On the Importance of a Community and On Being a Generous Writer

I just returned from a delightful weekend in San Diego, where I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference. It felt good to be among a community of writers, each of us unabashedly parading our wares, our books in this case, flipping out our business cards, postcards, and laminated bookmarks embossed with cover designs of our books. A young writer made the rounds, all decked up in a soldier’s uniform of the era he was writing about, the Civil War I believe, but can’t vouch for it. I happened to sit next to him during lunch and couldn’t help but ask whether the rifle slung over his shoulder was loaded. He took his alarmingly sweet time to dramatize and elaborate on his answer as I attempted to inch further away from him and into safety. No, he assured me at last, the rifle is not loaded.

Jennifer Weltz of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency was our keynote speaker during lunch. She emphasized the importance of the author’s involvement in promoting the novel, as did Shana Drehs, senior editor at Sourcebooks, during an informative session entitled: “What a Publisher Wants You to Know.” Yes, it’s true, being involved in promoting and selling our novels is paramount to our success, an investment in our careers as writers. But, please! Let’s not forget to set aside some leftover time to write those novels we will have to promote.

Ms. Weltz stressed the value of authors supporting one another, backing, encouraging, aiding other writers, acts of generosity that will come back to benefit us. I can’t remember her exact words, but this was the gist of what she conveyed.

I full-heartedly believe in this philosophy and, as such, was twice rewarded on the same day. Once when DeAnna Cameron, the author of The Belly Dancer, approached with my novel, Harem, in hand and asked for an autograph, mentioning one or another act of generosity I’d extended to her some years back. And the second time, when I attended a panel titled “Turning the Antagonists of History into Sympathetic Protagonists” and asked the panelists a question that had to do with different points of view. And to my great delight, one of the panelists, C. W. Gortner, the author of The Last Queen, among other historical novels, replied that he has read and loved Harem and did not believe I needed much help in establishing different points of views.

I went ahead and promptly downloaded both C. W. Gortner’s The Last Queen, www.cwgortner.com, and DeAnna Cameron’s The Belly Dancer, www.DeAnnaCameron.com, on my Kindle. Perhaps Kindle will devise a key, an app, whatever it takes, to allow author autographs in the future. For now, alas, those of us who read on such devices have to do without.

Yes, we will sell more books and end up a stronger community, as Ms Weltz mentioned, if we support one another. So what are you waiting for? Let’s visit our favorite authors’ websites, Facebook pages, Twitter, click their “like” button, read their books and create a buzz. We will all benefit.

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