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Tuesday, June 26, 2012
When did I cross the line?
I remember the first time I declared myself to be a writer. I needed information from the nearby Meeting of the Society of Friends. The characters I was writing at the time were Quakers, and had been members of that meeting. I called and asked if they there was a local historian. I paused, took a deep breath and said “I am a writer looking for background.” From the time that book came out, I considered myself to be a writer and found it perfectly easy to say.
It was easier to convince the woman on the phone than some of my fellow writers.
When I told a friend, we’ll call her X, that I had been selected to be on a panel at a writer's workshop, she said "they will let anyone onto their panels.” Clearly she didn't consider me to be a real writer.
At the time I wondered what would make me a "real" writer in her eyes.
Yesterday I received an email from Y, a member of my critique group, saying that her story had to be shortened by 1500 words, and X. had told her she should show it to me. X. was sure I would be very helpful.
When did I cross the line from non-writer to writer in X’s estimation? More important, how had I changed her perception of me?
There are several possibilities.
I am persistent. Since the first remark, I have had several more short stories published and I go on writing them. Rejections have not discouraged me.
I have given several presentations at local meeting on writing short stories and taking criticism. My first few presentations were not related directly to the process of writing, but to background, one on the psychology of the victim, perpetrator, rescuer triad, central to most mysteries. One was on how historical characters dress. When I started presenting more writerly topics, I gained a bit of respect.
I have worked on three anthologies, not just submitting stories but compiling the manuscripts working on the submission process and screening submissions.
I attend at least two writers' conferences a year.
I started and maintained a critique group when I couldn’t find on that met my needs. I have been in one critique group or another for over a decade, but being in an all mystery group has upped my credibility a tad.
I learn from criticism. In this particular case, I think this made the biggest difference in the way X perceived me. She offered a way to improve a story she was editing for me. I took the suggestion, agonized over it for a week or so. I finally decided that I couldn't make the change and I would pull the story. That's when the answer came, and with a few words I changed the story from ordinary to exciting.
Do I care what she thinks of me? No. I have received validation from other writers whose opinions I value more. She is an inconsistent and biased yardstick. But it's good to have such a tough critic admit I have arrived.