I was wintering in Florida with my newly retired husband. Unfortunately he was also newly unable to play golf or tennis due to back problems. I found myself with time on my hands.
A lot of time.
I began writing a bit of a chronicle purely for the amusement of my real-life “Bridge Club”: nine women with whom I have shared a great friendship, many a crisis, a lot of hangovers and endless laughter, since the 1960’s. It was simply going to be a look at the lives we had lived through almost fifty years of friendship. Yikes!
As other people in my life read excerpts, I was encouraged to consider publishing with comments like: “My book club would love to read this!” and “You’re telling our stories … women’s stories.”
Seriously? Could I do it?
Writing a novel had never been on my agenda. A photographer all my life, I had told stories through my photos. I had been a teacher. Everyone said I left the longest voicemail messages in the world. Perhaps I could write a book.
The support of my Bridge Club was loud and unanimous. A novel was conceived.
Bridge is a fabulous game. Challenging, exciting, frustrating, demanding, it requires honesty, concentration, teamwork, and communication. You play the hand you are dealt. Not unlike life.
But in The Bridge Club, as it says on the cover: “It was never just about the cards”.
It was life I wanted to write about. The strong supportive non-judgmental bond, which the true friendship of women delivers: like that of my Bridge Club. Later, an editor urged that readers want to see conflict and drama between women. He (of course this was a man’s opinion!) wanted me to focus on all the angst he believed filled a woman’s life.
I argued this is a stereotype often applied to women and their friendships and I refused to fall prey to it. Often friendships are true, honest, and strong. Often the issues we face in life do work out. That was the story I wished to tell.
There began a period of attending intense writing workshops, taking courses, and reading everything that was recommended about the craft of writing fiction.
Then came Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. Recommended in every single course I took, I knew I had to read it even though I had never read anything by him before. His genre did not resonate with me. This book did. By the time I finished it I liked the man, unconventional as his life was, and what he had to say.
Jumping ahead for a moment here, I am often invited to speak to women’s groups and, when I talk about writing, I recommend King’s book and tell how this particular bit of advice changed my world. Paraphrasing here, the message from him was clear. If you feel so strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and tell it. Find your own voice. Tell the story in your words. Then find a reputable editor who will help you hone that story.
That message from King gave me the confidence and motivation to write The Bridge Club. I share his advice every time I speak because I think it is a basic truth that can help others find their own unique voice. It may be the impetus they need to begin writing.
Becoming knowledgeable about the business of publishing involved a steep learning curve. Queries were sent. Rejections received. Some interest was generated. “A year and a half before we may get to it,” I was told by one publisher.
“I’m too old to wait!”
The dynamics of the publishing world were changing and the more I read about self-publishing, the more I felt being an indie author or author-publisher was the route I wanted to take.
Little did I know what lay in store. Publishing the book was just the beginning.
The world of social media became my universe. Personally, I had no interest in blogging or Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Pinterest … Instagram? Well, maybe. My addiction to photography was still strong. However, I soon learned that if I wanted my novel to reach readers, social media involvement was a must. So, in I dove!
I will always feel incredibly fortunate that I fell into an online blogging course in 2011, offered by Kristin Lamb, author and social media jedi. There were forty of us taking the course and we were all in the early stages of our writing lives, some published and others almost there. Kristin was instrumental in helping us discover our brand. Finally I understood why I was blogging. I did have something to say!
This incredible group established a tight bond and we have remained together ever since sharing information, encouragement and support.
Through that group, I also have met many other writers, editors, publishers, reviewers, and come to value the tremendous importance of critique groups, associations, writing conferences and networking.
At the PubSmart conference in Charleston, SC, last April, I had the good fortune to spend time with Orna Ross and learn about ALLi. Another stroke of serendipity. Writers helping writers is what drives our indie world and puts to bed, in my mind, the long-held theory of writing as a solitary existence. Orna is a ground-breaker and vibrant voice in the author publishing world.
But I digress, so back to my story.
When I first held a print copy of The Bridge Club in my hands in 2010 … well … I don’t have to tell you how I felt, if you’ve been there. I was hooked.
As I began to hear from readers, I discovered that this was the greatest reward of writing. I knew I wanted more. I wanted to continue telling stories about women and life and how getting older can simply mean more time to achieve dreams. I feel fortunate that my writing has also resulted in speaking invitations and I love to share this message.
I first fell in love with the south of France in 1967, when I was 21. The affair has continued to grow stronger throughout my life and I’m fortunate to spend time there every year. Another advantage of getting older!
I knew I wanted to write some novels set in that inspiring part of the world.
In 2011, while I was taking that blogging course I mentioned earlier, my husband and I lived in Antibes, France for five months. I wrote my second novel, The Promise of Provence, at that time and it was published in 2013. Readers, especially those in love with France as much as I am, kept asking for more. A sequel, Promises To Keep, followed in 2014 as the Love In Provence series was born. I’m writing book #3 now. There are many more to come.
I love the world of indie authors. The genuine culture and community that has developed in the last decade is impressive. I am blown away by the content and advice that is shared by so many within our global community. I would mention a few names here but the rest of this post would be taken up by a very long list. Whatever your genre, your writing style, your question, there are answers and support out there. We are blessed in this business!
And then the totally unexpected occurred. At the beginning of this year, I received an email from a Senior Acquisitions Editor with the Lake Union branch (women’s fiction) of Amazon Publishing. My first reaction was that it was spam. I hadn’t been looking.
Another chapter begins. I’ve signed a contract with them for my Love In Provence series and look forward to an exciting collaboration.
I can continue to be an indie author, so it seems to me I have the best of both worlds. I also feel incredibly blessed. If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
Becoming an author at this stage of my life has been a satisfying, stimulating, and demanding experience. The lesson learned? Believe in your dreams, work hard, and never give up!
Be a possibilitarian! I love this word … feel free to use it! Does it describe you? Then write on!
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