Brutal Truths about Publishing

There’s a good book that I think every writer aspiring to be published should read. It’s called Some Writers Deserve to Starve: 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry by Elaura Niles. I read it and I agreed with 30 of her brutal truths. There’s one I had a lot of trouble with. While it may be a brutal truth, I have rarely experienced it. It’s this one: Truth #12: Writers Rarely Help Other Writers.

I won’t even go into the whole ‘writing is a solitary activity’ shtick. We all know that. Natalie Goldberg in her book Wild Mind: Living the Writers Life, recounts a conversation she had with her Zen Master. She complained about how lonely it is to be a writer. His response: “Anything you do deeply is very lonely.”

In my many years as a writer, when I’ve left my Sasquatch cave, I’ve found my fellow cave dwelling, ink spillers to be supportive. I can only recall two instances when a writer wouldn’t help me out with a piece of advice or the name of an editor. Most writers I know, in the various writing communities I belong to, are kind, enthusiastic, and generous with their support. From the first draft, through the rewrites and critiques, to the back of the book cover quotes, my writer friends have been there for me.

I’ve found the Surrey International Writers' Conference (SiWC) to be a particularly supportive atmosphere for writers at all stages in their development. Every year I meet new writers and last year was no different. Writers come from all over the world to attend writing workshops, pitch to editors, and stalk agents ;-j

Last year I met Jocosa, she’s from New York and writes woman’s romance. Not only is she a diligent and gifted writer, she’s a super supportive friend. She’s one of the sweetest people I know, and has the coolest earrings. Her earrings are so cool that I have been known to muse out loud that there wouldn’t be a court in the land that would convict a writer for breaking another writer's mechanical pencil to try to get her funky earrings (not that anyone would ever do that).

Here’s an e-card she sent me this summer as I was doing the final revisions on my debut novel Dead Frog on the Porch.

Jocosa was one of a group of writers I hung out with at the conference last year. The others were Jeff, who wrote a heartfelt and poetic young adult manuscript about a quest for self-discovery set in an Aboriginal community, Canadian author Cathy Beveridge who has several contemporary novels for young adults and historical novels for middle grade readers published, and Frances Hern who’s in my writers’ group, and has one picture book and two works of historical young adult non-fiction published.

The brutal truth that I’ve found about publishing is that you need a supportive group of writing friends and they are everywhere to be found. Start forming your network. SiWC is a good place to start.

Here’s to another great, productive conference at Surrey. ;-J


Jade said…
Ever since I've left my hermit hut (at least figuratively) and ventured out in the wide world of blog-land, I've found nothing but support and positivity from fellow writers--especially those who are in the same (unpublished) boat as I am.

I only wish all these conferences that everyone raves about weren't so far away. Damn Pacific Ocean!
James Mayhew said…
I wholeheartedly agree - very few fellow-writers are unkind or unsupportive. I've met one ot two who seemeda bit guarded and defensive (and possibly view me with suspicion as I also ....shhhh....ILLUSTRATE). The overwhelming majority have been kind, helpful, revealing, sometimes positively maternal towards me. I wonder sometimes whether I would have survived without them. That was when I was younger of course. Now, happily, I find I can do the same for the next generation, mainly my Cambridge MA students. Nothing makes me happier than seeing them take wing with a publisher. And I rarely feel lonely. I know that I can pick up the phone and chat to any number of similarly singular colleagues in their own hermitage! Now FB has added to that - lovely to be in touch with writers, like yourself, all over the world!
Jade said…
Also, I nominated you for an award on my blog.
Diane Girard said…
While I don't know scads of other writers, the ones I do know are very supportive, with one exception so I'm very lucky. Do wish I could attend writer's conferences, but since that's not possible, I'll give thanks for the friends I have.

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