When I started writing about eight years ago, I started at home. Alone.
I handwrote my story in a journal-like book and later spent weeks entering it into the computer. It took a long time because I couldn’t read my own writing and I had many more ideas along the way I wanted to include.
Since then, I’ve gained some friends to help me along the way. I joined National RWA and then joined my local chapter, Tampa Area Romance Authors, TARA, where I learned all realms of the spectrum from query letters to marketing the final product. I also joined a two-person critique group and got invaluable information and insight from them.
Since I write Romantic Suspense I joined the Just Romantic Suspense group and get newsletters and advice from them as a group and also on their loop individually.
Around this time, I was still writing at home. Alone. For want of staying connected to other people, I started copyediting for The Wild Rose Press. I received a huge book of Chicago Manual of Style and did my best to follow their guidelines. And the books, wow, I read so many good books for free it was unbelievable. It kept me busy while I was thinking about what would happen next in my own book.
I also joined the Kiss of Death chapter where I was able to virtually attend numerous classes for a nominal fee. From there I merged into Lethal Ladies, an online critique group where I sent them one of my chapters to critique and I would critique two of anyone else’s in the group. I received invaluable information from these critiques and I have virtually met so many nice people from around the world and gained so much knowledge from this group, sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
So at my TARA group about a year ago, I volunteered to be a mentor to someone who wasn’t published yet, but was working diligently to that end goal. With a full life and full time job it’s hard to make the time. So, I started meeting Connie at Panera Bread at 11 AM for the afternoon every Thursday once a week. We have become great friends and even better writing partners. I look forward to Thursdays every week.
In January 2014, Rhonda asked me if I was interested in becoming an editor. I pondered this question for a few days and decided I’d love to help new friends become authors. So far, it has been satisfying.
Also, in January of 2014, I joined Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary (DAVA). I jumped in head first attending meetings, setting up and attending fundraisers, and offering creative, new ideas. I met some wonderful veterans, some from WWII and Korea as well as Viet Nam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. Each veteran, each war with different elements but a commonality they shared. They were all there to protect their country and their families. I’ve met and made close friends with spouses, sons and daughters of veterans no longer with us, some just recently passed. The respect they left with their families is awe-inspiring.
I think it was two years ago when RWA held their national convention in Orlando, Florida. Since I lived less than two hours away it was a no-brainer to go. It was the first one I attended. When I registered on-line they asked for volunteers so I chose the registration desk as a thank you for the invitation. I had a great experience meeting famous and some not so famous, but all wonderful authors. I felt like I was part of the group and became less shy and less inhibited.
When RWA2014 came around, I spent the money and attended it in San Antonio, Texas and can’t tell you how much I learned about inhibitions and walking up to someone of whom you thought was a stranger. I also volunteered at the registration desk again. Everyone I met gave me so much gratification, I felt as if everyone was a friend to me, and I had helped him/her.
Since then, I’ve attended the 29th reunion of my husband’s unit in Viet Nam, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. I walked by the over-run registration desk, manned by one man, so I had to ask. Did he need volunteers? “Hell yeah, I need a potty break.” So I began my 4 hours of volunteering at the busy registration desk. When a first-timer to the reunion came in, everybody stopped and applauded him for his courage to attend. I talked to the guys and their spouses, found out where they came from, what they were eating at the banquet Saturday night (had to give them the correct tickets) and where and when did they serve. Those who served the same time as my husband, I sent them to the Quartermaster store where he was volunteering. My husband met some guys he hadn’t seen in 45 years.
There are many things you can do at home. Alone. But reaching out to a person, one on one, shaking their hand, saying “I love your books,” to Jayne Anne Krentz (Amanda Quick) or “Thank you for your service,” to a veteran who had served his/her country in a foreign war zone, are not one of those.
The growth of your heart is larger, your spirit lifted, your fulfillment magnified. You feel complete and ‘one of the group,’ even in a room of strangers.
I look forward to Thursdays to write my own story and help Connie finish hers. I look forward to the bi-weekly DAV fundraisers, and the monthly meetings. I feel like I’m helping someone move forward with his or her life instead of becoming stagnant. I feel complete.
I’m still writing at home. Alone.
The Wild Rose Press