Monday, November 25, 2013

A Writer's Gratitude

I didn't intend to write about Thanksgiving this week. After all, isn't that the big theme trending on twitter and Facebook right now? Aren't we all just sick to death of the trite, "I'm thankful for my Starbucks" posts going up daily? It feels like we've worn out the holiday and we haven't even bought our groceries yet. Even the retailers want us to just skip ahead and focus on what's really important: shopping!

And yet... while some of the items on the thankful lists may seem trite, the larger sentiment is something we don't see enough of these days. Gratitude, as a general principle, seems less and less important. Part of the problem is that we are always in a rush. We are so busy sending emails on our smart phones as we rush from point A to point B that we not only don't say "thank you" to the person holding the door open for us, we didn't even notice someone had done so. A "thanks" to our server, barista, or store clerk is rare. And of course, the everyday little things that make our lives so much easier-- clean running water, washing machines, dishwashers, or even ready access to food on the table-- are completely taken for granted. We assume that these things have and will always be available. We demand and expect, but rarely consider the effort, the demands of time and energy, the wizards behind the curtain that factor into getting us what we need or want, when we want or need.

As writers, we have so many things to be thankful for, and so many people who are instrumental in getting our books from brain, to page, to readers. So, in the spirit of the holiday, it’s time to pull back the curtain and give a little gratitude to a few of those hard-working supporters who make this passion of ours into a reality:

1. First off, we have to thank the muse. Fickle as she may be at times, nothing happens without that spark of inspiration.

2. Friends and family are an essential part of any creative endeavor. They encourage, they cheerlead, they tell us, “no, you don’t suck, your book is great!” or when the book does suck, they tell us how to fix it. Behind every tortured creative soul is a loyal friend or family member willing to pick up all the pieces and tape them back together when necessary. For my part, there isn’t a book or a story I’ve completed without an army of loyal minions at my back.

3. Other writers deserve a shout-out, particularly those in the SFF community. I’ve learned more from my fellow writers about craft, publishing, marketing, and every phase in between than every workshop I’ve attended and book I’ve read combined. These are the people who really get down and dirty, devoting their time to read beta drafts and offer their creative genius in support of others. They are always willing to help a young writer get started or offer praise and support. These are our fellow soldiers in the trenches, without whom we would never survive.

4. I know I personally could not function without my writing group, Lumosliterati, and I know many others feel the same way about their wizards behind the curtain, who pick apart plots and character, nag about word choice, argue about commas and repetitive sentence structures. We laugh, we fight, we cry, and our books are all the better for it.

5. Editors: Terri-Lynne and Eric, I’m looking at you! I can say from experience that it is no fun being an editor and having to tell an author that he or she needs to rethink, revise, rewrite. My books are my babies, and I know all writers feel the same. But without my editors telling me, “this is great!” or “make the pirates work or they have to go!” my books would never hit shelves. Which leads me to…

6. Publishers, the ultimate quality-control guardians, the keepers of the kingdom. I’m a little biased, but my publisher, Eric T. Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books, is the absolute bomb-diggety. He makes sure that our books are beautiful quality, inside and out, before they reach the readers. But what makes me especially thankful for my publisher is his attitude toward the press and his authors. Hadley Rille is his baby; we are his family. Karin and Terri-Lynne are my book-sisters, Mark my brother, and all of us feel connected. Could we make more money as “big-publisher” authors? Probably. But this experience of belonging to something greater than the individual is priceless, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

7. Last, but definitely not least, we owe a debt of gratitude to our readers. To be able to share our worlds and characters with others is the most wonderful feeling imaginable, and to know that other people love Breyveran, Ki’leah, Britta and Erich as much as I do makes everything worthwhile. I know some of my readers are a little peeved with me at the moment for the long pause in their story (it’s coming, I promise!) but hopefully they will come to love Skerth and Kiri, too, and look forward to their continued stories as much as I do.

I couldn’t end this post without a heartfelt thanks to all of you, our loyal readers of Heroines of Fantasy. I don’t comment as often as I’d like, but I read everything, and cherish our conversations here. I think I speak for all of us here when I say that we are all grateful for your company, and we look forward to many more years of dialogue and adventure to come!

~Kim Vandervort

4 comments:

Terri-Lynne said...

Dammit, Kim! You made me cry! I am grateful, too. My HRB family means the world to me. Sisters is words. It's just the best.

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Awesome post, Kim! I'm thankful for YOU! :) You're the magnet who brought us all together. Happy Thanksgiving!

A.T. Schlesinger said...

Very nice post, Kim.

Dr. Seuss teaches children this in a great book Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are. If you have never read that to your child--or your inner child--do it soon.

Like all of Seuss, it looks superficial, like the time some silly beach creatures fought over who and who did not have stars on their bellies.

Then you look deep, and you see that Sneeches is a story about racism. And you might be tempted to think the Star-Belly Sneetches were real assholes...

Then you look deeper...

And you see the Star-Bellys are not solely to blame:

...Then one day, it seems...while the Plain-Belly Sneetches/ Where moping and doping alone on the beaches/ Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars...

Why? The Plain-Belly had money. Why couldn't they play ball and have beach parties?

The same is true with Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are.

On the surface, it seems like an excuse to have funny pictures and funny names for things.

Then you look deep and it is a story about gratitude. "You may have some problems, but these poor saps have real problems!"

Then you look deeper...

Tanks goodness for all of the tings that you're not!/ Thank goodness you're not something someone's forgot, and left all alone in some punkerish place / like a rusty tin coat hanger hanging in space.

One can almost see that moment, sometime in the early 70s, when Theodor Seuss Geisel saw a coat hanger just hanging somewhere--just waiting to be used, rusting, forgotten--and he thought, "There is a lesson here."

His book is not just a lecture on being grateful your life isn't worse then it is, but that one should be thankful there are people in your life who need you.

Because as long as that exists, you can endure anything.

Terri-Lynne said...

AT, as always, great contribution to the discussion. Beautiful.

I read recently that it took Mr. Geisel years to write most of those "simple" books. And I have to be honest--his illustrations creeped me the hell out as a kid! I didn't read much Seuss, and were it not for Max in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I probably would not have watched it either!