Jeannie, what a lovely tribute. You’ve written the Acknowledgements for your debut book! Well, your editor might want you to delete 825 words or so. But, you’re right: once you start thinking about all the people who have helped us get from not-yet- to almost-published, where do you stop?
And, what a good idea to remind other newbies that it’s not only acceptable, it’s downright necessary to depend on other people for guidance.
I certainly wish I’d read your post a dozen years ago when a friend from college mentioned that she had gone to high school with a woman who was a children’s book editor. Would I like to talk with her about my MG WIP? Sure! Flashing my friend’s name like either a shield or a weapon, I brazenly called “this woman.” I won’t name her because, although I didn’t know it then, I now know that she’s a Very Famous Editor at a Very Prestigious Publishing House. She and my friend must have been very close; following my call, she probably never trusted my friend again. (Sorry, Sarah.)
“Do you belong to SCBWI?” VFE asked.
“No,” I said, thinking I don’t need help from some organization I’d barely heard of.“
Are you in a critique group?”
“No.” Why would I need that?
“Well, you should.” Slam.
However long it took me to follow her advice was too long. Thank you, D. And, thank you, SCBWI and thank you, critique group, both of which I eventually joined and can’t imagine doing without.
There’s another category of helpers I’ve come to rely on—conferences and workshops, especially those that focus on craft. I’ve attended several and grown with each.
At one, I worked with an editor who helped me understand character—not well enough, as you’ll see, but that wasn’t her fault. At another, I met an editor who encouraged me to write nonfiction. That turned out to be fortuitous when, at a third workshop, I worked with a writer who truly inspired me to turn to nonfiction—not because he had any idea if I’d be good at it but because, after reading the same MG novel that VFE rebuffed, he told me, in effect, that I certainly shouldn’t write fiction. So, I also have people whose names start with J, L, and T to thank.
I feel as blessed as Jeannie to have the kinds of positive supporters that she does. In terms of having time and luxury to write, my husband is truly my sine qua non.
But, I’ve discovered, painfully and too slowly, that negative supporters can boost my writing life, also, if pay attention.