The Power of One

Hello, Wicked People! Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, watching the leaves begin to change…

The other day something occurred to me. And it freaked me out a little, in the way that profound revelations sometimes do:

Where I’m at, professionally, is attributable to one person. And that person is not me.

Well, of course I had a little something to do with it, and maybe I would have ended up in the same place via a different path if I hadn’t met her, although I’m not at all certain about that.

Let me take you back a few years. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I could never get past the twenty-page mark in any one work. I’d start. Perfectionism and fear (which are pretty much the same thing in my book) would rear their hideous heads. And I’d quit. Then I’d wait a long time, and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One January, I heard about a writers’ group that was starting up at my local library. Now, the public library is about a hundred yards from my house. I wouldn’t even have to get in the car to go. Still, I tried to think of reasons not to. Finally, I looked myself in the eye and accepted that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it on my deathbed. Getting published was not even on my radar–for my own self-respect, I needed to get from “Chapter One” to “The End” and have a whole story, no matter how sucky, in between.

So I put on my boots and coat and hat and scarf and mittens and slogged through the snow to go to that meeting. I stood outside the door in the cold, and almost chickened out. But I went in.

There were six other people there. I sat down next to a woman, and the librarian who was running the group started talking. I stayed. And the woman I sat next to? Well, we connected. She was a little bit ahead of me in her writing journey. She was a  LOT more confident than I was. And we agreed to support each other as we wrote.

A year later, we each had a novel. Mine, with a bit of revision, became Feta Attraction. My friend ultimately decided to self-publish her book, and she asked me to edit it, which I did.

Fast forward a few months, and we had both become members of a bigger writers’ group, the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America ( During the member news portion of the meeting, my friend stood up and proudly announced that she had self-published her novel. And she thanked me for editing it. At lunch, another writer came up to me and asked if I would edit her novel. And so, a freelance editing business was born, just like that.

Now I’ve left my unfulfilling corporate job far behind me, and I work full-time in the book business. I can honestly say that I am living my dream, and I love what I do for a living. So Jen M., my very dear friend, rock, and partner-in-crime, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your friendship changed my life.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your Jen M.


19 Thoughts

  1. When I first contracted writing fever, I finished a manuscript and realized I had no idea what to do next. I knew only one writer personally, a college classmate who published Regency romances under another name (Evelyn Richardson). She lived close enough that we could get together over coffee, so we met and I said “Help!” And she did.

    I was not writing in her genre, but she told me to join Romance Writers of America, which was an eye-opening experience for me–I had never realized that writers as a group could be so supportive. She was frank about the pros and cons of writing, particularly in her sub-genre (at a time when I knew nothing about genres). She was encouraging but honest, and she made a huge difference in my life. Thank you, Cynthia J.!

  2. I’ve said this many times but never get tired of saying it. A chance meeting with Julie Hennrikus at the Malice Domestic banquet was life changing. I didn’t know about Sisters in Crime or Crime Bake. As Jane said, I might have made it on a different path but I’m so glad I’m on this one!

  3. In the mid-nineties I had the opportunity to take a year off from work. I was determine to write. That fall I took an advanced class at the Cambridge Center for Adult education. One person gave me the skills to finish my book (which because The Death of An Ambitious Woman). That class is where I met my writers group, which kept me writing through all the crazy years of work and kids that followed. She also dragged me to my first Sisters in Crime chapter meeting. Thank you, Barbara Shapiro!

  4. I had that exact same moment, of hesitating on the doorstep, almost not going in.

    Fortunately I did. I met a great group of ladies in Sisters in Crime. They’ve all been great, but Martha R and Annette D stood out. Annette is now one of my critique buddies. I can confidently say I don’t know that I’d be where I am had I not opened the door and sat at their table.

  5. My “Jen” was a published writer named Nancy. I read an interview with her in RT and saw she had a PO box in the same town I lived in. I wrote her and she invited me to a CTRWA meeting. I went, met her and we became friends and I began writing seriously. I’m so glad I went to that meeting and connected with a group of like-minded individuals.

  6. An on-line friend (we’ve never met in person) had made the top reviewers list at Amazon, and I decided I could do it, too. He’s long since stopped reviewing, but here I am 15 years later still reviewing.

    I discovered Sue Ann Jaffarian’s books about the time she did the Camp Pendleton Mud Run. I decided if she could do it, I could do it, and here I am doing mud runs 6 years later.

    Of course, there are all kinds of different people for various parts of life. You just never know how someone will impact you.

  7. And here am I, an editor stuck facilitating a writer’s group and writing only duress, when what I really want to do is READ…

    1. Are you sure you’re writing what you want to, rather than what you think you should? Not that I don’t have to force myself to sit down and write sometimes, but if there’s no joy at all, maybe you could turn the reins of the group over to someone else for a while? Reading is a big part of the writing process, so shouldn’t be neglected. And I can tell you that I am also a writer, editor, and reader–and not everything can get done well all at the same time. I’m still figuring out the balancing act.

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