On the Generosity and Community Spirit of Writers

I’ve been writing seriously, attempting to publish a book, for more than seven years. I am a piddlingly small fish in the big pond of humans who call themselves writers, authors, scribes, journalists, scribblers, or any other name for someone who thinks they work and play well with written words.

But almost from Day One, I have never been made to feel like a small fish in the writing ocean by a single writer. Each one I have encountered online or met in person has treated me as an equal, whether they were a best-selling author, an on-their-way success story with their first book finally being published, or a struggling wannabe like me.

Because of that, I try to give back as much as I can to the writers I meet and try to keep alive the spirit of community where all writers celebrate everyone else’s success as much as their own. I feel my advice and expertise is marginal at best, but the great thing about most writers is we are skilled or have expertise in at least one area that most others don’t.

Those respectful and positive human interactions with newfound writing friends and colleagues will be far more memorable in the aggregate than the memories I might retain if I am ever able to successfully publish a novel. I define”successfully” as requiring peer-review approval–meaning positive reviews from readers who aren’t friends or family, and perhaps a few dollars in the bank to help offset the tidy pile of writing-related expenses my wife has generously allowed me to accumulate over the years.

One such good writing friend I’ve made went so far as to thank me publicly in the acknowledgments of her latest soon-to-be-a-big-hit novel. She is Jenny Milchman, a Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of Cover of Snow, as well as Ruin Falls, and her new release, As Night Falls.

Jenny Milchman signing my copy of As Night Falls at Once Upon A Crime bookstore in Minneapolis.
Jenny Milchman signing my copy of As Night Falls at Once Upon A Crime bookstore in Minneapolis.

What did I do to earn such public thanks from a writer I didn’t even know until we met online at the yahoo! group Crime Scene Writer? I answered with some detail a question about wilderness survival, gear, and safety during winter that she posed to the group more than a year ago. I thought nothing of it since I am a veteran wilderness canoeist and camper and live in one of the coldest places in the lower 48 states, Minnesota. I always enjoy sharing my love of the wilderness with anyone who asks.

I never expected anything in return except perhaps a reply saying “thanks for sharing your knowledge.” Simple courtesy. But this seemingly small piece of information was huge for Jenny since  it helped solve a dilemma in her story. She thanked me again later and promised to mention me in As Night Falls’ acknowledgments. I was blown away by her thoughtfulness and spirit of sharing credit, which most authors possess since we know our books need tons of outside help and guidance in order to succeed.

Jenny and me at Once Upon A Crime with my signed copy of As Night Falls
Jenny and me at Once Upon A Crime with my signed copy of As Night Falls

It was a win-win. I “helped” Jenny finish her novel. She inspired me to keep writing, editing, improving, and working toward my publishing goal because of her patience and determination in achieving her writing dream. Her story about her long road to publication is compelling and makes me feel like a piker for whining at all about my sluggish progress.

Jenny’s becoming well-known for “The World’s Longest Book Tour,” a marathon road trip with her family across country where they stop at seemingly every independent bookstore in the country to promote her latest book, promote independent bookstores, and encourage writers like me to keep plugging away. She’s in the middle of tour number three, so check out her schedule. If she’s coming to an independent bookstore in your area, put a few dollars where your mouth is and come out to support a talented “new” author (13 years in the making) as well as your local bookstore. Her books are fast-paced psychological thrillers with a recurring theme of human resilience no matter what the ordeal may be.

The bottom line of this post is that emotional ties like friends are easier than ever to cultivate thanks to the internet. And a Neo-Renaissance life relies for 25% of its support on feeding the Emotional part of ourselves.

The question for my small band of Neo-Renaissance followers is this: When has a good deed of yours been repaid in a greater amount than what you felt you gave?






0 thoughts on “On the Generosity and Community Spirit of Writers”

  1. I agree with your comments about the supportive community of writers. I have been writing for years, but have only recently started using the internet for feedback. I’m using Critique Circle (www.critiquecircle.com) and was wondering where you lay your hat, when your online of course?

  2. HI Lee, thanks for the follow. I was a very active member of CC until about 2 years ago. It’s a great way to learn some of the basics about constructing a good chapter or short story.

    However, I felt I progressed to the point where I need more big-picture criticism such as one gets from beta readers (or editors or agents, if one is lucky enough to have an agent or willing to hire an editor.)

    I still check in at CC but haven’t critiqued or submitted any work for critique in a few years. But I highly recommend it if your looking for experienced critiquers who can help you with sentence structure, clarity, economy of words, grammar, proofreading, etc.

    Otherwise I spend most of my online writing time doing research or learning more about self-publishing. I follow a few blogs and twitterers, but I try to limit those since they can be a huge time suck if one isn’t careful.

    Best of luck with your writing,

  3. Thanks Chris. My only one problem with CC is the amount of work I can actually read. When you look at the queue it is full of Chapter 22 of this or Chapter 9 of that. Can’t help feeling anything I would say would be a little out of context other than grammar (and I am not going to join the grammar police – that would be like atheist conducting mass).

    Thanks for your reply. All the best with your work too.

  4. Lee,
    I had the same dilemma early on. I solved it by looking for work I could get in on early, by writers whose writing I could tolerate reading more than a chapter or two. I stuck with a few good ones, who in turn stuck with me, and I had 2 or 3 excellent critters who gave me good feedback throughout most of my novel. But I agree, reading and critiquing takes a huge amount of time. I used to crit 4 or 4 chapters a week, and I routinely spent an hour or more on each inline critique.


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