Monday Musings: Embracing Community is Key

Saturday, June 1, 2019 my sons and I participated in the the 6th annual author’s fair at the East 38th Street Library. I didn’t know about the event until the branch manager Shanika Heyward invited my son, a published author to participate. In another post, I will share more details about my son’s book.

Shanika Heyward & Kendra Norman

I was thankful for the invitation especially because of which branch this was. My husband and I grew up in this neighborhood, and we visited the Emerson Branch. That was our library. While our my husband and I were earning our degrees at Purdue University, this branch closed and reopened in a different location in the neighborhood. I loved the Emerson Branch, but I was glad our neighborhood had a much larger and improved library, a library we deserved.

The event opened with eight time national best selling author Kendra Norman. Before Norman spoke, Heyward gave a mighty word. I felt like I was listening to a sermon. It was a much needed sermon. I do not know what happened, but it was clear that some people did not want to work together and had an “all about me” attitude. Heyward reminded attendees that we cannot move forward without the help, advice, and strengths of others. We have to work together as a community. We need to embrace the community and the talent community members have to offer.

I agree with her words. I hope people listened to Heyward’s advice and Norman’s advice. As a writer, I can tell you that you cannot move forward alone. Here’s are some tips I want to emphasize from both Heyward and Norman.

1. Support other writers.

I find it interesting that people want others to buy and support their work, but they do not want to support, boost, or patronize other authors. I buy a lot of books, and I also check out a lot of books from the library (I’m still not happy that you can only renew books ten times now, but I guess I did need to stop hogging books!). Support is not always financial. It could be writing a book review. I had a mother of an author thank me for writing a book review about her daughter’s book. As an educator, I have a soft spot for published child authors. It could be offering a service. At the event, a lady mentioned she does not write and does not want to write, but she is a virtual assistant for a writer. I help writers too by giving advice or editing their work.

2. Do not edit your own work.

Let me say this one again. Do not edit your own work. Most of you know I am an editor for two education publications. Guess whose work I don’t edit? My work! If you are reading this, you probably know I am also an education writer. Even though I was an English teacher for nine years, I still make mistakes. When I read my work, I read it the way I wanted to write it not necessarily the way I typed it on my computer. I also suggest getting an editor if you are too familiar with a manuscript. I’m a co-editor for my son’s book. I had edited it 50 times. That might seem obsessive, but you have to understand there are different types of editing. Each time, I was editing with a different purpose. For example, one time I read through his book and edited for sentence variety, structure, and word choice. I was getting too familiar with the text, so I hired a co-editor.

3. Collaborate with other creatives.

I’m good at writing. People don’t pay you to write if you aren’t. I’m decent at drawing, but no one is paying me to do this. I’m currently half way through writing a novel my sons asked me to write. I know I will need to hire an illustrator. It is hard to do it all by yourself and you should not.

4. Pay attention to contracts.

An author had a question for Norman about over 100 people reaching out to her about her work. I’m not sure if the author was understanding what Norman was telling her, but she told her to be careful about sending her work everywhere and to read over the contracts of companies she wanted to pursue. My advice is to stay away from vanity publishers. You can publish yourself. I will have another piece this summer for my Monday Musings to explain why I feel this way. Also, if you work with a company or a creative, get a contract and understand it before you sign. An invoice is not a contract. Without a contract, the only option you have is to walk away if the situation is not going well. Without terms, specifically outlined, between the parties you could go back and forth and you might not get anywhere. I suggest having someone else look at the contract before you sign on the dotted line.

5. Listen to feedback.

I’m an editor. Since 2017, I have edited articles from 50+ education writers, and some people don’t want to hear or receive feedback. My job is to make sure your piece is the best and ensure it is factual, error free, and uses reputable sources. Heyward gave an example. She said that maybe the beginning of your book should have been the end. Feedback goes beyond editing. Maybe the illustrator you used is not that great. Maybe you’re not personable at author fairs, and you are missing opportunities. The book I’m writing is based on a short story I wrote in 6th grade. My sons found it, read it, and asked me to make it a book. Once I got half way through, I asked four people to read it and give content feedback. Three of the four people said I have to introduce the main character earlier in the manuscript, and keep the other chapters and use them later. I could have stuck my chest out and ignored that feedback, but I’m not. That’s my project for next week. Y’all pray for me that I figure that out.

I’m grateful we had the chance to attend. I collected business card from every table that had them available. Even my teacher friend texted me to make sure I got cards for her too. Teachers love connecting with local authors. I just threw in a sixth tip for free. Until next Monday!

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