Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Be Kind to your Writer-footed Friends

Last weekend I attended my first ever RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter meeting. I also met my friend Mike Chen, who came to ascertain what we all already know -- that he writes women's fiction. Mike and I had a ton of fun and enjoyed swearing like a couple of sailors, but in general, it was really nice to spend a Saturday morning talking and thinking about writing.

RWA is a great organization--and as far as writer's organizations, one of the very best. It offers a load of support from professional growth to getting your manuscript and writing skill up to snuff. The meeting we went to also featured a very good speaker, agent Laura Bradford from Bradford Lit. Laura was not at all what I expected...she was nice, and personable, and made you feel like you wanted her as your agent. For some reason I thought she might be a chompy scary lady, but that just goes to show how little I remember that agents, along with every other type of profession (insert lawyer joke here), are people too.

Laura spoke on writerly professionalism. She spoke about not being a naughty blogger, and how everything you do as an author is pretty much public, and how one should reign oneself in. She talked about how a little kindness goes a long way. I had a lot of thoughts as she spoke, all of them naturally good blog fodder, so you'll probably be getting these over time. But today, let's talk about kindness.

I posted before about one aspect of writer kindness--being a mentor to others. But just being gracious is a really good thing to do whether you're published or unpublished. As Laura pointed out, the writing world is a small fishbowl and you'll meet people again and again. This is so true of the online world, too. A while ago, maybe a few years, I entered an online contest that was open to comments from anyone who wanted to read. The submission was the first page, I think. Anyway, mine was shredded by a great many people, but none so nastily as one particular writer who used her own name to sign her posts. Maybe my page deserved it, and it certainly could have been better, but it wasn't hideous, not pus-spouting-boil-on-your-neck hideous. Anyway, I remembered this writer. She writes in my genre, in fact. And more interesting, she kept popping up on my radar over the years since. In fact, she's in one of my groups that I participate in. Now she's agented. That's good--I'm glad for her. But that sure was really crappy back then, and I haven't forgotten it.

Being kind to people doesn't just mean not trashing their work and signing with your own name. It means engaging with people, answering their emails no matter how inane or rambly. (Roni Loren can attest to some of my rambly emails and with all she's got going on, she appears to read them all. In fairness, I read her rambly emails, too.) It means not shutting people out or thinking you're too good to talk to them, no matter where you are in your career and where they are. It means extending a hand where you can.

In particular, social media gives us the opportunity to be kind by engaging with others. (Reminder: engaging with others is all social media is.) And on the flip side of that coin, it's easy to be mean because it's easy to hide behind the anonymity of your computer monitor. One of the football forums I used to frequent called this being a "PC hardman" (there were lots of guys there who would take shots at others because they were anonymous).

What kindnessses have writers shown you, or you them? What unkindnesses have you experienced? The comments are a form of therapy, you know.

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