Slightly over a year ago, I discovered an incredible group of writers, known as the Rave Reviews Book Club. Little did I know what was in store for me over the past 12 months–either in RRBC or in the world at large.
Sure, I’d self-published a book, Empty Seats, about ten months before I found this group. I’d paid a professional editor and two proofreaders, as well as a cover designer. The book looked good and earned solid reviews on Amazon; a Kirkus reviewer even liked it. I reached into the bag of tricks I learned from having had a 40-plus-year career in public relations/marketing/media relations and found ways to publicize the novel on radio and television, as well as in print.
I admit, however, that I never expected my little novel would ever make The New York Times best seller list, nor that it would ever get me an interview on “The View” or “Good Morning, America.” My thought was that I’d put my mind to it, I wrote it, I’d been a writer since the second grade, I’d always wanted to write about sports, and, at the tender age of 70, I did it.
Not so fast.
Even though most reviewers who’d read the book weren’t people I knew, I kept getting this sinking feeling: I’m a fraud. I don’t have the credentials to write a piece of fiction. I’ve never taken a creative writing class. Who do I think I am?
Yes, I’d done journalism, written press releases, feature stories, op-ed pieces for newspapers, things like that. That old bachelor’s degree in English, the one I earned by working full-time and taking college-level classes at night, finally paid off, right? But exactly where did I get the nerve to write a novel? And why, as I entered my eighth decade of life on this earth, did I wait to try?
I did apply for a master’s degree in creative writing and was accepted. Then I looked at the tuition costs. Yikes. All my retirement money would have disappeared by earning that degree. Checked with the financial advisor. Not worth it.
Then I found RRBC and became surrounded by a group of supportive, professional writers, some of whom had been in relatively the same boat as I had been–becoming writers later in life, or writing as a sideline to their “day” jobs. People who are supportive and who offer constructive criticism. People who promote each other’s work. People who know the struggles other writers face. People who can ask each other questions without feeling minimized.
What I’ve learned since getting to know some of these writers, who come from all over the globe, is that some have had struggles similar to mine, especially on the self-doubting side.
I’ve also learned that perhaps I didn’t get the best advice when I self-published my first novel and perhaps should have shopped around for editors and proofreaders. I’ve learned about the existence of beta readers. I’ve learned about feedback from so many sources. I’ve learned that one of the best resources for writers are other writers.
Since the COVID19 pandemic began, nothing, but nothing, has stopped the great work of RRBC. Everything’s been online, via blogs or Twitter, and most members have been active on a daily basis. The RRBC conference was extraordinary, and everyone who participated did so from the comfort of his/her own home.
Every writer–no, every person–has a story to tell. RRBC has made that story a little easier for me. As I approach my 72nd birthday next month, I’m writing a sequel to Empty Seats (at the request of readers, I might add). I have more tools in my toolbox now, thanks to RRBC–more contacts, more people to ask, more ways to reduce stumbles from my first experience.
Putting ideas on paper or on the computer screen, at this point, seems like the easy first step. The next steps leading to publication and success are the stumbling blocks that stymie writers from getting those stories to the world. I am grateful that I found this extraordinary group, RRBC. It might have been nice to get an MFA in creative writing, but I’m convinced I made the better choice.