That is, in part, why we ended up with a place in the Turks & Caicos Islands. My husband and I vacationed in TCI because no one had heard of it. We stayed on North Caicos instead of a resort on Providenciales. And when we bought land and built the house, we did it the island way, without a Realtor and using an island-born contractor with an all-local crew.
The fact that it all worked out reinforced my resistance to conventional wisdom and made me one stubborn case. And that did not bode well for a foray into fiction, a field strewn with bits of standard advice.
I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid, so I tried to follow the rules and heed the suggestions. I studied how to write good query letters, did my homework on pitching to agents and tried to take heart from the tales of now-famous authors who endured years of rejections.
I'm still not a convert. I've become cynical, critical and suspicious of the publishing industry, despite finding a niche (I hope) for my book.
However, one of those words of wisdom for writers became as important -- no, more important -- to me as a mother's "always wear clean underwear" mantra. The advice: Find and join a writers group.
I didn't really find my group. They found me. No, we found each other, purely by chance. I met Jordan Langley, Jessica Cole (then Weintraub) and Katie McDougall in the lunch line at the James River Writers conference in 2008. We found a table together, introduced ourselves and talked about our writing. By the time we were called back to sessions, we had already traded cards and Jordan had declared us a writers group.
Our first group meeting was a bit strange -- after all, we were strangers. I, as hostess, even wondered if they would drink wine with me. What if they were teetotalers? And there was this awkward moment about the very recent election of Barack Obama. But Katie rose to the occasion, saying, "Well, I'm happy today. Are you?" Miraculously, I had found both writers and liberals in Richmond, Va.
We've come a long way since then. We've come to know each other's work very, very well. Their characters are people I know, and vice-versa. In fact, we're almost at the point of being unable to critique each other's work because we know it too well. But on the other hand, that makes us better at offering support -- so, SO important to writers.
And of course there's the personal stuff. We've cheered Jessica's marriage, nudged Jody through a discouraging period, followed Katie through a blended family's dramas and watched new life growing in both Jordan and Jessica. We're a team.
These women are one of my best assets. OK, so I have to admit that I've been wrong in resisting some of that advice for writers. But that doesn't annoy me at all.