Throughout the month of May, our contributors will be sharing their inspirational stories of times when an author inspired them. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile and a word of encouragement. Other times, it may be a recommendation, or a good review. In some way, the author offered encouragement to keep writing, keep trying for an open door into the publishing realm.
For the most part, I’ve found authors to be very helpful and giving. They know how hard it is to write and have your work pored over by readers, editors, and agents. Sometimes the whole process seems to chip away at your confidence. For some reason, I had a sudden vision of a pigeon atop a statue. You know what pigeons do to statues. Yes, sometimes, it is very like that.
Especially when you send a portion of your work through an online critique loop. It’s like hitting send and launching a piece of your heart into the great void. Will it make the journey? Will it be torn apart by frenzied critiquers? Will they laugh uproariously, though it’s not a funny manuscript?
Several years back, a very hopeful younger version of myself joined ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), took the preparatory course on critiquing, then joined the huge online critique loop. I had a completed historical manuscript to send through chapter-by-chapter, and I was ready to begin my journey. I composed my first email, attached my first chapter, and hit send with a trembling index finger.
And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, I got a couple of crits. One was very helpful and nice, though there were a lot of suggestions. A LOT. The second one was from a dear lady who must have been “up there” in age, because she said she remembered those days (the 1920s). She went on to say that no young lady would ever put on a pair of dungarees (which my character had done before climbing out a window and down a tree). I had a photograph of my grandma in a pair of dungarees. The picture was taken in 1924, the year I had chosen to begin my story.
She said a lot of other things, like how she laughed uproariously at some of my mistakes, and maybe I should do a more thorough research before I sent the rest of the story through. Of course, I was greatly offended. After crying over it for a while, I put it away. When enough time had passed, I compared her assessment with the few other critiques I received, and made some changes. I also made changes to the second chapter and sent it through, only to receive another scathing review from that dear lady.
I know you’re wondering why I’m writing about this in an article about authors who inspire other authors. Well, I’m getting to that. After having my feelings completely trounced several times, I contacted the critique group coordinator. That was my first interaction with Fay Lamb. She assured me this was not the typical critique, and I shouldn’t take it personally. She also suggested I not read anymore offerings from this person, and in the meantime, she would contact the lady and make a few suggestions of her own.
Not only that, but Fay Lamb read my chapters and was very helpful. She was kind, but honest. I needed to up my game. I did that, and she encouraged me to keep moving forward. She also encouraged me to leave the big loop and opt for a smaller group, instead. I worked with one or two other writers for a while, then joined a second small group.
When my first book made it through the critique process, I looked for an editor I could pay to help me whip it into shape. I knew Fay was working as a freelance editor, so I hired her. She held my hand through the process, and we ended up with a completed novel.
Then she suggested I send it to a small press publisher. A little over a year later, the book was published by Write Integrity Press.
I might have given up along the way, except for Fay’s encouragement. “You’re a good writer. Keep working on it.” Her example kept me moving forward through some very dark times. I wanted to quit. She wouldn’t let me.
Fay and I became friends and discovered we had so much in common, it was uncanny. In fact, we’ve found so many weird connections, we may possibly be twins separated at birth. We finally met in person at a Christian writers conference in Atlanta. You’ll find her name on the acknowledgment page of most of my published novels.
I am not the only writer she has helped. I know many others can tell similar stories with Fay Lamb as the star. Well, except for being her twin. That may be unique.
Thank you, Fay, for being there for me, and helping me through the tough times—the inevitable deep lows that come to all who profess to be writers.
Writing Prompt: [Finish this thought with a complete sentence:] The most helpful suggestion ever made to me by another author is…
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