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?