It is important to have them whatever you do in life, and I've been blessed to almost stumble upon them. My first one in the writing biz was a fellow writer named Mirevas (it's her pen name). She's not published, but she should be. She's one of the people who helped me shape the first draft of Being Plumville. I had a different ending, and she flat-out asked me "this is not the ending you really want, is it?" The fact she knew that blew my mind, and it was because of her I got the courage to write the ending that was truly inside, and I think it does the novel much more justice than the first ending could've.
Then I joined various message boards to learn about the industry. I got to IMRR and RICH, and the ladies there have been exceedingly helpful and encouraging. I "met" Aliyah Burke there, and my fangirling self sent her an e-mail I never thought would be answered because she's this amazing published author and I'm still trying to get my life together. Turns out she's been one of my biggest rocks and actually the first person to buy Being Plumville (she got the e-book). She's been such an invaluable mentor and friend to me, and one day I hope we can meet face to face (sans paper bag :-P).
Then I joined Jayha Leigh's group. I'm not very active because I'm shy; don't really have much to contribute to many of the topics; and they are some of the most outrageous (in a good way) group of people I've ever seen! From there I got hooked up with Jayha (obvs), her daughter Jeannie, Rolonda, and Shara Azod (just to name a few). Apparently, some of my stories have been "claimed"; some heroes have been "bookmarked" lol; and now I'm doing some editing for them. I was surprised because they write Erotica (random: yeah . . . don't think I will. I know I made a blog post saying I would, but at the moment, nothing erotic in nature has floated through mah brainz yet). But, heck, if I don't write erotica and enjoy their work, I'm sure the vice-versa could happen too. And it did.
And then I finally got the courage to go to my local RWA chapter . . . and its conference. Just about everyone is published there at some of the biggest houses in the romance industry. I was concerned because I was the youngest and, based on my attendance so far, the only person of color and the only person writing IR/MC. I thought I wouldn't fit in. The ladies in my chapter have been nothing but helpful and supportive. The conference really sealed it, because they were so eager to help my lost, newbie self, and now I feel like part of the group. I sat and talked to Ashlyn Chase for over and hour and she gave me such great advice; and I actually drummed up the courage to talk to Suzanne Brockmann (and if you know how shy I am, you know how huge of a thing that was for me!). That's how comfortable and supported I felt, and that was so appreciated.
And then RSJ. Man, what a conference. All these people whose books I bought now have a face to a name. People I thought had never heard of me came up to me and said I was a great writer. People gave me contact info, check in on me . . . are there when I have questions/concerns/fears/good news. I need that. I don't really have that. A lot of times I think I'm talking to the ethers, that no one is really reading this blog or reading what's on my group, and then I get an e-mail from someone encouraging me. I think for so long I've been used to me, myself, and I, that I'm still shocked and amazed that there are others, others who just solely based on what I've written, are behind me and rooting for me. It's overwhelming and humbling and I'm so grateful. Beverly Jenkins, Lisa G. Riley, Marcia Colette, Monique Lamont, Kimberly Kaye Terry, Celeste O. Norfleet, Alice Wootson, Kayla Perrin, Leslie Thompson, Sean Young, Simone Harlow, Farrah Rochon . . . just yo, man. I was in the presence of greatness for real. And then people would sit and talk to me for lengths of time because they were interested in what I had to say? Blew me away. Isis, a member of IMRR/RICH who was in our groups said "people just need to ask you the right questions, and you open up." I guess she was right, because I talked more about my writing then than I ever had. I didn't feel . . . ashamed about it, that I'd care much more than the listener would. I didn't have to be uncomfortable about my love for my craft, and it felt good. There was one moment I found myself as the mentor to someone else . . . a little Twilight Zone moment for me, but I also felt extremely honored she wanted my advice and was taking it to heart.
And speaking of IMRR, Crystal Hubbard wrote me one of the most jaw-droppingly fantastic e-mails ever. She is published many times over, and when I first saw her on the board, I was intimidated by her (but I'm intimidated by published authors in general . . . I'm working on getting over that; RSJ definitely helped me on that front!). I had no idea she'd read my book, but she wrote me back about it. Yeah. Yeah. I tell you when I first started writing that book, I had no idea about the reception I would get--let alone it would be this positive. But for this published author, an author very beloved given her reception on the IMRR board, to take time out to write me back about it . . . just wow.
She wrote me a birthday ode too!
And then other mentors are not even writers at all, nor are they older. They are the people who have the faith and confidence in me . . . sometimes FOR me . . . and I'm glad they're there. Too many to name, but they know who they are.
I'm home for Memorial Day weekend. Last year this time I had my very first book signing. A lot of wonderful things have happened over the course of the year. I'm very grateful.
ETA: I keep adding onto this post! I also want to shout out Karyn Langhorne and Wendy Coakley-Thompson, too, and their on-hiatus show The Book Squad. It was a fantastic show and an honor to be on there! They've also been very encouraging and I appreciate it.