I just returned home from a trip to New York and Chicago. While in New York, I attended the Book Expo America. The expo was held at the Javits Center on the Hudson River, which is a huge venue! The event was crawling with publishers, agents, authors, fans and others in the book business.
The names of the big publishers hung from the ceiling to indicate where they were located in the room. There were book signings (with long line-ups for the well-known authors) and book give-aways galore. I left the event with more books than I wanted to carry.
It was exciting to be among so many people in the book industry. Writing is such a solitary endeavour. It was refreshing — and inspiring — to be around others who care about stories and books as much as I do.
I visited Maeve Binchy’s website the other day. I was looking to contact authors for an endorsement for my new book. I knew it was a shot in the dark with big-name authors like Binchy, but I thought, what the heck. I was surprised and dismayed to see this note on her Contact page:
Do remember, those of you who are writers too, that I’m in competition with you; so please don’t send me your manuscripts – send them to publishers instead.
While I completely understand that many authors may not have the time or interest to help other writers, I was surprised to see her note about being in competition with other writers. Am I the only one who thinks this is the wrong approach?
I have always viewed fellow writers as comrades – not competitors. When I meet a successful author, I don’t think, “You took my spot!” Or, when I meet children who love writing, I don’t think, “Hey kid, you might take my job one day!” 🙂
Writing is a lonely enough occupation – why view all those doing the same thing as competitors? Sure, there are a limited number of spots for authors in the renowned publishing houses, but there is room in this world for all writers.
I was honoured to present at the Calgary Young Writers Conference this weekend. More than 1,500 elementary and junior high students from around the city congregated at the conference to meet authors and illustrators, and to learn new skills in writing/illustrating. In my workshops, the students participated in writing exercises. Afterwards, a number of them read their short stories out loud. I was blown away by their imagination and writing talent. One thing was apparent: these kids loved to write.
Writing simply for the love of it. Or, for that matter, doing anything just for the love of it. Do you remember those days?
I met a fellow presenter at the conference – a professor in his sixties who had been writing stories for years. He had received one Governor General’s nod during that time, and after that, he said he didn’t feel the need to publish anything else. He said the need to get published and the self-promotion took something away from the writing itself.
I had to agree. Promoting your writing, vying for recognition and trying to please others – it strips some of the purity out of the writing process. As writers, it’s likely that many of us started writing as children. And, I would venture a guess, most of us did it simply because we enjoyed it, because we felt compelled to create stories or poems or plays, and because we lost ourselves in it.
One of the keynote speakers at the conference was a young published author in Grade 6. At the very end of his speech, he told us not to write because we want to get published – to write because it’s what we love.
That’s when the magic happens.