With a Little Help from My Friends

Making a Friendship
While I'm an avid plotter like Pat and it's done a lot to help me as a writer, when I really thought about what is "the most useful writing craft idea I've ever found", it isn't plotting, it isn't an idea or a craft.  It's friends.

When I came into this writing thing, my goal was to see if I could actually write a romance.  I'd bounced back into reading them after a long spell and discovered I enjoyed them.  Really enjoyed them.  A far cry from Stephen King books, for sure.  So I sat down and wrote, mostly longhand, a romance novel.  I liked it!  I really liked it!  Not that it was a great story, but it was fun and I wanted to write more.

Sometime later, I actually had an odd thought.  Maybe I could become a real author with this new found enjoyment.  I checked out books, I bought books, everything I could find on how to write a romance and what to do after it was written. And in the back of one of those books--Romance Writer's Sourcebook--I found information on Romance Writers of America (RWA).  My interest skyrocketed.

This was before the internet became what it is today, but as soon as I learned that my then-husband had been using the World Wide Web for some time---we won't talk about what happened when I found the charge listed on the credit card for it---I demanded I get a chance to give it a try.  I honestly don't remember how, but I found a romance writers chatroom.  I read it for weeks, never typing a word to interact with the others, just reading their conversations.  Not until my birthday, that is, when I decided, what the heck.  Introduce yourself, silly.  In that chatroom, I found people who were actually writing and seeking publication.  One of those people just happened to be an RWA member and a Golden Heart Finalist, who was going to the National RWA conference in Dallas in a little over a month.  I, too, decided that one way or another I would be at that conference.  I called RWA, paid a new membership fee and conference fee, booked a flight, a hotel room and a rental car, and informed the then-husband that I was going to Dallas.  He nearly fell off the combine, where he was standing.

Kat and moi on the road trip to DC 2000 Conference
I'll never forget how nervous I was, but when Kathie DeNosky, the Golden Heart Finalist from that
chatroom, came up behind me to introduce herself as I stood in line to register, it became one of the biggest turning points in my life.  (Note:  I'd told her what I'd be wearing and she'd been watching for me.)  We bonded instantly, and I swore to her that I would hang onto her shirttail forever.  I did, and still do.  She sold her first book to Silhouette Desire on June 14 (my birthday), three years later.  I sold my first to Silhouette Romance on April 3, 2000.

Along the way, we met and made friends with many romance writers, both published and yet-to-be-published.  Janet Barton, who now writes for Love Inspired, became one of our dearest friends, as did Belinda Barnes, who sold to Silhouette Romance before I did.  We critiqued together, we brainstormed together, we consoled and celebrated together.  Kat (Kathie) and I logged more times on the phone (me in Kansas, she in Illinois) with each other than two people ever should.  If it hadn't been for those three ladies, I would have thrown in the towel, dozens of times.  We shared good times and bad times, and even a few secrets.

Although we no longer spend anywhere near the time on the phone as we did in the past, Kat and I are still often in touch.  We brainstorm (along with chitcat and gossip) via phone (3-way calls) with Kristi Gold (Desire, SuperRomance, and back to Desire) in Texas, who once critiqued with Belinda Barnes.  Yes, it's a small world.

But it isn't just the ones I've mentioned that have inspired me along the road of writing.  It's also the many members of WARA I've been blessed to know, throughout the past seventeen years.  I love ya, ladies!

Writing is like making a quilt.  You can do it alone, or you can do it with friends.  Honestly? Both quilting and life are much better enjoyed with friends.


Reese Mobley said...

Where would we be without our friends? They understand us like no one else. You're one of the best!

Pat Davids said...

I went after a career in writing with a hatchet. I wanted in. I was going to get in. No one could keep me out.

Thankfully, I have had many friends along the way who have helped me point my hatchet in a better direction, helped me sharpen it, and helped me bandage the blisters on my hands.

It's a lonely profession only for those who want to be alone.

Thanks to all my writing friends. You have no idea how much you have helped.