Dog Paddling


Writers tend to be introverts. Many authors are introverts who’ve learned to talk to strangers. I’m a writer now, but I want to be an author. This isn’t going to be easy.

While I did gain valuable knowledge from my brief self-publishing stint, I don’t count it as my advent to authordom. Try, try, try. I feel like I’m doing laps in circles. I’m getting nowhere and exhausting myself.

I’ve come to the realization that, as much as I like working alone, I cannot do this by myself. I need experts, confidants, and, perhaps, even co-conspirators. I don’t want to drown.

I’m working on it. At the moment, I’m participating in an eye-opening mentorship program at my office. I adore my mentor. She’s someone I’ve admired for a while. She’s sassy and fun and very open—all the things I’m not, at least not on the surface. She’s also nothing like the last mentor I had—in my bachelor’s program (over a decade ago – Eep!).

In that unsatisfying adventure, I was placed with a gentleman who was considered a master of his craft. The goal was to help me refine mine. He didn’t like that. In fact, he didn’t seem to like me. He refused to read more than a sentence of my story and refused to offer me guidance at all, save to say I might make some “fun money” if I wrote Harlequin romances. The message was clear: “Keep your hands off my high fantasy, little girl.”**

I’ve no qualms with Harlequin, but that wasn’t what I was trying to write. He crushed me. My 20-something-year-old self wasn’t secure enough in her talents to call him out on his rhetoric. I was drowning in doubt, and my story sank with me. (I will resurrect that zombie manuscript. I swear!)

Of course, my new mentor isn’t a pretentious old crab, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t terrifying me. She wants me to break out of my protective shell and share my writing again. Her first recommendations included conferences, which I’m researching (cringe); but, she also recommended Meet Ups.

If you’ve never heard of them, let me fill you in. Meetup.com is this nifty little place on the Internet where you can find your tribe. You look up groups based on your interests and find one that meets at a convenient time and location for you. The site allows you to connect, but it’s the physical connections that make the difference.

I did my sleuthing and found a group I thought might work for me. The Central Phoenix Writing Workshop is a hodgepodge of writers at various stages of their craft who (ahem) meet up in coffee shops 1 to 4 days out of the week to read their materials to each other and offer feedback.

That’s it. It’s the most horrifying thing… and I love it! I’ve been to three meetings so far. I’ll be going back as much as possible.

Here’s why I love it. There’s no hierarchy. We are all just writers, though it’s obvious which writers are more than hobbyists. The two hosts that run the Sunday meetings are kind and knowledgeable, and they share their work as hesitantly as the rest of us. I can’t wait to hear more. We don’t even know anything about each other’s personal lives. It’s just about what’s on the page and how we can improve. The feedback: insightful.

It’s all I ever wanted: to share my writing and keep moving forward.

I’ve stepped off the deep end, people! My heart is racing and my skin is dimpled with terror, but I’m still splashing about.

That’s fine with me. There’s no shortcut to authorship, and I’m perfectly happy to swim against the current for as long as I can, knowing there are others like me at my side. I’ll toughen up with time, and hopefully prove a useful contributor to this pod.

Not that I’m accepting all of their advice blindly. I may have a few twinkling stars in my eyes, but I’m devoted to my writing foremost. Case in point, I used the word rascal in my last reading. The collective felt it wasn’t a medieval term. They were also worried about the use of ass in my dialogue. These are valid concerns.

Naturally, I looked up the etymology of those words. It turns out they were right about ass. I’ve changed it to vicious cur. I like that better anyway. However, rascal has been in use since the 14th century. I’m leaving it in. I’m quite proud of myself for the decision and for finding the research to back it up.

Looks like this timid fish is going to learn to swim with the crabs and make it out alive after all.

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Sometimes a good note is all you need to keep moving forward. 

 

 

**My 30-something-year-old self has two letters to give that man: F and U. My hands are all over your high fantasy and I’m not letting go!

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1 Comment

  1. Good for you Melissa for venturing out to a writer’s group! I have also discovered that while it can be helpful to get feedback from other writers, ultimately you are the creator of the story and you have every right to either adopt or reject feedback. You as the author have a vision of how you want your story to be told. Stick to that and adopt helpful suggestions which enhance your writing. That should be the main purpose of writer and editor feedback – to enhance the writing and the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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