Writer Ann Patchett recently opened an independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee (go Ann!). Patchett is, apparently, a great supporter of emerging writers (good for her) and she had this to say in an interview on the One Story blog:
"Show kindness whenever possible. Show
it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and
the people with whom you are running neck and neck. It will vastly
improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state
of the world.
And while you’re at it, buy your books at independent
bookstores and tell your friends to do the same because if we don’t take
the lead, no one else will."
I agree with her and have been living by this 'helping' motto for ages. However I do meet a lot of writers who want to take but don't want to give. They bug me. But deep down, I realise, they are insecure and not much I do or say is going to change that. I have had my helpers who have given me work and opportunities and to whom I am really grateful, among them Patrick Cotter of the Munster Literature Centre and Gearóid O'Brien of Athone Library. So two men have helped me a lot but I make a personal point of helping other women writers as much as possible.
Ann Patchett's own mentor was Allan Gurganus and she said of him: "Allan Gurganus taught me how to write,
which was extremely helpful. I tried to follow his example of hard
work, though never came close to matching his sense of elegance and
style. He was and is a very generous soul. I didn’t match him there
either but he taught me a great deal. My favorite piece of Gurganus
advice was that I must always steer the ship of my own career and not
assume anyone else was looking after things as I would. If my name was
on the book then I must agree with every aspect of it. This has been
hugely important to me."
Steer the ship of your own career. It's so true. With Mother America out in a few weeks I have been busily setting up PR stuff in tandem with New Island. It makes for busy times (and no writing) but it's already starting to pay off. The busier I get with it all, the more offers I get (including out-of-the-blue ones). There is some sort of magic in the universe that rewards us (eventually). If we help others, we get helped back. Something like that anyway!