Thursday, April 26, 2012

Writer Pals

by Gigi Pandian

Far from being a solitary pursuit, writing wasn't something I was able to do well until I surrounded myself with other writers. Shortly after I moved to the Bay Area, everything in my life began to fall into place: wonderful friends, a great guy, an amazing job. But something was missing. Writing a book was still one of those things people say they really want to accomplish but don't actually find a way to do. 

A couple of years after setting into my life in Berkeley, a woman who had recently completed her MFA in creative writing moved to my neighborhood. Emberly Nesbitt was the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, and we discovered we were both working on novels. Em and I wrote together during my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the momentum stuck. We met frequently at local cafes to motivate each other.

NaNoWriMo with Emberly Nesbitt

Everything snowballed from there:

It was through Em's encouragement that I sent my NaNoWriMo novel to the Malice Domestic Grants competition, which fosters the next generation of traditional mystery writers by giving grants to promising unpublished writers. When I found out I was being awarded one of their grants for Artifact, I attended Malice Domestic -- my very first mystery convention. It was there I met Juliet Blackwell.

Gigi Pandian and Juliet Blackwell

It turned out Juliet was the president of my local Sisters in Crime Northern California chapter. Since I hadn't previously known any local mystery writers, I would never have attended a meeting without her recommendation. Juliet and I became friends, and I also found myself serving on the board doing the chapter newsletter. 

Sisters in Crime NorCal Board in 2010

I learned about another group at that Malice Domestic convention: the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a chapter set up for unpublished authors to have an online community. It was there that I learned how much time and effort it takes to learn to write a good novel, how to query an agent once your work is ready, and also how to not get discouraged in this crazy business.

Guppies Avery Aames (Daryl Wood Gerber) and Gigi Pandian.

I continued to write with Em at cafes, attended events in the mystery writer community, and signed with an agent I love working with. It was then that Sophie Littlefield rounded up a group of writers she thought would be a good fit for a group blog.

Juliet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield at Bouchercon

Since we wrote across genres, we hadn't all met each other before. I only knew Sophie and Juliet. Yet somehow we instantly clicked. (Sophie, to this day I don't know how you did it!) We picked a blog name, then got together for a photo shoot at a local cemetery (hey, many of us are mystery writers, after all).

Pens Fatales photo shoot in 2009
I didn't realize at the time how much of a community the group would become. Not only for writing, but for life in general. When your friends take you wig shopping and buy you a fun wig after you've been diagnosed with breast cancer, and then throw a big dinner party, you know you've chosen wisely.

A Pens Fatales dinner party
The Pens Fatales after wig shopping for Gigi

Last month at Left Coast Crime: Gigi Pandian, Sophie Littlefield, Juliet Blackwell

If you're a writer, definitely surround yourself with other writers. It doesn't have to be in person. Some of my best friends and critique partners are people I primarily know online, a couple of whom I've never even met. Even if you're an introvert, having at least a few writer pals who understand will make all the difference.


Rachael Herron said...

I love, love, love this post. xoox

Lara Britt said...

I love this...and this is exactly why I subscribe to your feed. I'm going to slip this link into a blog post I wrote on my local SinC chapter last week. Mahalo Nui Loa!

Leslie said...

This is a great example of the power of a good support system!!! I love reading about these wonderful people you encounter because of your writing!! You have always been one to listen to your heart and try to find ways to do the things you love. It's great how doing the things we love can lead us to more things and people we love.....

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