5 Ways to Drive an Editor Crazy

13761150586648bAs an aspiring writer, I thought editors had horns on their head and pitchforks perched beside their desks. After all, they sent me form “no thanks” letters after I’d slaved over an obviously brilliant manuscript. They ignored my letters and phone calls, and seemed to take joy in waiting months before replying to my oh-so-urgent emails.

Now, as both a seasoned writer and an editor for a large faith-based website, I’ve learned that editors are people, too. We love finding new voices to publish, and we try to be gentle when doling out rejections. Sure, we have our quirks, and we make mistakes. But mostly, we’re word-loving, gentle souls who find joy in a well-placed modifier.

When provoked, however, we can lose our literary minds. Several habits don’t just rub us the wrong way—they make us want to run down the street while still in our bathrobes, shouting Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” until we puke.

Here’s how you can speed that process along:

1) Treat Guidelines as Optional.

      Don’t bother reading writing guidelines; don’t even visit websites or read back issues of magazines. Send a totally inappropriate submission. In your cover letter, tell the editor that while you’ve never taken the time to familiarize yourself with their publication, you’re sure that your work is perfect for them. file3781288474089

       2) Respond viciously to rejection letters.

      When you receive a letter stating that “your submission doesn’t meet our current needs,” fire off a hateful email, chastising the editor for his lack of taste. Even better: use bad language and post your vitriolic thoughts all over social media. (This habit works well if you never want to see your work in print. Those bridges are so pretty when they burn!)

      3) Never turn in an assignment by the deadline.

Deadlines aren’t set in stone; therefore, ask for repeated extensions, paying no attention to the panicked tone of your editor’s responses. Don’t worry that you are one of several dozen moving parts in the publishing of a website, magazine or compilation book. Take all the time you want—the world does, in fact, revolve around you.

       4) Take up all your editor’s time.

Ask repeated questions about the contract or terms of your publishing agreement. Don’t get an agent or other professionals to weigh in on your questions. Don’t network with other writers so that you can learn from their experiences. Pester the editor with texts (preferably to her personal cell phone, if you can dig up the number) about when your piece will be printed, how many readers you’ll get, etc.

And finally:

5) Refuse to accept changes in your manuscript.

Since you have received your talent from God, treat every word as His direct quote. Don’t let an editor make changes to your beautiful masterpiece. Fight over each letter and punctuation mark. Don’t choose your battles. Take offense at questions. Die on every single hill.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a nasty email to delete…and I need to look up the lyrics to a certain parody song.

The Journey from Idea to Bookstore

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Someday I’d like to write a book. 

Book on the beachHaving spent most of my adult life as a research scientist affiliated with Harvard University, I like to break down goals into doable steps and analyze the process needed to achieve a certain result. While the publishing process is more art than science, here are some basic steps you will need to take to move from dreaming about writing a book to holding the finished product in your hands.

What’s the big idea?

Your nonfiction book of tens of thousands of words starts with one sentence that captures the main idea, or theme, of your book. Ernest Hemingway talked about writing one true sentence, and this goal is your first task. While this sentence may never appear in the book itself, you will need it in the book proposal your literary agent will send to publishers. Crystallizing the big idea of your book also will help you write a working title.

For my first book, Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith (InterVarsity Press, 2014), I started the process by writing down a list of words and short phrases that captured the essence of my message. A cluster of these words became the working title. Once I had a working title, I was ready to write the outline for the book.

Who is the audience?

Books are for readers, not the writers. Publishers want books to sell, not collect dust on bookstore shelves. Accordingly, once you have your big idea, you need to determine who will desire to read the book. These readers are your audience. Perhaps your book is for a general audience, and you hope everyone will read it. However, publishers will require that you define your audience more clearly.

Is there an age group more likely to read your book? Will the book appeal to certain specialists or professionals, like pastors or counselors? What interests do your potential readers have that would make them likely to buy your book? Will your readers use the book in a group setting such as a Bible study or classroom, or will they tuck it into a carry-on bag for entertainment on an airplane ride or while soaking up the sun on a distant beach?

Think in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences. These categories will help you define who is most likely to buy the book as well as the wider audiences that may express interest. You will need to describe your audience in your nonfiction book proposal. Knowing your audience also will shape your writing style for the book. For example, a book for teens will use a different vocabulary than a book for seminary professors. A book useful for a specialist may need to include references and an index, while a book used in a church setting may benefit from a discussion guide.

 Why write this book?

The journey from idea to bookstore usually measures in years not months, so knowing why you are writing this book will fuel your motivation early in the morning or late at night as you face publication deadlines. The answer to this question will come in handy when family members and friends wonder why you are spending your free time in your office instead of having fun anywhere else.

Understanding what need your book will meet in the marketplace of ideas will provide direction as you decide what material you need to cover in your chapters and what falls outside the scope of this book. Ultimately, focusing on the purpose for writing this book will keep you connected to your calling as an author and the original dream that has moved from someday to today.

Want to Write a Book? The Next Patch of Light

file6041243276582I was privileged to attend my former advanced memoir workshop a few weeks ago to share my publishing journey, both with my first memoir that came out in August of 2013, and the news about recently signing a book deal for a second memoir. As I talked through the six years it took to publish my first book, as my fellow writers threw questions at me left and right, “How did you find an agent?, what did you do to build a platform?, how do you plan to structure your current project?, how do you even go about writing a book?, a thought occurred to me.

If you want to write a book…If you really want to do this…

Step into the next patch of light.

That, my friends, is the best writing advice I have to date.

I’ll let you in on an author secret. We all started at the beginning. And I think most of us make this life up as we go along. Even New York Times best-selling authors, at one point, stared at the cursor on a blank page.

Still afraid?

Step into the next patch of light.

Are you already a writer, a person who has honed her craft and has literary muscles? Have you always been interested in memoir and look!, your uncle gave you a book on writing memoir for Christmas? Were you walking down the street when you stepped in a mud puddle, and while stopping to shake off the mud you happen to notice an ad on the flag pole in front of you for a writing class in your neighborhood?

Any of those instances may be your next patch of light.

You have to start somewhere, so look around and see where you stand. Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

If you hope to publish a book, than do what’s in front of you today. Don’t worry about a two-year plan complete with a detailed description of how you’ll construct your book while you also build your platform and research literary agents. (If you are naturally a person like that, email me, OK? I may need a little help.)

No, do what is in front of you right now. And when it’s time (and you’ll know it is time because you’ll itch for something else, or get bored, or curious), look ahead for the next little patch of light. Pay attention to your surroundings: follow authors on Twitter, look out for workshops, read blog posts for fun, pick up a book at your local independent book store on a Saturday afternoon that might apply to your writing journey. Any of these things could be your next patch of light. And before you know it, (and trust me, if you follow the patches of light, you will move in this direction and it is crazy and cool at the same time) you will be writing a book.

But for today, resolve yourself to take it one step at a time, and pay attention to the writer light in your life.

Your Friends in the Book Marketing Business

Book marketing can be rather overwhelming, especially here in the middle of the publishing revolution. The good news is that there are more and more emerging companies out there who bring a lot of light to this dark arena. Whether you are an author looking for assistance or a reader trying to find the best deals available, this post is to create a compilation of resources you may find helpful.

Pubslush: A global, crowd funding and analytics platform for books only. This platform allows authors to raise money and gauge the initial audience for new book ideas, and for readers to pledge their financial support to bring books to life. Pubslush is entirely about giving: giving an opportunity to authors, giving a voice to readers, and giving books to children without access to literature. http://www.pubslush.com 

Businessman Midair in a Business Meeting

Author Marketing ClubAn author member can submit books for promotional opportunities, as well as access free online training and resources related to book marketing. A reader member will get notified about new and discounted books, and can discover new authors. This service is free for both authors and readers. You can upgrade to the Premium program if you wish for additional benefits, but it is not required for you to do so. Some of the options offered under a Premium membership include an Amazon book reviewer tool that can help you find reviewers who focus on your literary genre.  http://authormarketingclub.com/

BookBub: The best marketing dollars I have ever spent have been with BookBub. BookBub is a free daily email that notifies you about deep discounts on acclaimed ebooks. You choose the types you’d like to get notified about — with categories ranging from mysteries to cookbooks — and they email you great deals in those genres. BookBub features ebooks ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors. During my last campaign with BookBub, I spent about $260.00 and yielded thousands of downloads as a result. If you are looking for new readers, do yourself a favor and check out BookBub: http://www.bookbub.com/home/

Other great resources for readers:

Pixel of Ink: A website which features daily publishing of Free Kindle Books and Hot Deals. On any given day, there are thousands of Free Kindle Books available.  http://www.pixelofink.com/

Inspired Reads: The best Christian Kindle books on a budget. http://www.inspiredreads.com/

Kindle Daily Deal: The best deals available for Kindle. http://amzn.to/KindleDailyDeal

What are your favorite book marketing resources, websites, and venues?

Publishing Day

The day my book releases is an odd day for me. Inside, I am screaming, “My book is out! Everybody, my book is out! Are you going to untitledread it, or what?!” I walk into the bookstore and pretend to only casually check that it’s on the front table. If it’s not, I pretend not to be bothered. I decrease my expectations. I walk towards the women’s section and just hope to see it on the shelf. If it’s not, I pretend to understand, but inside, I don’t understand at all.

Because it’s my heart on the page.

I went through this with my first book, Girl Perfect, and I just went through it again with Beautiful Lies. In the days of the release, something in me wants people to stop and take notice, and that part of me wrestles with the part that knows the act of creating is worth it, whether anyone notices or not.

I hope the late nights, the honest tears, and the sweet victories of finding just the right words to speak my soul’s hunger will result in profundity for the reader. I want my efforts to matter. In fact, I’m tempted to tell you how I crawled through the thickest mud of my adult life to bear this book. But Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, scolded me about this, warning me never to tell anyone how much a book cost me personally – for it is impolite to do so.

So with the release of a book, three tragic flaws in the self must die. First, the part of us that hungers for recognition has to die to the Spirit in us that is compelled to speak honestly and truthfully into a world that needs our voices.  Second, the humanity in us that wants millions to hear the book’s message must die to the Spirit in us that rejoices if one life is purely changed by our words.

Finally, we have to let go of “perfect” and embrace gratitude instead. The perfectionistic questions that circle on publishing day – “Is it enough?” “Did I say everything I wanted to?” “Will the reader understand my heart’s lineage?”  and “Is this as beautiful an offering as I dreamed?” – all of these questions must yield to gratitude.

untitledSo here is mine: Thank you, God, that I had the opportunity to bleed truth on these pages. Thank you for the healing it brought to me. Thank you that you love me so much as to give my heart’s desire wings, and I commit these books to you, trusting your winds will carry their words wherever they need to flutter. Beautiful Lies is my offering. My alabaster jar. And when I poured its oil, it was all for you.

What about you? What do you have to embrace and let go of on publishing day? What are the needs for recognition or perfection that you battle? What does your gratitude sound like?

The Trick to Becoming an Author

Pavillion_d'Armide_by_A._Benois_05The other day, a colleague asked me if I thought the burgeoning popularity of memoir-style books of the sort I had published had to do with the fact that the people who read them wanted to write such books themselves.

Reflecting on what he asked, it occurs to me now that—the underlying argument being that my writing’s appeal had nothing to do with my writing itself but only the envy of my readers and that the underlying argument of my readers’ envy being that anyone could write as well as I could—I should have gotten offended. But I didn’t. (Thanks, surely, to the Holy Spirit, who tries to protect me, usually in vain, from bouts of narcissism that make me think I’m a great writer and cause me to take offense at any reminder that I’m not.)

I didn’t get offended, too, because I knew, as anyone who’s ever published a book of any sort does, that what he said was true. We know it from the people who show up in our doorways wanting publishing advice. We know it from acquaintances who know about our good luck as writers and come up to us in the grocery store, or sitting at the vet’s office, or walking to our cars after church, and want to tell us their latest book idea. We know it from the mail we get when our books come out. Fast on the heels of a fan email, if not within the fan email itself, comes a question about how to get the fan’s own work published.

Everyone these days has not just a story in them, as they used to say, but a published book—even though it’s rarely written or even begun. All it takes to write a book, the would-be writer hopes or believes, is an idea and the need to tell it. What happens between that and getting something published is a trick they plan to learn from established writers.

But there is no trick. Just the arduous and time-consuming work of writing and rewriting and sending stuff out and waiting and trying to believe there’s a chance that someone who makes a difference in the world of publishing likes it and finding out there mostly isn’t (or, if you really are lucky, that there might be a chance with some major changes to what you’ve written) and then writing and rewriting again. That’s the part no one wants to hear or even know about. That to be a writer is to write. Period.

They’re like Simon the Magician, that guy in the book of Acts who—though Luke makes clear that he’s a genuine believer—tries to buy from the apostles the trick of touching people and thereby filling them with the Holy Spirit.

“Just teach me the trick of getting published!” EveryWriter begs. Often, as Simon does, they even offer to pay for the trick.

But there is no trick.

Sermons on Simon’s story often go on about how wrong-headed Simon was, thinking to buy the Holy Spirit, and sometimes they posit that Simon wasn’t really a believer at all, even if Luke says he was. But such sermons miss the point, I think—whether it’s the gift of writing we’re talking about or of imparting the Holy Spirit. Being a servant of the word, or the Word, is not a magic trick. You have to get out there and do it.

Hard Work--George Herriman 1907-11-24That said, I remember having had the same response to other writers’ writing—not just to their memoirs but to their novels and even textbooks. I’ve thought to myself, if they can do it, why then so can I. And so began this article and that book. So began my current writing project, a novel–my first. So began, indeed, my entire career as a writer.

If others can do it, so can you, but don’t sit around hoping to discover some trick to make it happen effortlessly. If you want to write, if you want to inspire others, if you want to fill them with good news, with the very spirit of God, you’ll just have to get out there and do it.

How My Agent Found Me

agent found me

My agent found me.

It’s true.

I didn’t believe it at first either.

And I am oh, so grateful. Her council, editorial skills, business savvy, and contacts make a huge difference in my budding career.

And I know… it doesn’t seem fair.

How exactly did she find me?

Through two chapters released to The Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2012. As a participant of the conference, I submitted part of my memoir for agents to review.

Sarah Joy Freese found my chapters, and contacted me for the full manuscript.

But why did she find me?

Because people I met along my writing journey told me to work hard.

And I need to be able to say this although it feels a little strange, like a pat on the back or something, but I realize now that I did work hard. I worked hard and long for her to find me.

If you want an agent to find you, here are four things you can do.

1) Write well.

Make sure your writing continues to improve. Read a lot. Write even more. Attend a class. Submit your work for critique. Spend time in the chair, churning out pages. If your writing isn’t at its best, even if an agent finds you, he probably will pass.

2) Build your platform.

Gone are the days of a writer hiding away in an upstairs attic penning the next great American novel. In the publishing world today, writers have to do more than write beautifully. They need to build a following. Want to learn more about this idea? Read Seth Godin’s book Tribes.

Warning: when you begin to work on a platform, you will feel ridiculous. When I started a Facebook author page, I joked with my friends about ‘fans’ liking the newest dirty diaper I changed at home. As a stay-at-home-mom with four children to wrangle, I didn’t think I was qualified to have a fan page, but I did have a goal: to publish a book. So I began.

Other platform ideas: blogging, speaking, writing e-books, the list can get really long and daunting. The important thing is to start, and to remember platform building as an important element to your future in publishing. It needs to grow with your writing skills. You need to be a package deal.

3) Have polished, edited chapters of your current work in progress ready.

Spend time on a couple of your favorite chapters in your work in progress. Make them strong. Hire or ask someone you trust to edit them. Rewrite them. Rewrite them again. Make sure that even if you don’t know every nuance of the book that you have a general idea of the story arc, so that your chapters fit when you pitch the idea to the agent.

My husband and I cobbled together funds so I could pay two freelance editors to work through drafts of my recently published memoir Sun Shine Down. After writing a third draft of the same book, I started to feel like I had something I could show someone with my head held high. Yes, it takes work, and time, but your best work is worth it, and it is your best chance to have an agent ask to see more.

4) Attend writers conferences.

Before attending conferences, I queried countless agents to no avail. I hardly got back a standard rejection email.

I can’t stress enough how helpful conferences were/are to my career. In 2012, I attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and the Festival of Faith and Writing, where I met my agent. Both were amazing experiences. I shook hands with people, passed out and retrieved business cards, and submitted my work for review and critique. While buoyed in my fervor for the written word, I soaked in lessons about the craft and business of writing.

I think every writer should attend as many conferences as they can.

Be encouraged.

If you want an agent to find you: do good work, put yourself out there, be ready at a moment’s notice to submit, and go where the writers, agents, and editors go.

If this stay-at-home-mom, queen of diapers and ruler over tantrums can do it, so can you. I’m rooting for you!

Now get to work. Your agent may be looking for you right now.

*Do you have an agent? How did that relationship come to be? Do tell.

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Facing Your Fears as a Writer

Photo/TaraRoss

Write down for the coming generation what the Lord has done, so that people not yet born will praise him. (Ps. 102:18 GNT)

I’m always looking for ways to encourage people to tell the stories that matter most. As a writing instructor, I’ve often observed the need for others to tell their stories.

Passing along our faith and family stories helps us make sense of some of the crucial issues that we face in life. When Christians begin telling the stories that matter most, lives change and hearts heal.

But fear silences the voices of many Christians, preventing them from telling their stories. And if you’ve considered writing for publication for any length of time at all, you’ve probably faced the emotion of fear in your work. Many obstacles keep us from telling our stories—personal insecurities, writer’s block, or a variety of excuses.

Excuses. I can think of so many examples through the years when I just sat back and waited on someone else to do something that I knew I needed to do myself. And I can always come up with an excuse about why I can’t do something.

Before my own children became independent, I often reminded them, “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” I never wanted Adam and Tara to be afraid of me, but I knew delayed obedience might be dangerous and harmful at times. But even though my instructions were motivated out of my love and concern for them, they often resisted. Yet I persisted in my discipline. I prayed that they would learn obedience as children, so they would obey God and their God-given authorities as adults.

I even offer myself excuses now, when I don’t want to do something, like making my bed. What does it matter if my husband Dan does that? It’s his bed, too! And our unmade bed obviously bothers him more than it does me anyway.

But what about the things that God calls me to do? What kind of excuses do I use to attempt to justify my disobedience?

  • That’s not my “gift.”
  • I’m not trained to do that.
  • What do I have to say?
  • I’m not a “good” speaker (writer, teacher, blogger … whatever).

Insecurities. As I searched the Bible to try to find some answers to my problem of fear, I discovered that I was in good company.

In fact, when God called Moses to lead His people out of bondage, “ … Moses protested to God, ‘Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?’” (Ex. 3:11 NLT).

Moses knew that this assignment was way out of his area of expertise and experience. And Moses knew that he couldn’t do this impossible task in his own strength or with his limited wisdom. But his awareness of his own limitations proved to be one of Moses’ greatest leadership qualities. It forced him to become totally dependent upon God.

Do you think that God was shocked by Moses’ questions and concerns? I don’t.

Promises. In fact, God responded to Moses with the assurance of His presence, not His judgment. “God answered, ‘I will be with you’” (3:12).

I don’t believe that my questions surprise God, either. God still promises to always be with us today. “… And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

And He also promises to provide all that we need to do what He calls us to do.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished … ” (Phil. 1:6).

What’s keeping you from telling the stories that matter most to you?

Photo/TaraRoss
YouTube/JoshWilsonVEVO (“I Refuse”)

Being a Published Author Won’t Make Me Happy (And How I know That)

As I finished grad school, I began writing about my experience. I wrote about what I wished I had known earlier in life. I wrote about psychological tools that heal people. In summary, I wrote about pain and what healed that pain. One day, while sitting in a coffee shop, I decided I was going to write a book about all this. So let’s see, it only took eight years to figure out how to find an agent, query an idea, write a proposal, change my idea, change my agent, and finally write the book once it sold. And only eight years of full time engagement in social media, blogging, and marketing. Only eight years of researching and learning through writing and speaker events. That in addition to my real job as a Licensed Professional Counselor and part time professor at a local university.

Getting a book published is difficult.

20130314-_MG_7882So the idea of seeing boxes of books on my front doorstep feels both surreal and monumental. It’s a huge accomplishment that I will celebrate with a party, in a red barn, with twinkly lights. There will be music, friends, food, and revelry. But I know that a published book won’t bring me happiness.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend who has authored over 40 books. I told her I knew that having a published book would not make me happy. She seemed surprised and wanted to know how I knew that ahead of time. I told her I thought it was because I had done so much research on the topic of happiness. I understand what poor judges people are at knowing what will bring them happiness and what won’t.

Striving authors need to know that a published book won’t make them happy. Here’s why:

  • People have a happiness set point. Fifty percent of happiness is genetic, ten percent is based on life circumstances, and forty percent is within our power to effect. For instance, Americans will put themselves in debt for decades thinking a dream home, boat, or car will make them happy. But the new wears off within a few days because of an effect called hedonic adaptation. Most people don’t understand that the lotto winer and the paralyzed person will bounce back to their prior happiness level within a few months of their changed life condition.
  • The joy is in the journey. I’ll never forget what my friend Zeke Pipher said when his book released. In essence, “Whether this book sells or not, it won’t define my worth, happiness, or success.” He went on to describe his faith and his relationship with his wife and children, saying those were the reasons for his joy. Zeke should know. His mom wrote an international best-seller. She soon found that the harried pace of traveling and speaking made her miserable. There’s an interesting research study that found when people were randomly beeped, and told to write down what they were doing and how happy they were, folks were happiest while in the creative state of “flow.” Flow is when you are fully absorbed in an activity, so much so that you lose sense of time. Numerous studies have shown that it is the striving, not the achieving, that makes us happy, especially when our goals are realistic, flexible, valued by the culture, authentic, non-materialistic, and not negatively impacting other parts of our lives.
  • The more we attain, the more we want, and this negates our increased happiness. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky in her newly released book, The Myths of Happiness, explains that aspirations are misleading. We attain more, so we want more, and the wanting makes us feel bad. Crazy huh? She concludes that we shouldn’t expect less but that we should simply not allow our desires to continue escalating to the point where we end up feeling entitled and convinced that we would only be happy if we got more and more of this or that.
  • Relying on external rather than internal validation makes us unhappy. Some people think they will be happy based on other people’s opinions of their success. But, when we ask ourselves the question, “How good (successful, smart, prosperous, ethical) am I?” the people who rely on an internal rather than external objective standard are happier. There will always be someone wealthier, more attractive, thinner, more popular, and more talented. Therefore, relying on other people’s opinions rather than our own is a recipe for misery. In short, goals which cause growth, make us feel competent, and connect us to others are the ones that make us happy. Goals that make us strive to be rich, famous, popular, or powerful make us unhappy. (I wrote more about this over here at Michael Hyatt’s blog.)

*I orignially wrote this post just before my book released in March 2013. It’s true, having a published book has not made me any happier than I already was. I feel a sense of achievement and gratitude, but I’m glad I knew it wouldn’t make me any happier than I already was.

Think about the last big milestone you achieved.

How long did the happiness last?

Are You a Good Literary Citizen?

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Are you a good literary citizen?

I’ll never forget it. I was probably eight or nine years old, and my family had gotten up early to get a spot in the front for the Blossom Time Parade in a neighboring town.

This was a big deal. Every year, thousands of people from Southwest Michigan gathered, anticipating a show of marching bands, fire trucks, homecoming queens, and buckets of candy thrown out to kids scurrying in retrieval around the pavement like ants.

The year I recall was an extra-big, super duper deal, because “Samantha”–the youngest child from the quasi popular 1980 sitcom Gimme a Break!–was scheduled to appear.

Now, I wasn’t a big fan of Gimme a Break!, nor did I think Samantha was the best child-actor of my youth, but she was going to be there, in my small town parade, and I loved to act in school, and every time I thought about meeting a real life star, a firecracker lit and crackled in my gut. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd at the parade, armed with a glittery pink pen and my diary.

Samantha waved and smiled as she sat on top of a cherry red Corvette. And then it happened. The car paused in line, waiting for the parade to continue, and a swarm of preteen girls crowded around Samantha, holding out pictures and paper for her to sign. My legs took off, and before I knew it, I was there too, in the swarm, buzzing, waiting for my turn to ask for an autograph.

Once most of the girls got their autographs, the car started to move. Panicked, I held out my diary to Samantha as her handler winked at me and said, “Surely we have time for one more.”

My heartbeat skipped.

“No! We don’t have time for any more,” Samantha hissed, pushing my diary towards my chest. Her eyes met mine coldly. “I’m done.”

The driver switched from the brake to the gas. I watched Samantha creep forward in the parade, once again smiling and waving to her adoring fans.

Who knows what was going on with Samantha. Everyone has bad days. But I have to admit, I was one disappointed, disenchanted little girl.

I decided that if I were ever fortunate enough to do well at something I loved, I’d be sure to be kind.

Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and I’m pleased to announce that time and again, as a new author, I’ve encountered kindness and generosity in the literary world.

What is a good literary citizen?

This is my definition: a person who supports creativity, who esteems work, and helps others grow in their craft. It’s a person who buys books (and lots of them!) and networks on behalf of authors and writers she or he admires.

I think about Samantha when authors share their knowledge of writing and publishing with me. I think about Samantha when I witness someone farther down the publishing road give a nod and a hello to another starting out.

I hold out my diary and these kind souls take my glittery pen and jot me a note. “Congratulations! Keep going! Try this agent. Sure, I’ll review your work.” Or even this: “I can’t help you now, but all the best to you!”

I don’t take it for granted. People in the publishing world are busy. There is no reason why some should respond to my letters or emails with such goodwill, but they do. And I learn that sure, there are Samanthas in the world. But that’s okay. There are also authors and writers who do their best to help strong work rise to the surface for all to enjoy.

There are people who value being good literary citizens.

Not every author or writer can help. Not everyone will care to help. But of course, everyone can pass on a measure of goodwill as another pursues her dreams.

And we can do it with kindness for the sake of our literary world.

*In an effort to pay it forward in the literary world, I am doing a daily author interview and book giveaway (from writers who happen to be mothers and write about it) the week of May 6th, leading up to Mother’s Day. Drop by to hear from great authors such as Shauna Niequist, Jennifer Grant, Kate Hopper, Claire Bidwell Smith and one more (waiting on a confirmation :)). Find out more at www.gillianmarchenko.com.