A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
I could bleat on about this all day, go on about what a difference it makes, but instead here are my five (reasonably succinct) reasons why finding your people is important.
1. Because writing is lonely
Writing is solitary work. You spend hours alone, in your office or at your desk, talking to no other people than the characters in your head. For me, this is a good thing and a bad thing. I couldn’t write with people around, I quite like time alone, but after a while, the need for some kind of human interaction (yes, human, not just my dog lying under my desk) goes a long way to keep me sane.
2. Nobody else really understands
They say they do, and they try, but they don’t. It’s like me saying I understand what it’s like to be a policeman or a doctor or a teacher; I can research it, watch Morse or ER or Educating Yorkshire or such, but unless you’ve been in front of that screen for hours, tapping away even though that voice in the back of your head is telling you it’s rubbish, or you’ve hit refresh on your emails a million times waiting for a reply, or you’ve cried at a bad review, then you can sympathise maybe, but you don’t really understand.
3. Because…yeah, that green-eyed monster
Oh you’re not jealous, or envious, exactly; you’re pleased for X’s gazillion (or that’s how it feels) 5 star reviews on Amazon, thrilled that Y was nominated for that book prize, head-over-heels happy that Z got a three book deal. Of course you are. You smile, re-tweet, share, congratulate them, but a little bit, even if it’s just a tiny niggle at the back of your brain is going ‘yeah, but what about my book?’ After all, that book is your baby, and you want to see it go out in the world and do well.
Finding your people, talking to them, becoming friends, does two things; firstly you realise that these people with 5 star reviews, nominations, book deals are (mostly!) very lovely people and have worked bloody hard to get where they are and damn well deserve their success; secondly, that others feel that pang too, and it’s completely normal and understandable. Oh, and thirdly, it makes you stop your moaning and feeling sorry for yourself and get back to the laptop and carry on just as everyone else is.
4. For when it’s all hard.
Linked to point 2. Crap sales? Bad reviews? Disagreement with editor? Or agent? Upcoming school visit that scares you out of your skin? Looming deadline while child A is throwing up and child B is having a tantrum? Feel like you want to have a tantrum yourself? Want to scream and shout and throw yourself on the floor of Tesco and kick your legs?
Your people, community, friends, get it. They offer you a consolatory pat on the back, an understanding nod of the head, or proper advice. And this is from people who have been there and done that (although perhaps not their own tantrum, but writers are odd so you never know). They might not be just around the corner like many work colleagues, but they’re at the end of a text, or they’re a Facebook or Twitter message away. They are a community which is often spread over hundreds of miles, but will be (virtually) there for you in seconds.
5. For when it’s all good
You’ve maybe known them through the whole process, from subbing to agents to agent then subbing to publishers and you’ve maybe shared with them all those rejections. Or you’ve met them since. But they know you’ve been through the mire to get where you are. Then the good news comes (because it will one day!). You want to shout and scream from the rooftops, and you know what? So do they. They want to celebrate your good news and your success, retweet it and share it. They squeal when they see your new cover and are so excited when they see a good review that their fingers pound on the keyboard because they can’t get the words out quickly enough to tell you.
They take photos of your book when they see it in the shops, (not so) surreptitiously saying ‘oh, I know that author’ in front of the browsers, adding an ‘it’s so good, you should read it’. Because these are your people, they get you and they understand, like no others can. To me, they mean the absolute world.
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Kerry is the author of A Brighter Fear and A Dream of Lights. Her new book, Cell 7 – a thriller about the death penalty where a sinister reality TV show has replaced the justice system – is out in September with Hot Key Books. It’s the first in a trilogy.