It's September 11th, and I'm watching the 9-11 Memorial on TV. I am amazed but not surprised at the number of people there, at the "Ground Zero" site, to support and remember those lost in the World Trade Center attacks. All of the people lost that day have someone remembering them, someone they were connected to, someone who loved them. God bless the victims of 9-11 and all of the people they have left behind.
We all have people we connect with, people we're attached to and people who are attached to us. What is amazing is how those other people in our life can motivate us to do things, how they can cause us to have extreme emotions, and what they can teach us--through their words and their deeds. As writers, it's great to have people around us who know what we're going through and who know how to help us. I have a few of those people around me and I have to sing their praises because they help me more than they will ever know.
My friend and classmate, Trent Reedy, has a book coming out in January, 2011: WORDS IN THE DUST. Trent has a phenomenal story to tell and more stories in the works. (Visit him at www.TrentReedy.com) He's my collaborator, one of my biggest cheerleaders, and a slave driver. Write write write, Patti Brown, he says to me. Pages? he says, and This is terrific! You HAVE to finish this! He makes me want to write my story. He makes me want to keep on going when it's easier to give up. Trent is a first-rate writing partner and friend.
My local writing partner, Katia Raina, is also a first-rate writing partner and friend. She and I meet periodically (though not often enough, in my opinion) and brainstorm--whether it's her story or mine. I leave my coffee-dates with Katia feeling uplifted and inspired to go and write, write, write. (And no, it's not because of too much coffee!) Katia has some really interesting projects in the works, too, and a great blog at: http://katiaraina.wordpress.com/ I can't wait to see some of her stories published!
And my other writing partner, Carol Brendler, is my idea-person. She is a great resource to me whenever I need help with some area or another. She is in charge of JACKET KNACK and she's always finding great resources online. She helps me out with reading pages when I need, and I do the same for her when she needs. Carol is the reason I didn't scrap my current work-in-progress to begin with--she believed in it and loved it from the start. Without her support, I would have surely abandoned it long agin. Check out http://www.carolbrendler.com/ to learn more about Carol and her book, WINNIE FINN, WORM FARMER.
These are my writing people. These are the people who have invested in my writing, who push me and prod me and coddle me as needed. These are the people who I am invested in, whose work I admire and enjoy, and who I want to see succeed as much as I want to succeed. I meet with them whenever I get the chance, I collaborate with them, and I adore them.
If you are a writer, then take this message to heart: get yourself some people. Find people! They can live nearby, or they can be far away. (Trent lives across the country from me, Carol lived in another country for a little while, and Katia lives 20 minutes away. It doesn't matter--they are all important to me.) They don't have to write what you write (though it helps if they at least like to read what you write), but they should at least understand what you, as a writer, have to go through to get one chapter down on paper. They should be people that you don't mind learning from, and who don't mind learning from you. (Carol Brendler is a classmate of mine, but she's also one of the best teachers I've ever had.)
Writing is a very solitary business. It's not social. It takes thought, concentration, and sometimes isolation to produce good work. But that doesn't mean every step of it needs to be done alone. Writers need to commune, talk about their work, and share their feelings about writing. Have you ever been to an SCBWI conference? (That's the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.) If you want to write children's books, you need to find a local SCBWI conference or chapter. If you attend a conference, chances are, you'll leave feeling like you have the next NBA book in your head, and you want to do nothing other than write, write, write that book. Plus, you will meet many other writers who may be suffering the same writer's block, frustrations or loneliness as you. I met some fabulous friends at SCBWI conferences (shout out to Gayle, Sandy and Karen!) and I look forward to meeting more.
On this day of sadness and remembering, I mourn the loss of so many American lives lost. And I am remembering the people who are in my life now--I don't want to lose any of you. I am thankful for all of my friends and family, and right now, I'm thankful for my writing people. Without you guys, I would not still be a writer.