As happy and fulfilled as I am finally discovering a channel that has me pursuing my lifelong dream—writing fiction—this dream gave me an additional benefit I never could have foreseen: it’s allowed me quality time with my mom and given us both a sense of community.
Neither Mom nor I could have imagined even five years ago that we’d be pursuing the same dream, and we don’t actually do the writing at the same time, though we talk out plot points. Mom is legally blind and cannot read her own words so she creates the first draft and I take it from there. But what we are doing together is being authors, and believe me, that’s a lot harder work than the actual writing. Still, we feel blessed to go through this journey together. This weekend, that journey took us several hours south for the Suffolk Mystery Writer’s Conference at the beautiful Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Here’s what we discovered:
Writers are like snowflakes—no two reach the ground looking the same. Even though you feel like you’ve somehow joined this prestigious society when you succeed in getting a book published, no author gets from point A—finally sitting down at the computer to put down thoughts, to point B—holding the printed baby in her or his hands, the same way. This is especially true today as publishing is facing a blizzard and there are no longer any lines that are visible to help those lost in the middle of it.
Once a writer gets to Point B in this blizzard, they’ve only begun the journey. It doesn’t matter whether you publish through a traditional publisher, land a book agent or self publish: getting the book into the hands of readers is increasingly the job of the author. That’s not because publishers or agents have slacked off: it’s because there are so many books out there. One of the most astounding facts we learned came from a speaker who had researched Amazon to help with her session: she reported that the site now lists 12,000 cozy mysteries—up from 5,000 just a few years ago. And that’s only one type of what are dozens of mystery genres and hundreds of fiction genres.
Writers are like snowflakes—no two have the same career. In the same session, we had a speaker who had a 50-60-hour workweek at another job then used lunch hours, sleep hours and weekend hours to write, to a speaker who was retired and using that retirement to travel and write, to a woman who began writing fiction during her children’s nap time.
Mom and I had a good time learning just how diverse this author business can be, and on the way home, we discussed whether we should be discouraged by this blizzard. But we also came to the conclusion there was one thing we saw in the eyes of every snowflake that we also possess: a passion for what we’re all doing.—Genilee Swope Parente