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:~: Monday, April 02, 2007 :~:

Giving Back

Yesterday a writer contacted me and asked if she could pick my brain about my agent. She has a full request sitting at the same agency and was in the process of doing some research in anticipation of an offer of representation. My immediate answer was, "Yes. What would you like to know?"

Afterwards, I thought back to where I was just six months ago. Doing the same thing. I'd contacted several writers who are repped by my now agent and asked very similar questions. Each of them gave the same answer I did, "Sure. What do you want to know?" Some volunteered information I didn't even ask, and all were helpful and eager to answer any questions I posed. Today, being on the other side of the Q&A, I'm struck with the same feeling I had then. What is it about writers that makes them so generous with their time and experiences?

At my first RWA National Conference in Reno, I was so star struck I could barely see straight. I remember running into Nora Roberts in the hall and feeling like I'd just met the Pope. I felt much the same way last year in Atlanta, especially at the Literacy signing (which I missed in Reno), seeing all the big-name authors together in one room, talking and autographing books. And time and again I've been struck with the same question - why are they here? Why do they bother to come to the conferences over and over again? I know why I go - as an unpublished author - but what keeps the big-wigs coming back year after year?

I think it's the same feeling I get when a new writer asks me a craft question or a colleague expresses interest in an agent or asks for my opinion. Others helped me get where I am now, and I feel the need to share what I know in the same way. Writers - but especially those in RWA - are more than generous with their time and experiences and this philosophy of giving back to other writers. It explains why there are published authors responding on the loops when they could be writing, why multi-published authors run for RWA offices both on the national and local levels, why so many big names make appearances even at small chapter meetings and conferences when asked. Allison Brennan does it by speaking at conferences, answering questions on loops, and responding to emails. Karin Tabke does it by running her first line contest and as president of the San Francisco RWA chapter. Alice Sharpe does it by staying active in the MWVRWA chapter and blog even when she's on deadline.

A friend and chapter mate said to me the other day when we were talking about our dear friend, Alice, and how much she gives back to our group: "I hope when you sell you still come to the chapter meetings and are as involved as much as you are now." My response was, "That's a no brainer. Of course I will be." I've learned way too much from other writers not to feel the pull to give back a little of what I know - even if right now it's not all that much. ;)

How about you? Do you feel the need to give back to other writers? How do you share what you've learned in this industry?



Blogger Joan Swan said...

It is a very generous industry. I too was asked about my agent after I'd had her for about a year by another author considering representation and offered what I knew.

I try to give back by sharing what I've learned and continue to learn along the path via the aritcles links off my website (other author articles and my own) and by participating in this blog.

I'm trying to start my own RWA chapter...but I'm still not sure that's going to work out.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

I try to give back by blogging about what I know and what I've learned (which, now that I think about it, probably isn't much, LOL!).

I answer questions on the loops I belong to whenever I can. When someone asks a question I don't know the answer to, I try to point her in the right direction (an article, another writer, etc.).

The writing crowd can be incredibly generous, as we've witnessed when writers fall upon difficult times and groups have rallied round to help.

Great post, E!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

Yes, this is a wonderful organization/group of writers! I joined the Salem chapter because they were so friendly and willing to help me learn the craft. Now I'm the president of the chapter, I'm publicity chair on the Historic online group. I write on the chapter blog, I give talks to my local chapter, answer questions on the loops. I'm co-teaching an online class in July with another HTH member and I'm giving a talk to our local writing group. And I have judged RWA sponsored contests for about 6 years.

I think giving back is what makes RWA the organization that it is.

I've also found in giving back, I've learned oodles!

Great subject, Eli!

8:17 PM  
Blogger Joan Swan said...

Oh, yeah -- Paty reminded me -- contests. I judge several throughout the year. For the most part, I really enjoy judging.


8:42 PM  
Blogger Theresa said...

During my first conference I was amazed by how willing the established authors were to help/advise the newbies.

I had this image of SEP, or Jennie Cruise as being off in the distance, standoffish-- to be admired instead of approached.

It was such a huge surprise and rush to find the opposite was true. Not only were they willing to talk and advise newbies, they were actually interested in what they had to say.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

I am constantly amazed at how generous writers are as well. Time pressures must be great, and yet so many big name authors take the time to help.

1:41 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

J, you do judge a lot of contests. I'm always amazed. Judging takes up a tremendous amount of time - it's great of you to do that. How's it going, btw, on the RWA chapter start-up?

7:20 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

You know a lot, Lin. ;) Though I'm not big on the loops much these days, I'm forever greatful for authors like you who are always so generous with the answers.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Paty, you are super busy - between what you do for our chapter, the Wild Rose Press and your own writing. I don't know how you do it! But I thank you for everything you do!

7:22 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Me, too, Theresa. I'm ALWAYS amazed when I meet the big authors and they're so down to earth.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Michelle, I think that's what floors me the most. That authors take time from their deadlines and schedules to make appearances, to answer emails from nobody-writers, to speak at conferences when they could be writing the next book. That spirit of giving back is enormous, esp. when you consider these things they do aren't advancing their careers the same way writing the NEXT book would be doing.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Edie said...

Writers are the most generous people I know. I give back by contest judging, plus I'm active in my chapter. Right now I'm a category coordinator for the Fab Five contest (which is a lot more work than I tought). I'll also answer questions on the Pro loop.

On every Sunday at Magical Musings, we post a Sold! column, a wrap up of deals sold the previous week.

7:36 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

I love the SOLD column, Edie. I usually page through Lunch Weekly, but often times I miss it as it gets absorbed into all the other emails I get in a day. I like being able to catch it on Magical Musings though.

My multi-pubbed friend, Alice (who I talked about in the post), asked me to give a workshop with her at the Emerald City conference. I'm flattered she would consider anything I have to say worthwhile, but in the end, I declined. Though I'm more than willing to give back in any way I can, until I'm pubbed I just don't think I'd feel comfortable speaking at a conference as any kind of "expert". I feel like I'm still learning in many ways. Am I alone in this thinking? What do you guys think of unpubs as speakers at conferences?

7:49 AM  
Blogger Elisa said...

This is a great post, Eli. I've donated critiques to a few auctions raising money for authors who needed help, and I'm judging a contest for the first time now. It's been a fun experience. I love to answer questions if new writers email me, but I'm not on any large writing loops.

I usually don't think I'm qualified to give writing advice. *grin* I spoke at an RWA meeting a few years ago, and it was probably one of the most harrowing hours of my life. lol I'm just too shy to enjoy that sort of thing, so I think I'll be sticking with blogging about craft once in a while.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Elisa. I think you either like being in front of a group, speaking, or you don't. Even though I was a teacher for what feels like eons, I still get stage-fright when I get in front of a group. Adults are a whole different ball game. Though the few times i've done it for my chapter, I've loved it. I guess part of me misses that aspect of teaching.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

Eli, you and Alice would be awesome! I'd go to your workshop! Just because you aren't pubbed doesn't mean you don't know something and being paired with multipubbed Alice -who btw picked you - that should make people believe in what you have to say.

And you have an agent that's more than a lot of unpubbed writers can say. I say go for it!

And I'd love to have a bunch of us from MWV at Emerald city!! Woohoo!

9:49 AM  

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