I have the priviledge today of hosting author Laurel Garver!
Laurel Garver is the author of a Never Gone, a young adult novel about a grieving teen who believes her dead father has returned as a ghost to help her reconcile with her estranged mother. View the trailer. Add it on Goodreads. It is available as an ebook and a paperback at Amazon.com, Amazon Canada, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, CreateSpace.
The importance of community and support for writers
by Laurel Garver, author of Never Gone
In my novel Never Gone, my protagonist Danielle loses a parent, yet has more support available to her than she recognizes at first. Some of it feels periphery, like the funeral flowers and “influx of condolence cakes and casseroles.” She has a hard time being real with the caring adults at her church, like her youth pastor and confirmation sponsor (someone who is a mentor in your teen years). Danielle focuses on her close friends’ absence (out of town for the December holidays) rather than how they try to be present for her over the phone and Internet. She misreads her mother’s attempts to be strong as cold-heartedness. Danielle’s British relatives aren’t nearly as stoic and “keep a stiff upper lip” about the loss as she believes, either.
A big piece of Danielle’s struggle is losing the person she relied on most for support, her dad. Over the course of the story, she awakens to the fact that not only has God not abandoned her, but he’s also placed her in the midst of a web of relationships that offer abundant support if she’ll only accept it.
Community has been essential to me as a creative person. I never would have written a novel if it weren’t for a good friend challenging me to take up writing again when I was becoming fidgety and bored as a stay at home mom. She kept me accountable by asking to see pages each month of “anything you want to write.” In those early years of developing craft and taking up and abandoning ideas, another friend gave very practical support by babysitting or taking my daughter on outings “so you can write,” she said. I finished my first draft of the novel largely because my Bible study group asked week after week how progress was coming, how they could pray, and how they could help with research.
And research! Well, I relied on a network of knowledgeable people to answer all kinds of questions: medical diagnoses and treatments, the sociology of various New York neighborhoods, how Anglican clergy live, therapeutic techniques for grieving kids, and much more. Anything I found in a book or online, I liked to double check with an expert.
When I finished the second draft, my “beta readers” were church friends who read avidly. They gave great feedback that helped strengthen the story so much. My support network expanded when I began thinking about pursuing publication. I joined two critique groups--one focused on children’s literature and the other made up of writers I knew through church connections. They gave me helpful advice on revision and encouragement to keep a steady pace of production.
A few constant encouragers were my husband, my neighbor friend Kate, and one of my Sunday school students (now in college), who called herself my #1 fan and wanted to see drafts as I wrote.
Writing itself is a solitary activity that eventually becomes communal. But staying plugged in can be a challenge for writers because of the time demands.
Here are a few ways to offer support to writers:
1. Take an interest. Ask what they’re working on, what they like about it, where they’re struggling.
2. Offer resources. Research can be a major challenge--offer helpful Internet links, books, and access to experts the writer could interview.
3. Provide practical helps. Babysit or invite the writer’s kids for a playdate with your kids. Offer to drop off their dry cleaning when you’re planning an errand run. Carpool. Take the family an occasional meal.
4. Encourage. More than anything, writers need voices of hope in their world. Writing is labor intensive and filled with rejection and disappointment. Writers need to hear that stories matter, that using a God-given gift brings more light into the world.
5. Advise only if invited. Well-meaning folks often tell me what they think I should be writing. But I can only give my heart to a story that captures MY imagination. On the other hand, I’ve really appreciated friends who let me bounce ideas off them very informally, and given me a sense of what might or might not work in a story.
6. Celebrate. When a writer publishes something, even if it’s in an online literary magazine, praise them and celebrate with them. Share links on social media sites. Purchase copies of their work for yourself or as gifts if it’s a genre that might appeal to others more than to you.
What community support helps you acheive your goals?