wonderful community of young girls who have grown into fabulous ladies! Now, 20-plus years later they are still my friends and will be for a long, long time!

    Now, that being said, I am grateful to my GS friends and family for being so accepting of each other. My troop was a bit of a black sheep full of artist personalities and some of us (myself included) didn’t always “play well with others”. That’s okay because we played well with each other! Needless to say we taught each other how to navigate the harsh waters of adolencence and were able to provide guidance during difficult times.

    But most importantly, we had fun doing it! It didn’t matter that S- wasn’t the best student or that J- had personality quirks that others didn’t understand, or that Your’s Truly issued honesty with a bluntness that tends to offend. What we knew was that we were there to support each other. And when the world at large forced its way into our lives, we would all stand together against it, daring us to bow down.

    We never did.

    We never do.

    And for that I am infinately grateful to Julliete Gordon Low for Girl Scouts of America and to S-, J-, M-, L-, M-, K-, L-, S-, A-, and the rest of the Black Sheep of Orange COunty.

    • Christina, Scott Peck, of the old “Road Less Traveled” fame, also wrote a book called, “The Different Drum,” about what makes for a true community. His first experience with it was as an adolescence in a Quaker school. One hallmark of such a group is that every member is valued as they are–the price of admission is that you are to be your best self, not contort yourself into something acceptable to the group.

      I’ll buy an extra box of mint thins this year with your comment in mind.

  2. When I was a young mother I belonged to a mother’s group and it was wonderful to have friends to share all your fears and joys with. We could get advice from each other on what stages we were going through with our child and it was just nice to have people who knew exacly what you were feeling. There were only 8 of us, but we were all pregnant around the same time. It was like they had become family.

    • What a wonderful time to find some acceptance and support! As if parenting isn’t one of the toughest, most important jobs on the planet, and yet we undertake it largely by trial and error.

      Makes me wonder where the young dads go to support each other…?

  3. After retiring from my career, I took a job with an agency runnung their School Crossing Guard program. I soon realized that the guards had a very high sense of togetherness, loyalty, and job pride that far surpassed any of my previous jobs. I was with this group for over 5 years and was always aware of the priveledge of having been so well accepted into their ranks.

    • The job of crossing guard is another one of those important, taken for granted positions in life. I saw somebody doing it last week on a college campus. He knew the kids, he shook one young guy’s hand, and he gave the cars the thumbs up when everybody was safely up on the sidewalk.
      The guard was elderly, but invested in his job, and doing what he could to brighten a few people’s days as he took care of business. Whatever we’re paying him, it’s not enough.

  4. The first place was my church group in high school. As a kid, I loved to read, I loved school, and I was a raging introvert (all of which still apply). Not a recipe for being popular in school. But at church group, I found a group of other kids like me, and we all liked each other as ourselves, which was pretty amazing for a 15 year old nerd.

    • There is more true community on the margins than at the center. After a while, it makes dealing with the center something of a chore when you know how much richer relationships can be.

      And who doesn’t need some good company at age 15?

  5. I’ve been part of various organizations/groups over the years. Girl Scouts, marching band, church youth group. And they have all been good experiences. I had a wonderful group of friends at my last school, but I’ve found having a group that doesn’t have the same career as me is wonderful.

    I know that everyone (EVERYONE) gets tired of me talking about my CrossFit box. It is so much more than a gym. It is a community. We’ve celebrated birthdays and mourned unexpected loss. We’ve traveled together. We’ve remodeled the gym (well, they did, I was out of town). Part of the philosophy of CrossFit is about creating a community where everyone is welcome, everyone is encouraged, and everyone is pushed to do their best. I think all of this is a huge part of why people stick with CrossFit. It’s not just about the fitness; it’s also about the people.

    • No, Sabrina, we are not sick of hearing you be enthusiastic about something so important and positive in your life. One of my British friends once observed that Americans have no well established “third place.” We go to work, we go home… there’s no communal turf for many of us, a place to go and knock back a pint, to be social if we want to, or just quiet if we don’t. The village pub can serve this purpose, or the library, but why not the gym? You can hit it hard, or just do some light cardio while you visit with the person on the next bike.

      If making the gym a community means people don’t drop out, and don’t give up, then good for the gym.

  6. The groups I’m most happy to be a part of are the clubs during my high school years. I was struggling with some subjects, and too shy to ask the teachers for help, so my friends included me in numerous tutoring groups with people kind and patient enough to explain concepts to me and not laugh at my incompetency with some subjects (*ahem math). Moreover, because of those groups, I became good friends with some people I would never before have talked to, and their friendship has become an essential part of my life.

    • My brother has explained to me that the one room school house worked so well because of the idea of, “each one, teach one.” The older children looked after the younger ones and did a significant amount of teaching, and everybody’s grades benefited.

      I can’t say peers ever taught me much, but my brothers and sisters did, and those are lessons I’ve treasured.

  7. For me, (surely not the first, but basically every one of those I’ve been in), sports groups are such a community. That is why I prefer to do team sports (handball, volleyball).
    You have a common goal in matches, work together (because otherwise it won’t just work) and share the joy of winning or the disappointment in loosing. And for the training, you just share the fun of being together and working out.
    It doesn’t necessarily mean, that in such a sports group you have deep relationships where you share very private things with them (that is what friends are for), you just share other things and to me, sometimes it became almost addiction to go to the sports…

    And I dare say, that sports(wo)men are ALWAYS good people.

    • Connie, I had riding buddies, friends who got the whole horse thing, and the horse lifestyle, particularly when show season hit. That comrade-in-arms quality was a boost to morale through the vagaries of competition or just riding with competitive goals vaguely on the horizon. I don’t miss showing, but I do miss the fun.

  8. When I first began interacting with other romance writers, that sense of mutual supportiveness was one things that also struck me. I thought perhaps it was because this is a woman-heavy industry and many of us are used to helping and taking care of others. Whatever the reason, people are genuinely kind – including a CERTAIN AUTHOR I met at a workshop who spontaneously offered to critique the opening pages of my WIP. Your suggestions were extraordinarily helpful when it came to shaping my manuscript. Thank you!

    • Diana, I hope that MS has gone on to greatness, because it certainly had the seeds and then some. I’ve come across other female-intensive endeavors (riding dressage, family law, social work) and they are NOT as collegial, not by a long, long shot. We’re just special!

  9. Motherhood is a new phase in my life that I fully embraced when our child was born in 2008. Because husband and I recently moved to the south, the drawback we discovered is we both do not have family close by for physical and moral support, not even our bosom friends are near. It was a sweet but rough ride. I needed a pastime.

    A colleague at work re-introduced me to romance novels. She has an extensive library of paperback novels, most of them in regency era and lent me scores of them. I voraciously went through most of them and had fallen back in love to reading.

    Then came the onset of e-devices in the market. I joined reader’s online group one author at a time. The lively discussions were like a breath of fresh air to my inner self.I enjoyed bantering with fellow women about books in discussion. There are a few of us who got to know each other pretty well that we now have our own online book club. Somehow, our discussion has gone astray. We not only discuss our latest read but also our daily lives. We got to know each other. We have become friends. At times, we unburden our yoke with each other.

    I feel privilege to be a part of our women’s reader group. These are friends who are literally just a click away. 🙂

    • And there we have it, what’s good about the cyber world. When I was a new (single) mom, that world did not yet exist, and I can’t help but think it would have made a considerable difference. And how wonderful, that books lead you to friendships… when is the get together though? You know, the weekend at the nice little hotel mid-way between everybody? The one where you trade physical books, recipes, and life stories?

  10. My first “oh wow I’m part of this” group was a bellydance troupe in the early 90’s. I met the director working in the CSU large animal vet barn. The similarities between riding and dancing were immediately apparent – have to be present in the moment; it is impossible to dance or be with the horses for more than 10 minutes and hang on to the day’s stress; and the dance or horse (or both) crazy gals are so welcoming. Newbies were placed in the second row or back row where we could see the instructor, the mirrors, *and* ‘follow the bouncing bum’ in front of us.
    Twenty years later we’ve geographically scattered, and aren’t necessarily able to ride, yet the texts, emails about dance, health, horses, and books (lots and lots of books) persist.

    • Now there’s a connection I would not have made on first mention, but now that I think about it… well, yeah, of course. Core body, balance, self-carriage… it makes sense. I accompanied ballet classes to get through college, and found lots of overlap between ballet and dressage–then people started riding freestyles at the international level and my bliss was complete.

  11. My group of romance writers.
    My group does not know me but I know them through their books. I am a loner. I grew up in a large family but was a misfit – very introverted personality.
    My friends were my books, back then it was classics.
    Then I read Jane Austen and fell in love with Lizzie and Mr Darcy and Emma and Jane and Bingley.
    Then I immigrated as a young bride and came to land where only one person knew me – my husband.
    The second day I asked him to show me the library and nearest book store.
    I found my friends again. By then I was reading romances – two per day.
    I can’t remember all the authors from 20 years ago, but now I have my favourite list and I have my Julia Quinn mood day and my Stephanie Lauren day and so on. One day I read a new author Grace Burrowes and guess what my first thought was, we think alike. If I were to write I would write like this. I know how Stephanie writes, her books you can graph, Julia’s you try to match to a fairy tale. Your last one – Louisa’s story – reminded me of O’henry’s the gift of the magi.
    I love my group even though they don’t know I exist, for me they are my group. The ones I go to when I have had a bad day at work or my fibromyalgia has me really down, or when I am just content and want to curl up on my chair with my book and tea.
    love your work I love Valentine the best and Sophie among the girls so far.
    I think you are writing a new book about Scottish brothers would like to read those as well.
    Keep them coming.
    thanks a million for sharing your stories.

    • Sabbi, I think fibromyalgia, RA, and chronic fatigue probably result in a LOT of reading. Single parenting does too, I can tell you. I love Valentine as well, I think his book was one of my best crafted story, and some of the loveliest writing. Sophie had that dratted baby going for her, and that’s apparently a crowd pleaser.

      I’m going to print your comment out and keep it in my Hard Day notebook, Sabbi, and because you already have a copy of Louisa, I’ll offer you–as this week’s winner–my LAST advanced reader copy of “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid.”

        You have made my day.
        I am honoured that you will keep my comment in your notebook.
        Thanks once again for your generous offer.
        have a great day.

  12. I am a financial advisor and the old adage that time is money holds true in my profession. However, before I entered this profession, I was going to be a social worker. Sometimes, what I do is not always about the money. It is listening to a grieving widow as I explain what resources she will have in the future. It is helping young families just getting started to put a plan together to take care of their little ones in the event something happens to one of the parents. While I need to make money, some of the most heart warming meetings that I have had were from those with little money who just needed some alternatives to help them on their way. What I do can be draining at times. It is astounding what people will tell you when you’ve earned their trust. Sometimes I feel like a Pastor when their confidences stray way out of the financial arena. When that happens, I always refer them to a professional, whether it be an attorney, an accountant or a Pastor.
    I love to escape into books at the end of a long day. I am not sure how I discovered you Grace, but your books can be very comforting. My favorite was Sophie’s story until Louisa’s came out. I was laughing out loud with comments from Sir Joseph referring to the miniatures that the sisters most likely were drawing since they only had their brothers as models (although that was of course Jenny). Your prose is beautiful and you use words like gravid which has caused me to pull out the dictionary, to be sure of the definition. While I love Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, Eloisa James, Jill Shalvis and Kristan Higgins, if I had limited space, I would choose your books alone. I can’t wait for Amery’s story and your next book has already been pre-ordered. Have a great week!

    • Oh… thank you so much. I enjoyed Joseph too. He’d modeled very loosely on St. Joseph, of whom much was expected, and about whom, we hear little.

      When I go see my accountant, I do feel there’s a confessional quality to the encounter. He does not judge me for my extravagances, my incomplete documentation, my casual approach to the bookkeeping. I can only think he deals with clients who make me look organized. I’m glad he’s there, and not just at tax time, either.

      Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s tall, dark-haired and green eyed and likes horses.

  13. I just stumbled across this site, and I am very excited. I loved your books from The Heir on down–on my to be bought list is the new one (of which the title escapes me–I am title challenged)

    I read across all genres except Sci Fi, can’t quite wrape my head around it. But, my most favorite is Historical Fiction from back in the days when Thomas Costain and Anya Seton were writing to now with Historical Romance. Grace you have been added to my other two faves, Mary Balogh and Jo Beverley. I enjoy many other authors such as Diana Gabaldon back in the begining with “The Outlander” now her books are too detailed laden but she is a wonderful writer. For someone who doesn’t get into Sci Fi, I have nn problem suspending belief to time travel!!

    I have belonged to many groups over the years, but the group I enjoy the most are the people I have met in libraries, book stores and online with email sites like these. Turns out I met my best friend in a UBS almost 20 years ago while shopping–and she made some wonderful suggestions, she worked there, then bought it and I worked for her. We had some fantastic customers and ended up almost every Saturday at her store, whether we were working or not. Went to lunch, came back to the store and helped shelve books and wait on customers. She has now moved to Maryland, and I now work in a different store 2 Sundays a month. But every once in a while an old customer comes in and it feels like old home week!!

    I get down to Maryland to visit frequently and we have graduated to a Kindle that we can share books on–and Grace, you have become our new favorites–just so you know, we are very particular, across genres we have very few “auto buys”, especially that we buy new, but in this one you have been added to the list. Which now brings us up to about 3!!!! We do still read others but get them from the library or in a UBS.

    So, please keep them coming, you are consistently counted upon for a good story, but not to have the same verbiage around certain subject. Maybe since you are a rider you might appreciate the fact that while I still mostly enjoy SL, the more I read her the more it feels as if she thinks her men are stallions!!! Let loose of those reins guys!

    Thank you so much for the hours of pleasure you have given up and I look forward to many more.

    • Bette, next time you are coming to MD, let me know. I’m out by Hagerstown, but will jump in the truck at the drop of a hat. Thanks for all those kind words, and I HOPE you’ve liked Mary Balogh’s Facebook page. She’s on almost every day, and is as delightful there as she is in her prose.

      We’ll hoist a flagon of ale (or decaf tea in my case) in honor of Wulfric Bedwyn.

  14. I guess my first experience as part of a group like that was when I was in high school. I was a member of a local “Sing Out” group; at that time, Up with People allowed local organizations of young people to be affiliated with them. I was proud to be part of an organization that tried to lift people’s spirits and encourage them to embrace diversity. I was grateful to them, because they helped me to grow as a person and to become a little less shy!

    • What is it about music? About all the arts, really… they expand our hearts and reach something universal in us. To find that chord in adolescence had to be particularly fun, and reassuring.