As some of you know, I am a member of a large, extended family of mystery lovers, the incomparable listserv, DorothyL. I have discovered more new authors to read there than I have space to list here.
One great read was BROKEN PLACES by Sandra Parshall, and the way DL works, or at least the way I utilize it, is that once a name has become familiar to me I tend to go to that person’s post first amongst the many that come in on any given day. So it was that I was drawn to Sandy’s blog recently wherein she was questioning her validity as a writer.
If this author, whose book I had read and enjoyed, was questioning her right to that title, then what was I? Much less than a writer, surely. Maybe just a…w?
Anyway, as I was wrestling with the question Sandy raised, another author and DL member wrote this very poignant reply in return, demonstrating that all writers, at every level of accomplishment and ability, will struggle with this issue.
Margaret Koch has her own merit badge in this discussion, having wrestled with the best way to get her own work out there, in this brave new world of publishing. You can check out Margaret’s novels here and here and here.
And once you do, please read the exchange by clicking on Sandy’s blog post and then glancing over Margaret’s reply below.
I’ll be interested in hearing what all the writers–and all the w’s–out there think.
Sandy wrote that she finds herself between award-winning books and wonders if her income from books falls short of the threshold for being a real writer. I think she wrote it at 3:00 a.m., when the goblins crawl out of the wall sockets, grab us by the throat and shake us until our confidemnce runs out our ears and puddles on the floor.
You are a wonderful writer, Sandy. You grace the page upon which you choose to place words.
But let’s talk about anyone’s — anyone’s at all — entitlement to say they are “something.” My plumber is a plumber even if he goes bankrupt because he can’t solve my toilet, or others like it. The Kardashians are celebrities because they’ve said that they are celebrities so often that now people pay to look at them and hear about their hair removal. My banker’s a banker even if he runs off with a bunch of the money. Nobody calls him an ex-banker, or a non-banker, even in jail.
Sandy is a wonderful writer, an award-winning writer, a self-questioning writer. She hasn’t sold out, nor has she sold her soul. She writes her own books and works hard to make them better. She doesn’t sit idly on her awards and reviews.
So why are we writers (myself included) so hungry for proof that we are good enough, profitable enough, popular enough, to—what? To take on an identity that will likely punish us more than it rewards us? I think it’s because every piece of fiction is a projective exercise. We’re putting pieces of our own self out there for judgment, consciously or unconsciously. It just leaks out. We can’t be flip about exposing ourselves, fiction or not. There are few defenses that work for that feeling when you let other people comment on what you’ve written.
Sandy has written some wonderful books.
And in the middle of the night, the goblins get Sandy just like they get the rest of us.
That’s why we DLers are so valuable. We read books and talk about them as if they matter…as if the writing of them matters. Sandy’s writing matters.
So does mine, even as I swat a cheeky goblin who came out early tonight and tried to unplug my computer (I’m starting on my fifth in the Barb Stark series). Right after I swatted him, he sneered and said, “Sandy’s more of a writer than you are, cookie.”