I'm revisiting blog posts from the past and this one struck me because I just finished launching my fifth novel and this same feeling of loss can be overwhelming. If I let it be.
This morning I was listening to Ann Lamott's book Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace, and her first lines just jolted me: "The worst possible thing you can do when you’re down in the dumps, tweaking, vaporous with victimized self-righteousness, or bored, is to take a walk with dying friends. They will ruin everything for you."
I have not, I must admit, recently walked with a friend who is close to death, but I could relate to what Lamott was saying. Lately I have been wallowing a bit too much in self-pity, for no reason whatsoever except perhaps because I have completed my novel and although I'm working on the next, I definitely feel a sense of loss. And, I must admit, although I never started on this journey for the accolades, (and most obviously not for the money) there are moments when I wish that everyone I meet at the coffee shop, or passing by on the street would just say to me: "Hey, I heard you wrote another book. Congratulations," even if they have never read any of my work.
I was at a picnic a few weeks ago and something like this happened and I was amazed at how much it lifted my spirits. A man came up to me, someone I know through my children, and he told me he had read one of my novels: Ephemeral Summer, and he loved it. I was a bit shocked. It is a coming of age story and the target audience would be his college-age daughters. "Everyone in the family has read it," he told me, "We loved it."
I'd like to believe I'm not vain. But maybe I am. Or maybe these feelings I'm experiencing are meant to teach me something. How often I have neglected to tell someone that what they did or are doing is worthy: my friend who spent a year volunteering on a political campaign for a candidate I didn't plan to vote for; or another, who spent 6 months learning to become a yoga instructor. And then there is my friend who opened her own shop; and another friend who drove almost every weekend this past spring, over 11 hours in the car, one way, to watch her daughter play college ball. Finally, there are more than a few, who have had to sit by the side of their loved ones while they undergo treatments, trying to keep the faith. What dedication.
My own family members have started new jobs, struck out on their own, or started up support groups. Congratulating them, or even making some commentary on their hard work is something I think, I should remember to do, if for no other reason than because they are trying. They are living life the way it was meant to be lived: with purpose.
Myers (Imaginary Brightness) satisfyingly concludes her historical trilogy set in the Gilded Age by presenting the detailed downfall of ruthless real estate mogul William West Durant; his exasperated wife, Janet; and his estranged sister, Ella. In 1931, the penniless Durant recounts his tragic life. After inheriting his father’s vast wealth and interest in the Adirondack Railroad, William immediately begins to make bad investments. He squanders money on yachts, panders to princes, and builds mansions he can’t afford to run, all while hiding assets from Ella. She sues him for her rightful inheritance and tries to overcome discrimination to become a novelist. Meanwhile, Janet, verbally abused and infantilized by William, begins an affair with her doctor. After getting proof of William’s own infidelities with an actress, Janet sues for divorce.....Myers expertly depicts a precarious era soaked in vicious gossip, stained reputations, and ostentatiousness. Readers will enjoy the historical details that bring this Gilded Age soap opera to life. (BookLife)
This is an ode to those public historians who went out of their way to write and publish local history that would otherwise have been forgotten. Whether it was about their own past experience, or the history of a place, these books are gems for those of us writing historical fiction. They are accounts of the ordinary people, ones who may not have been famous, but whose lives are the fabric of the past. I've found my share of these treasures while researching my novels.
While attending a writers conference recently the speaker, a literary agent, was asked what he viewed as a trend in the industry. His answer was publishers were looking for women who write about women. He predicted, like most trends, this was fleeting and would either end or balance out. I began to wonder if what he deems a trend is really just an adjustment in a long history of marginalization of women authors. Just cursory research shows women authors have been under-represented for awards. Since 1901, the Nobel Prize for Literature has only been awarded to 14 women. There have only been 35 women winners of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction since it was first awarded in 1917.
While disconcerting, it also doesn't match up with the trends in women readership. I was intrigued by all of this because I've been in a book club for over 15 years. As an author I've been invited to speak with several book clubs. All organized and attended by women. Just recently, I spoke to my largest audience ever - 140 ladies in Charlotte, NC - who call themselves the JULIETS (Just us ladies interested in learning, eating, talking and sharing).
And as an author, I've been privileged to be able to network with other women authors in such online forums and memberships groups as the Women Fiction Writers Association and Women Writers Women's Books. Both organizations have a strong following. They offer guidance, mentoring, educational and promotional opportunities for women from diverse backgrounds.
I launched a project to fund my research on a historical novel with a crowdfunding site and it failed. Specifically, what lured me into trying crowdfunding on the site I chose was a podcast interview with one of the founders where she stated that artists are finding backers for their creative projects on their platform, and that 60% of the backers come from within the crowdfunding community itself. Hence, with the thought that I might find a community of like-minded artists, trying to fund projects, who would back the research for my next novel, I gave it a try. Nothing is failure if it is a learning experience and hopefully you can take away some tidbits of advice before you spend a lot of time and effort on your own crowdfunding campaign.
I’ll start with the positive aspects of my experience.
Now the Negatives:
Sheila Myers is an award winning author and Professor at a small college in Upstate NY. She enjoys writing, swimming in lakes, and walking in nature. Not always in that order.
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