“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 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.”