Sunday dinner of lasagna, salad, and French bread eaten outdoors in a lovely summer garden—what better way for writing friends to get together? Only some of these friends were meeting for the first time. When my work with SIM (Serving in Mission) recently took me to South Africa, I was quick to get in touch with Ruth Dell, Marion Ueckermann and Shirley Corder, my South African colleagues on this blog. It may surprise you to know that most of us who write for International Christian Fiction Writers have never met in person. We live in scattered parts of the world, but we share a passion to open the door to fiction about a variety of places and cultures.
|LeAnne and Shirl|
Leaving Cape Town, my husband and I drove through the gorgeous winelands and stark Karoo region of the southernmost part of this spectacular continent. We passed through Port Elizabeth and met Shirley and her husband for lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean. While our husbands talked about their ministries, Shirley told me about what she had done in NaNoWriMo and about the Christian Writers Group-South Africa, an interactive Internet group for writers living in South Africa or for South Africans living abroad. They seek to encourage, share, and learn from one another. When I got to Grahamstown and met with Crystal Warren, a librarian at the National English Language Museum who shares my interest in literature for African young people in the context of HIV&AIDS, I found she was also a member of the group and knew Shirley.
LeAnne, Ruth Ann, Shann
It was almost a month later before I was able to get together with Marion and Ruth for that lasagna dinner in Pretoria. Their husbands waited patiently in the garden while we writers talked in the kitchen. They introduced me to Shann de Smidt, another member of Christian Writers Group-South Africa. Shann is the newly appointed principal of a Christian school, and we eagerly discussed possibilities for a reading series with a Biblical worldview.
Writing can be lonely business. Your characters run around in your mind, teasing you, vexing you and delighting you with their revelations, but your family doesn’t even know these people who mean so much to you. You sit alone at your desk and pour out your heart day after day, but it may be years before your intended audience reads what you have written.
If you write, I hope you cultivate relationships with other writers. Being with other writers lets you know that you are not the only one who
is crazy has this obsession. Whether it is in a writing club, a critique group or an e-mail pen-pal, a writer friend gives you someone who understands the creative process. Your family may share your disappointment when that rejection letter arrives, but they probably think that means it’s time to give up. Your writer friend knows this is only the beginning—time to do some polishing and try again, time to try a different angle or tackle a whole new project. Your writing friend will be thrilled with you when the rejection includes a personal note. Non-writers assume rejection is rejection, but writers know how much better personal rejection is than that standard form letter with a checkmark beside “does not meet our current editorial needs”.
Writing friends are your source of information on what is going on in the publishing world. Their past experience can open doors of possibility for you. They form a network that can introduce you to others who share your passion, and give you feedback on which conferences are most worthwhile, which agents the easiest to work with, which self-publishers you should avoid. They are your best critics to help you prepare your work for submission to an agent or publisher.
My first advice to aspiring writers is always to read a book about how to write effective fiction. My second advice? Make friends with other writers.
So cultivate those relationships, and when you get to Wisconsin, look me up, although I don’t promise my lasagna will be as tasty as Marion’s or my garden as sunny!___
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books for young people come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will impact lives. You can find out more about her experiences in South Africa on her blog. (Click on February and March entries in the archive.)