The Importance of Writing FriendsThe year was 1995. The number of writing friends I had equaled zero. I’d been writing romance off and on for the previous two to three years while my husband was in graduate school and I was working as a newspaper reporter. But I didn’t have that fiction writing community support network, so it was easy to go long stretches without writing or even thinking about writing on my first book. All that changed when we moved to a different city and we happened to be in one of those book/music/video superstores one day. That’s when I saw a flyer advertising a group of romance writers who were forming a new chapter of Romance Writers of America. After attending my first meeting, there was no looking back. I’d found people like me, and I wasn’t giving that up. Out of that chapter, I forged friendships, a support framework and a critique group. Through my RWA membership, I learned about regional conferences and continued to build more friendships by attending those.
Fast forward to 2003. That’s the year I feel like the stars aligned perfectly when the Golden Heart finalists were announced. For those who don’t know, the Golden Heart is RWA’s top award for unpublished romance manuscripts. In the days and weeks after the finalists were announced, the Wet Noodle Posse was born, and I gained some of the deepest, most wonderful friendships I’ve ever had. And while writing is what brought us together, we now share so much more. Amongst the conversations about editor changes, new agents and plot problems with our works-in-progress, we commiserate about rejections, laugh at jokes, offer hugs and prayers when someone loses a family member, and do the dance of joy whenever one of our number makes a sale or gets a great review. Checking in with the Posse is one of the first things I do in the morning. I feel lost if I don’t check to see what everyone else is up to. To me, these gals aren’t just fellow writers, not just friends, they’re sisters.
There are so many reasons to have writing friends, but chief among these is they are the only people who will truly understand the ups and downs a writer experiences. You may have the most supportive spouse in the world (I do!), but no matter how hard he tries, he’s not going to truly understand how a rejection on a revised manuscript makes you want to curl up in the fetal position or the intense high of hearing your name called as the winner of a Golden Heart. Your writing sisters do because they’ve been through it or have imagined themselves in those same situations.
So, not only will 2003 always hold a special place in my heart because that’s the year I first finaled in the Golden Heart, but it’s also the year that I gained dozens of sisters of the heart. I count myself very fortunate to have finaled for the first time that year. Otherwise, I might not have bonded with these incredible ladies like I have. And I would have missed the laugh-out-loud senses of humor of Kiki and Stef, the pep talks and pushes given by Steph and Anna in my agent search, the Instant Message sessions with Colleen where we compared how long we’d both been waiting to hear on X or Y project, the discovery that Mary and I have so much in common that it’s almost spooky, late night e-mails to the other Trish and Jennifer asking just what time (and day) it was in Australia and South Korea, comparing stories with Karen as only former Kentuckians can, daily check-ins with Theresa to keep us both going on the writing progress, the giddy joy of seeing Janice win the American Title contest and a publishing contract, marveling that Norah, Dani and Lee can live in Canada without freezing to death (I’m cold-natured, what can I say?), telling Lorelle again and again how incredibly stylish and elegant she is, watching Delle win her third Golden Heart, discovering just how incredibly cool and multi-talented Terry is, benefiting from the love and wisdom of Debra and Bridget, being inspired over and over by Diane’s first sale story, reminiscing with Maureen about that long-ago chapter conference where we met, smiling every time I see Jenna’s infectious smile, marveling at how Moni can do so many things and do them all remarkably well, getting tired just watching Dianna zip around like a whirlwind, telling Merrillee how jealous I am of how close she lives to the beach, chuckling at Pam’s stories of baby calves and little boys who love AFLAC ducks, getting caught up in the fun Jill started on her blog with crazy high school hair pictures, wondering how Pris has so much energy and why she hasn’t bottled it and sold it for zillions of dollars, trying to picture the sweet and quiet Charity I know in an Army uniform, and wondering if Anne is just a little bit crazy for swimming in something called Sharkfest.
As I look back over that list, I can’t help but smile. What a wonderful time we’ve had together. What a wonderful time we’ve still yet to experience.