Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mentorship and Support--The anti-perfect

 Every author has many shoulders on which she stands.  For me it begins with my parents who made me believe I could do and be anything I wanted.  Even though I was one of nine children, I never felt slighted or forgotten. Somehow my parents managed to love each of us.  In fact, I know it was an equal love because when I'm together with my siblings we each believe that Mom or Dad loved someone else more. :)

 I was also raised "by a village."  My village consisted of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, teachers, pastors, youth leaders.  Each and every one of them had an important impact on my life, and each of them reached out to me at times when things weren't going well--illness, death of a sibling, financial difficulties.  It is that sense of community, of a village who cares for all its children that I feel so blessed to have experienced.  Given all the news reports, I wonder if that still exists today somewhere.

 As an adult taking on a writing career late in life, I've also had mentorship and support from other writers.  That mentorship began with two writers I had met in the 1980's, when I was writing and publishing short stories in SF, and then reconnected with when I began pursuing novel publishing full time. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch answered questions, provided workshops, encouraged my journey beginning in 2004.  They continue to help writers today--that is writers who understand that publishing is a business and want to have plenty of information to make choices about their career.  Above are books by Kris in her various pseudonyms and Dean in non-fiction.  They both do fiction and non-fiction, I think of them most often in this way.

Delilah Marvelle Book
A year after reconnecting with Kris and Dean, on their advice I joined RWA (Romance Writer's of America) and my local chapter.  The support offered by the RWA organization, as well as my local chapter is tremendous. As with any national organization, catching up to trends does not happen overnight. However, I have found that the RWA Board carefully researches issues and discusses resolutions prior to bringing them to the membership.  On the local level, it has been individuals who always take time to answer my questions, and the writers who so willingly share their journey on blogs, in meetings, in person who have made a difference to me.  I share some of those author's books here (above and at the end of my post). From best selling authors to mid-list and new authors, each one has experience and knowledge to share. Each one has the same journey of discovery, of finding her voice, of honing her craft, of making decisions as to how to best get that book and the next in front of readers.  I am sure I'll never get tired of listening and learning.

The second book in my Sweetwater Canyon series, Healing Notes, came out the first week of August. It is out in ebook right now and the print version will be coming out toward the end of this month.  It is the second a series of four books and the first series concept I've produced. As with each book I've written, it is the best I've written to date. That is also a part of the learning.

Knowing that with each novel, my writing is better, my craft has improved once again, it is tempting to want to go back and update the previous books.  But that would be a mistake. They are good books on their own. Each one written at a time in life where idea, story, characters came together in a unique way and with a unique purpose. Could I write them better? Sure I could.  Probably with every book I write, I will think that when I return to them.  But would the book be the same? No. I don't think so.  I don't think so, because the passion that brought me to write them at that time in my life has changed. I've changed, and so the story must also change.

That is something else I've learned from writing mentors.  Don't look back. Only look forward to the next story and the next.  I'm convinced that the story magic, for me, is encapsulated in a particular time of life. It is the unique combination of idea, character, passion, motivation, and craft that comes together at a particular time. It is influenced by what is going on in the world at large, and my interior world at that time.  If I tried to go back and capture it, I couldn't.  More than that, I don't want to. I love learning, growing, moving forward.  

There is a sense of freedom in this ideal. It is freeing to let go of a book and put it out there for the readers even though it is not perfect--and to know it never will be perfect. And that is the beauty of it. I suspect a perfect book would be lacking in passion for me.  To work so hard on perfection--if one could even define what that is for a book--would likely destroy its essence.  Just as our characters are flawed but still amazingly lovable, so must our books be imperfect.

 So I raise a pint of my husband's excellent Subliminal Stout homebrew to the anti-perfect philosophy, and to all my mentors (both locally in Portland and around the country) and my support network who have taught me that flaws are beautiful--in life, in characters, and in stories.

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