So yesterday I wrote about agents and editors.  If you missed my post, here’s a link:  Rambling Thoughts – My Querying Experience with Agents and Editors.  Today I want to talk about the writing community as a whole, specifically other writers and published authors.

As a voracious reader — and someone who isn’t the least bit shy — I’ve been blessed to “meet” several well known and successful authors.  It’s not unlike me to read something beautiful by an author and then have a strong “need” to let them know.  So I’ll occasionally zip off an e-mail letting them know how I was touched in whatever way by their writing.  I’ve been surprised to find that many of these wonderful people — regardless of how successful they’ve become — are truly kind people and often respond.  I never expect a response; the e-mail is usually just to satisfy my own need to “compliment” someone who has touched my life in the same way I might send a thank you note to someone for extending themselves in kindness.  Silly, I know, but it’s just part of who I am.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I reached out to a couple of these same authors whom I’d developed some type of relationships with online.  I can’t really claim many of these people as true friends, but I do consider them friends nonetheless.  In every case, when they heard I was writing a book, they offered their experience and advice.

My favorite author offered to critique my first three pages.  Wow!  That was brutal, but more helpful than you can know!  Another author offered the advice that she followed when she was querying:  “I wouldn’t accept ‘no’ until it was my ‘no.'”  In other words, she would decide when to give up. She would not allow a “no” from an agent or publishing house as a reason to give up.  She’d give up when she was ready to give up, not when they felt she should tuck her tail between her legs and go home (she’s now an insanely successful author).  Still another author published her debut novel on Amazon because she couldn’t get an agent.  She became wickedly successful practically overnight, and soon had movie companies wanting to purchase film rights before she even had an agent.  The same agencies who had initially turned her manuscript down were now soliciting her!  She was the one who gave me the confidence to know that — even if I never got picked up by a publishing house or agent — I could still be successful.  It wouldn’t be easy, but it was within my own grasp.

And that’s just the insanely successful authors!

Recently I participated in Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars, a Twitter-based “contest” of sorts where un-agented authors submit the first chapter or ten pages of their manuscript to up to five mentors out of a possible one-hundred.  Approximately 1500 writers participated in this contest with the first level prize being the mentorship of a very talented and successful published writer or editor.  The idea being that each mentor would accept one manuscript, help the author tweak it and make it shine, and then it would be featured before a panel of literary agents who might then make requests and possible offers of representation.  In the end, I wasn’t accepted by any of my five mentors, but each of them were kind enough to offer a critique of the pages I’d sent.  They were wonderful and supportive.

What I learned through Pitch Wars is that the writing community — successful and burgeoning authors alike — are the most gracious and supportive of any community I’ve ever been part of.  Brenda Drake, who organizes Pitch Wars and other contests like it, is a published author who donates her time and connections simply for the pleasure of giving other authors a “hand-up.”  The editors and other published authors who join her contests as mentors do so without compensation, and devote several weeks of their lives for the same reason — for nothing more than the satisfaction of helping someone else on their journey.

Through Pitch Wars, I met a lot of people.  I met published authors and other writers in various stages of querying and publication.  Without exception, these people are the most welcoming and accepting people I’ve ever known — and I found some new “favorite authors” in the process!

And finally, there are the other authors at my publishing house — Penner Publishing.  I have no words for how much I love these people.  They’ve become, as strange as it may sound, almost like an extended part of my family.  Kelly Cain, Amanda Linsmeier, Bianca SchwarzJamie McLachlan, and publicist Babs Hightower (to name only the few I’ve become closest to!) have become my sounding board and biggest cheerleaders, and I love them all dearly.

So what does all of this mean?  I’ll break it down for you:  Querying isn’t an easy process, as I mentioned yesterday in my post.  But it’s an awesome process if you open yourself up to getting to know the people in this amazing community.  Never have I seen a more supportive collection of people.  I didn’t set out to make friends when I sat down to write my first book, and I certainly never anticipated to find a “home” of sorts within the writing community.  But the truth is that these people — all of them combined — make each day a delight, and I am so thankful for the friendships I’ve made.

If you’re thinking about writing and querying a novel, know that you don’t have to do this alone.  Become involved in the writing communities available through Twitter and Facebook.  “Meet” people online.  Participate in contests.  Put yourself out there.  It makes the wait between sending that query and getting each response so much more fun; and it takes the bite out of each and every rejection letter you receive.  And trust me — even the most talented writers receive more than their fair share of rejects!

If you’re a querying author or know someone who is, be sure to share it on Facebook by clicking on the “like” button below. I think we could all use a little “hand-up” in the world.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook! As you can tell, I love meeting new people and making new friends.

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