Meg Waite Clayton: In Praise of Writing Friends ... and Publishing and Bookselling Ones, Too

No guest today. Just me, since my own new novel, The Four Ms. Bradwells is just out. I'm on book tour with it, and am meeting She Writers everywhere I go. Hope to see you as well!

The history of my own writing starts with a brown paper lunch bag. My first writing teacher—at a college extension class—dumped its contents out over the table and told us to write for five minutes about anything that spilled out. She swore we wouldn’t have to read (just as the character of Linda does in my second novel, The Wednesday Sisters, when she’s pushing the sisters to write at the picnic table in the park). Then my teacher, Jennifer Allen, called on me to read first.

Which is the good news. If she hadn’t, I’d have ducked out before she could. It had taken all the nerve I had just to get to that class, to admit that, yes, I dreamed of writing novels.

To make a long story short from that point, I’m just going to say it: Ten Years. That’s how long it took me from dumped purse to first novel on bookstore shelves. The thing that kept me going: writing friends. Like the Wednesday Sisters in the book, none of my early writing friends was published when we started out, but we now count - as of the publication of The Four Ms. Bradwells last week - seven books between the four of us, and an eighth under contract. We’re a stubborn bunch—which, if you’ve read any of the guest posts I’ve been honored to host on 1st Books—seems to be what it takes. So it seems fitting that the first Four Ms. Bradwells sighting was by my best writer-pal, Brenda Rickman Vantrease.

It took me another five years to get a second novel published after my first, The Language of Light, sold "modestly." (I'm absolutely thrilled, though, that Ballantine will be releasing it in paperback for the first time this June.) In the interim, I learned the hard way that while just being published is lovely, book sales are important, too. I have come to see that booksellers are the front line in helping new voices find audiences, and I do my best to support the booksellers who support writers. Selling books is as much a labor of love as writing them is.

And so is publishing. I know the publishing world can seem impersonal. Believe me, I know what a form rejection looks like. But I also know that most people in publishing stay there because they love books, and work really, really hard. I feel incredibly lucky to have a wonderful team helping me negotiate the turbulent waves of these changing publishing days.

Which leaves me with readers.

C.S. Lewis once said, "We read to know that we are not alone." It's a funny thing to think that a solo activity connects us in ways that little else does. But I know reading has made me feel understood, and helped me understand myself in ways that nothing else does. I hope that my writing will make you feel understood, too. And I appreciate all the precious time you commit to reading. Without readers, there would be no books. - Meg

P.S. If you're leaving here to take a look at The Four Ms. Bradwells - thank you! And will you take a look at The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen as well? It came out last week, too, and is a wonderful novel. Thanks!

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Comment by Edith O Nuallain on July 11, 2012 at 3:07pm

I too would dearly love to belong to a close-knit group of writing friends with whom I could share my experiences and words. But...I don't, except for online groups, like this one though the biggest problem with online writing forums is the impersonal element. Still She Writes is wonderful, and the reason why I have taken my courage in my hands and actually begun.

Comment by Marilyn Fried on April 1, 2011 at 11:43am

I wish I had more real writing friends instead of virtual.  Soon I hope.  Congrats on your successes.



Comment by Deborah Batterman on April 1, 2011 at 10:55am
And this is far from fodder for April fools ;-)  Yes, "we read to know that we are not alone."  And we write in the hope of being read. Nothing is more inspiring than stories of tenacity, and fortitude, and even a little of the insecurity that is part and parcel of that shared writers' experience. Oh how quickly ten years can pass . . .and another five . . . and another -- but who's counting anymore? You are lucky, indeed, to have your 'sisters' and we who share our trials and tribulations are lucky to be a part of this community with you.
Comment by Leigh Caron on April 1, 2011 at 4:26am
Yes, yes, YES! I need my writing friends too. Nice post. And I will take a peek at The Four Ms. Bradwells.


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