Having Advocates (and snacks) Within the Women’s Fiction Community

Friday night I took my almost sixteen year old daughter to GLEE Live (I’ll spare you the 96 pictures).  She screamed. I screamed. She jumped. I jumped.  She fist pumped. I fist pumped.  Our ears were ringing at midnight when our heads hit our respective pillows.

I couldn’t think of anything more amazing.

But, then I went to the Printer’s Row Lit Fest in Chicago. To the Ladies of the Write panel. Now that, my friends, was like writer’s crack. Beat GLEE by a mile.  And, there was no screaming.  A double-bonus.

I went with my in-real-life, good friend Pamela Toler, a non-fiction and fiction author is an all-around awesome sport.  She knows I am not only a reader and writer but a total author fan.  So when Kristina Riggle, Cavanaugh Lee, Beverly Jenkins and Meg Waite Clayton were a few feet in front of us in a classroom, Pamela just let me revel in their awesome authorness.  She may have told me to close my gaping mouth, I don’t remember. If she did, I’m sure it reopened and hit the floor when Meg mentioned that Eleanor Brown was also in the audience.  Pamela and I had just finished talking about Eleanor’s book, The Weird Sisters, about a minute before. (No fear, Eleanor is scheduled to be on the blog soon!)

For about thirty minutes the women on the panel bantered on the definition of women’s fiction, V.S. Naipaul, their writing process, where they get their ideas, how they find their voices when writing from multiple points of view and they gave great advice to any aspiring authors about persistence and perseverance.  They shared the metaphorical stage with generosity, grace and humor.  I doubt Naipaul would have handled himself with nearly as much, if any, class. Nor would he have rocked the awesome accessories and jewelry with such flair.

Frankly, these women were so funny they could take their show on the road.

But within the boundaries of the advice and hilarity, I realized that these articulate women not only wrote books for us to read with characters we could relate to, but as writers of women’s fiction — or however you want to describe their books — they are our advocates.  Of course their books are read by men too — but in having female protagonists in fiction they showcase the breadth of life experience women have, the intensity of emotion, the unequivocal joie de vivre and propensity for action.  They have proven it can be done.  These books sell.  These women (and male authors who write female protags), by writing the books they do, have become advocates for those of us who want to do the same thing.

And in life, we all need advocates.

A close friend reminded me recently that we all really need advocates in our careers — a person who knows you and your abilities, someone who sees your strengths and understands your weaknesses and will not only encourage and push you, but go to bat for you.  That really made sense to me.  So I thought about it.

How do we find an advocate in the women’s fiction community?

Of course, an agent and/or an editor is your advocate. 100%!  But what about an advocate within the writer and author realm? Writers need other writers, right?

I believe in order to have an advocate, you must first be one — without an agenda, without a motive other than to help.  Clichés might not belong in fiction, but on the blog, they’re fine and dandy. 😉  You get what you give. What goes around comes around.  Don’t blog because you want readers, blog because you have something to say. Don’t critique a manuscript because you want to be critiqued, do it because you want to help someone be a better writer.  Don’t push someone to help you, help someone else and when you least expect it, someone will be there to help you. And don’t put the cart before the horse.  Pay it forward.

Generosity of spirit breeds generosity of spirit.

Forget about yourself sometimes.  That makes people remember you.

For example, Meg was kind enough to mention the blog and her interview here, and also that the interview is going to be included in the paperback edition of The Four Ms. Bradwells, which I knew and am over-the-moon about.  I also feel lucky that Pamela and I got to hang out with Meg and Eleanor after the panel (Kris headed home :-().  If you have never been to Panera Bread with one of your favorite friends and two of your favorite authors, I highly recommend it.

What struck me as we sat and chatted and other authors came by, sat a spell and left, is that these folks have each other’s backs and read each other’s books.  They certainly work their tushes off on their own books and promotion but when surrounded by their colleagues and peers it was all about the other person.  No one was the better-selling author.  In a small group, there was little distinction between published and not-yet published for most of us.  Experiences and comments and questions were equal.

As authors steps ahead of me, they have paved the way.  They are my advocates simply by doing what they do and by being generous with their time and energy and insights on this blog.  And you know what?  We are their advocates by reading and buying and talking about their books.

Of course, Pamela, who allowed me to stand next to both Eleanor and Meg in the photos, and to giggle (without admonishing me) as she took my arm and led across a busy street and to the train, clearly wins the prize.

Pamela Toler, Me, Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells, The Wednesday Sisters and The Language of Light

Pamela Toler, Me, Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters

31 thoughts on “Having Advocates (and snacks) Within the Women’s Fiction Community

  1. Love this! I could just feel the buzzing energy in this post.

    Writers should support one another, wherever they are in this Journey – but as well, authors/novelist should always remember just way they have the job they do: Their Readers. *GRATITUDE!*

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  2. Amy, you nailed it with this sentence:

    “I believe in order to have an advocate, you must first be one — without an agenda, without a motive other than to help.”

    That approach is the reason my book got sold. Out of the blue, somebody whom I’d once helped years ago on a writers’ forum decided to reach out and offer to refer me to her publisher. And she did it because she could tell I needed help, even though I hadn’t directly asked for it. So by me practicing advocacy, I ended up becoming the beneficiary of someone else’s advocacy. All without an agenda.

    Writer’s Karma – it’s a good thing.

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  3. FIrst – how awesome that Meg Waite Clayton is putting your interview in her paperback. Woo hoo! But, secondly … what an important message you impart. It IS all about authenticity, and not doing things for personal gain. When I first hopped on the Twitter train, I was surprised at just how giving the writing community is. Several authors – NYT bestsellers and debut novelists participated in contests on my blog and asked me to guest on their blogs. To borrow your phrase, I have been “over the moon” about this genuine generosity. It is nothing short of spectacular. But you’re so right that it is all reciprocal. It is FUN helping to promote your favorite authors’ books. And it’s a bit surreal when well-known authors offer so much in return and do treat aspiring and already-published authors with such respect. Great post. And I wish I were at the events you described. Better than any concert, FOR SURE ;-).

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  4. This made me smile and nod and nod and smile. Yes. Be nice to other people because you’re nice, not because you want something, and you’ll be astounded at what happens.

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  5. First of all…so jealous that you got to see the GLEE show…it isn’t coming anywhere near me 😦

    But yes, we all need advocates and support galore!! I belong to a writers group that meets in person. When I first joined, I knew nothing. Those other writers helped me sooooooooooo much and I would not be where I am today without their help. Most of those writers have moved on from the group…though a small number of us still meet. But I feel like it’s my duty to stay in the main group and help others who are not as far along in the process as I am. I could easily leave and say “Hey, I got what I needed…see ya!” But I want to help other writers.

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  6. How fantastic!!! Sounds like an awesome event (the panel AND the Panera part). I loved Meg’s book (per your rec, by the way) and the interview. Congrats that the interview will be in the paperback. Wonderful! The pictures are great too. And I’m SO with you on just being a supportive force. I think because of the literary journal route I’ve taken people expect me to be sitting around reading War and Peace. Nope. I tell EVERYONE (and it’s on my blog’s reading log) that I love women’s fiction. That I write women’s fiction. And I don’t self-deprecate, etc. I think too many writers do that unfortunately.

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    • I agree, Nina. Many authors do put themselves down and that’s not good. Unfortunately there are also those on the other end of the spectrum – who go on and on about how great they are!

      But on Sunday at the Lit Fest — I saw none of that. It was fabulous and all-around supportive. The women I met set excellent examples.

      🙂
      Amy

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  7. Amy — thanks so much for reporting from the Chicago bookfest! I’d read about it and really wanted to be there myself.

    I’m so with you about support. Artists would be nothing without their fans, and if you have an instinct to write a positive amazon review, or blog your support on any forum — do it!

    Success happens in clusters — unhappy writers are those who compete against each other. Happy writers are those who support other writers. We all get our turn.

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    • I don’t have a group of writers but I do have one IRL writer-friend (Pamela) and the best bunch of virtual writer pals a writer could ask for. They come through for me time and time again.

      Good luck with your writing group!!

      Amy

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  8. I am so glad I was told about this site – and what an appropriate first blog for me to read! We do need advocates because there are many out there who may not understand what we write. Now…I’m going to go read your next post because I LOVE Cathy Lamb.

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  9. Advocates are as necessary as mentors. The writing life is solitary for the most part, a world misunderstood by the non-writer/reader/artist. Although we don’t hang out at water coolers everyday to chat about the previous episode of The Bachelorette, we stay in touch through blogs such as yours. It keeps it real.

    Totally off-subject here, but just want to tell you how much I appreciate your blog. I love the guest-spots especially because it validates my dreams of the traditional publication route. Please keep them coming!

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  10. What a fantastic post. I shared it on my FB page so more of my writer friends could see it too.

    There’s a group of writers I’ve become friendly with on Twitter, who all meet up at the virtual bar #pubwrite. A more fun, talented, smart, witty group of writing folk I have yet to meet. The sense of community there, of generosity, is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Everyone supports everyone. Imagine if that spirit went out into the greater writing world?

    You’re absolutely right with this. Thank you for wording it so eloquently.

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    • Thanks, Jennifer! I think that spirit is prevalent in the writing world online and in real life. Nothing is perfect, of course…but like I always say with writing feedback — take what you need and leave the rest! Welcome to WFW! Hope you’ll be back lots!

      🙂
      Amy

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  11. “Don’t blog because you want readers, blog because you have something to say. Don’t critique a manuscript because you want to be critiqued, do it because you want to help someone be a better writer.”

    LOVE that, Amy! And it’s something we really need to hear more! So often, we’re pushed to focus on ME, ME, ME and building a platform or spending more time writing than using social media, but some of the best writers have been successful because they were selfless first and they gave back to other writers without expecting anything in return. A writer’s first advocate is always going to be another writer.

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  12. Pingback: Author Eleanor Brown Talks About The Weird Sisters, Writing in First Person Plural and Sticking to her Guns « women's fiction writers

  13. Pingback: Exploring “The Wednesday Daughters” With Meg Waite Clayton | women's fiction writers

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