I met the award-winning, bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance and mystery novels, Jill Marie Landis, almost ten years ago, just the once. I doubt she remembers me, but she did me a kindness I have never forgotten.
She spoke to the Los Angeles Romance Authors in 2004; I’d been writing for a grand total of three years at that point. I’d come close with Harlequin, but had gotten rejected. Three times. Always with an offer to resubmit something else, but still. Rejected. So I was feeling very down.
I’m sure I have my notes from her talk that meeting – I keep all my notebooks (not in very good order, but there you go). But it wasn’t her talk that touched me, per se. Afterwards, she was mobbed (we were at our meeting place in Barnes and Noble in Sherman Oaks). I waited until almost everyone was gone, and finally approached her with tears in my eyes. I don’t remember what I said at that point, but she let me cry on her shoulder and she told me to not give up, to keep at it.
I bought her book, Lover’s Lane, went home and read it and a month or so later (since I’m guessing she had a spot in the front where you could write to her if you wanted), I wrote her a note telling her how much I enjoyed the book. I must have thanked her for the words of encouragement as well, and also bemoaned my lack of success in writing for Harlequin (again), because she sent me a lovely card back.
She didn’t tell me I had a lot more writing (or rewriting) to do. She didn’t tell me I hadn’t put in my time, to work harder and write more. No. She told me that, maybe, I’d enjoy writing bigger books, and maybe I should try one. “Stretch that story out – add layers – enjoy.” Enjoy. What a concept!
Jill also said the main thing was to find the joy in writing again – and that “we all get this way”.
I’ve kept that card up, with her writing showing, on my bulletin board since the day I received it. When I’ve been discouraged, I glanced at it and took her wisdom to heart – maybe I needed to try something different. Find the joy in writing again.
It’s advice I go back to, time and time again.
Now, being kind, she said to keep in touch and let her know how it’s going. She even left me her email address – but I was shy (I can TOO be shy!), too star-struck to take her up on her offer.
Today, as I was cleaning up my office, I panicked to realize her card was no longer on my bulletin board. I finally found it, layered between letters from my great aunt and my grandmother to my mother, all dated 1966. I, of course, had put it with items that meant a lot to me.
I shall re-pin that card on my bulletin board for encouragement. For courage. And to remind myself that when talking to new authors, it never hurts to be encouraging rather than critical. I’ve developed a very critical mind (due in main to the company I kept in my late teens – early 20s) and I need to learn that criticism is rarely wanted, or needed, unless asked for. That a kind word at the right time can be the fertilizer that makes people blossom.
Jill Marie Landis is Awesome. And I owe her a lot. So go buy her books.
Thanks for stopping by! What good book have you read lately?
I’ve met and known Jill Marie Landis for many years as I was a member of OCC for years and she was a member too. Don’t get me wrong, we are far from ‘besties’, and while she probably knows my name, I doubt I’m on her radar other than that.
But…I was at a Christmas party (this was probably the late 90’s) where Jill and I were both guests. I remember standing in the kitchen talking to her about my writing and I remember her talking to me for about 20 minutes and her offering advice about my specific story and telling me to just keep going. She is a positive person, very kind, a funny gal – AND she can play the Ukelele!
How can you not love someone who plays the ukelele?
That meeting topic would have been Scene and Sequel. Jill used to do a bang-up job on that workshop. I also admire this lovely RITA finalist (probably a winner, too). Some of my favorite books by her are her historical inspirationals because she pushes the envelope. My favorite heroine of hers is an ex-prostitute (her childhood circumstances forced her into it) who fought tooth and nail to make a decent life for herself (to buy her way out of her “business”) then along comes this preacher man…will he accept her if he finds out who she used to be? Edgy, great book!
HEART OF STONE. It’s on my keeper shelf along with four other of her books.
I remember that book, Lynne! I’ll have to re-read it. Jill’s such an amazing storyteller.
I am constantly amazed by the supportiveness of authors. This could be because formerly, all my colleagues were lawyers and executives, so I have a fairly cutthroat bunch to compare to, but I think it’s more than that. I think the people drawn to writing are doing something they love, (which doesn’t mean it can’t make us uptight, downtrodden, or plain old stretched thin at times), but it breeds a certain generosity of spirit you don’t find in other professions.
And now, I’ll have to read a Jill Marie Landis book!
Sam – yes, you do need to read Jill! And yes, writers are some of the most generous around. Romance writers especially.
I adore Jill. She was also very kind to me, and I visit her at the literacy autographing event at RWA any time she attends the conference. I even wrote a piece for the LARA confidential years ago. One where she allowed me to interview her.
In fact we had a joke going because one time she introduced me to her husband and the next year I saw Steve Axelrod talking to her (not knowing him or that he was her agent) and waited my turn. He stayed and we all got talking and I said I’d met him the year before, and somehow mentioned he was her husband. Then he laughed and said no he was her “other husband” and that he got that a lot. Always opening my mouth and putting both feet in. *blush blush*
Anyway, I love her humor, her western historicals, I love everything she writes. I’m a long time fan. So glad you also admire her, and it was lovely of you to do this post.
Fun memory, Roben! I’ve been meaning to write this piece for several months now; glad you like it!
Hi Christine — Like Kathy B, I’ve known Jill too and she’s always warm and friendly. I have many of her books. I love her historicals and was quite star struck myself, the first time I met her at OCC. She’s a lovely lady and a very generous author. It’s wonderful that her words still impact you.
Charlene! Miss you, woman – it’s been too long.Yes, it’s amazing how a person’s comments at the right time can change everything, isn’t it? Hugs hon!
I’m sitting here at my desk in total awe and am humbled by your lovely blog. Reading about having inspired other writers is far more valuable to me than any other success I may have achieved. Success comes and goes but being able to help each other brings lasting memories. Thank you all so much for your kind words. Pay it forward. Or as we say in Hawaii, “Live Aloha.”
Ah, Jill. It’s taken me a long time to realize what you seem to know instinctively, that kindness goes a long way. Your note this weekend struck me again as a bit of kindness that didn’t cost you anything and meant a great deal to me. Working on being more like that. Hugs hon!
Mahalo! Write on.