Last week I lost one of my mentors. Vanessa Grant, who wrote for Harlequin in the days when they were the only game in town, passed away. When I first joined the romance writers group in my area, she was a star, a kind and generous star. She gave workshops, shared her wisdom, read and encouraged beginning writers, including me, and welcomed us into the company of authors.
In these days of self-publishing and managing your own career/writing business, it can be easy to feel alone. To think of our writing careers as “self- made.” Perhaps, for some, that is true. But for the majority of us, we have benefited from the advice and encouragement of others. RWA (Romance Writers of America) was born from that desire to share, encourage and engage with romance writers everywhere. The organization is not the force it was when I joined in the last century but the spirit of camaraderie still pervades the community of romance writers.
In most businesses, other entrepreneurs are seen as rivals. CEO’s seek to get an edge over the competition. But writers in general, and romance writers in particular, invest huge amounts of time and wisdom in helping other writers. The success of one is cheered by all.
When I first found my local chapter of RWA and met people like Vanessa, I was astonished. They actually spoke to lowly, little, old me. They vowed that “you can do it.” I came home from my first meeting buoyed by their enthusiasm, my head swimming with new knowledge.
Mentors cannot and should not write your book for you, any more than editors do. But kind and generous supporters, like Vanessa, make an enormous difference in the lives they touch. I’m glad I knew her. I strive to be as encouraging.
Farewell my friend. Your legacy lives on in so many of us.