Writing books is a given, but something that has been a fundamental part of me since I started my author career in April 2014 with the release of my first book, has been giving back. While I have raised money for charities like Neil Enock and my $5 for a Good Claus campaign that raised $1000 for the Calgary Food Bank, it’s actually spending time with aspiring writers that I’m talking about.
Sometimes giving back means giving a talk at a school (whether by Skype or in person), sometimes it takes the form of sitting down over a tea and talking, and sometimes I read through something they’ve written and share my thoughts. The past two weeks, I’ve done two of these for young aspiring authors.
When I first started writing regularly back around 1992, I had three writer friends who were a year or two older than me. At first, they encouraged me. They treated me like the sidekick, with my dyslexia kicking up some confusion every now and then, they seem to pride themselves on their superiority.
However things changed quickly over a year, and I went from moving them with my prose, to also becoming as prolific as all three of them combined and then some. They then turned on me, cast me out, and that was that. I didn’t have any writer friends until after I released my first book in 2014, more than 22 years later.
So when I was asked if I’d consider having tea with a young writer and fan of mine by her author grandparents (whom I’d met at a book signing, and were themselves authors), I was more than happy to. I carved out an hour from my schedule and answered question after question By the end, the young lady was excited and her grandparents and father were happy.
That same week I’d met with a crime writer friend of mine and we talked ‘shop’ from the indie publishing side. I shared what I was doing and had learned, she shared what she was up to. I’m not the type to keep what I’ve learned. Have I been burned by it? Maybe minorly a few times, but I think I still always come out ahead for it. I don’t believe that being a successful author is a zero-sum game with those around me.
Despite having my butt thoroughly kicked by a gastro-virus and now what seems to be bronchitis, I stuck to a commitment I’d made to read and comment on a teen writer’s work.
I regularly get asked to give feedback to folks, and when I do, in all but one case it’s been appreciated. There’s always that one case where if you say anything other than “This is the most fantastic thing I have ever read” the person will end up 3500+ words of anger in an email, trust me.
This particular young woman whose work I had agreed to have a look at bumped into me at a book signing. Apparently she’d attended a session of mine at a young writer’s conference the year before. Her mother told me about the young woman’s writing and asked if I’d consider having a look.
I thought of the million things I needed to get done (2 books launching, a new cover for another, and I’m trying to finish writing ANOTHER book, to quickly name a few), and then I said yes. I like to set expectations, particularly as a dyslexic, that I won’t likely read all of it but I would try my best.
Well, this morning she got the email from me and I think my screen was screaming joy and happiness at me. The empowerment of having had someone she looked up to having provided ideas and constructive remarks for her to grow were clearly appreciated.
Being the Mentor You Wished For
When I was in university, and then in the early days of my tech career, I kept wishing to find that special mentor. All the while, when opportunities came, I made the decision to be the mentor to others that I was hoping to find. Give someone the opportunity to shine despite their age or experience, force an aggressive team to make room for the quieter person who would end up having the idea to save the day… I guess I took this philosophy to a different level when I became an author.
Someone recently asked me why I do this and it didn’t take me long to answer: “I don’t know if my books will ever make an impact around the world or live on in history, but I know that I can improve the history and world of people a little along the way.”