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A Helping Hand: Supporting Your Fellow Writers


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Recently I attended a book launch for Slipping the Noose by Meg Caddy, second book in a YA duology about notorious pirate Anne Bonny. Many attendees embraced the invitation to dress as pirates for the event. (Reader, I did not dress as a pirate.) The most exciting part, for me, was seeing a young writer whom I had mentored when they were in high school now launching their third novel to considerable acclaim. Even better, the launch was attended not only by the author’s family and friends, but by many enthusiastic members of the local writing community. The event brought home to me what a privilege it was to have been involved in the early stages of this writer’s development.

Did this event make me feel old? Just a bit. But it was wonderful to see that this writer’s joy and dedication have only increased in the time since we first met as mentor and mentee. I’m confident they are already reaching out to a new generation of writers and spreading their delight in storytelling. If you’re interested in reading the two novels featuring the unforgettable Anne Bonny, they’re available in paperback and Kindle editions. You should read Devil’s Ballast first. The books are suitable for older YA (14+) and are also a good read for adults.

This experience reminded me of the opportunities that exist for established writers, not only to create stories and send them out into the world for readers to enjoy, but also to help other writers grow and develop in their turn. That reminder came at an ideal time for me – my own writing is in the doldrums at present, and I’m asking myself serious questions about what comes next. By nature an introvert as well as something of a perfectionist, I limit my teaching to the occasional workshop these days. Sometimes I think that the more teaching I do, the more I realise how little I know. That made the recent book launch a particularly positive experience for me, even though I can claim only a small bit of credit for the writer’s success!

There are plenty of ways in which we can help our fellow writers, not only those coming up, but also our peers. There are also some possible pitfalls along the way.

Write cover endorsements: I’m often asked to do this, and I’ve read some brilliant new work as a result. An endorsement from an established writer can help boost sales. Ideally a request for an endorsement will be sent to my agent from an editor at the publishing house, allowing me to say yes or no at arm’s length. There are also direct requests from writers whom I know in real life – also OK, as I have a good idea of whether or not I’ll be able to comment favourably. Requests from my own readers are much trickier. Imagine yourself agreeing to read such an advance copy and finding that the work is not up to publishable standard, or that the publisher involved has rated a mention on the Writer Beware site. At this stage of the publishing journey, with a book almost ready for release, it’s way too late to offer helpful advice. Consider this possible scenario before agreeing to read the advance copy.

Post reviews: This is a relatively easy way of boosting other authors’ new titles, provided you have reading time. If someone asks you to do this, a wise answer is ‘I will if I can.’ I have some reservations about Goodreads but I do post reviews there, most of them books of my own choosing. Where it comes to books by writers whom I know personally, I review only if I can be both honest and positive.

Posting reviews regularly on your own blog can be effective. For example, historical novelist Kate Forsyth maintains a blog, What Katie Read, especially for reviews (and she reads a phenomenal amount.) I used to do this on my website blog and should do so again – as well as Slipping the Noose, I’ve recently read WU’s own Liz Michalski’s Darling Girl, and I will have no trouble being positive about both.

Run Q&As with other authors on your blog: When someone you know has a new book out, this kind of mini-interview is not only useful for them, but can also boost visitors to your blog, a win for all. These can be done via email, giving the interviewee time to consider their answers. Or do a video interview if that is your thing.

Share useful links on social media: Members of our writing community in Australia and New Zealand frequently share links relating to new work by fellow authors, opportunities to submit work to anthologies, upcoming conventions and so on. We can also share other authors’ good news – film rights acquired, a bold new venture announced, an award won, a brilliant review in a high profile publication. Such news deserves a bit of razzamatazz.

Agree to be an awards judge: Lots of work, heaps of fun. For major awards it can be a mammoth task even with several people on the judging panel, so don’t take it on if you have limited reading time. I’ve blogged previously about my experience as a World Fantasy judge. It opened my eyes to a far wider range of work within the fantasy genre than I previously knew, and despite gobbling up time it had a positive impact on my own writing. I met a lot of great people and ended up with so many books my floor gave way (true.) You can start small – local awards – and work up. In awards where judges give feedback to entrants, you can practise balancing honest critique with tact and kindness.

Get involved with your local writers’ centre: That’s how I first met Meg Caddy – through a writers’ centre mentorship, when I chose her as my mentee based on a sample of work without realising how young she was (a bit like the blind auditions on The Voice.) My choice proved extremely sound!

Do you reach out to help other writers, and if so how? What is the impact on your own work? Any great success stories to share?

Photo credit: Photo 60148066 © Digikhmer | Dreamstime.com

 

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About Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier has written twenty-four novels for adults and young adults and two collections of short fiction. Her works of historical fantasy have been published around the world and have won numerous awards. Juliet's most recent series was Warrior Bards, of which the third and final book, A Song of Flight, was published in August/September 2021. Her collection of reimagined fairy tales, Mother Thorn and Other Tales of Courage and Kindness, had its trade release in early 2022. Mother Thorn is illustrated by Kathleen Jennings and published by Serenity Press. When not writing, Juliet looks after a small crew of rescue dogs.

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