My favorite part of the holiday season is that sense of kindness and warmth that settles over us, making strangers friendlier, making people smile more, making us give a little extra. I like the opportunity to give my girls change for the Salvation Army helpers. I love letting them choose from the Gift Tree at the malls, helping to make a child's Christmas better. I think I just like giving. Selfishly, it makes me feel better. It makes me feel like I've done something good, so maybe that bit of good can erase or at least cancel out, the not so nice things about me. If I'm teaching my children to give, I've done something that will make a positive difference in a world that sees too much negative.
We're headed out to the mall shortly and I haven't told them yet, but we're going to let the girls choose a child off the tree and shop for them. They really love this-- carefully picking out items. It makes me happy to know that this will be a highlight to their day-- giving to someone else. So in those times where I feel like I haven't done enough...I know I've done something. Perhaps this sense of giving, the feeling of making sure we pay it forward, is one of the reasons I love the writing community so much.
I have blogged about this several times but the generosity of the writing community constantly blows me away. I'm always taken off guard by the willingness, the actual happiness, that others show in giving back. I love it and it makes me feel like I'm part of something special. Just recently, one of the writers I "know" was dealt several difficult hands and shared her journey via blogging. She wasn't complaining or asking for help. She was reaching out because she knew that this beautiful community of writers she knows would give her the virtual hugs she needed to keep going. What I'm sure she didn't anticipate was the lovely and funny Jessa Russo and Tamara Mataya throwing together "Friends of Fizzy". These two women rallied together and in less than a month, raised over $8000 to help Summer and her family. I contributed a tiny little query and three chapter critique. Someone (more than one someone) actually bid on that. And now I feel like I'm part of this amazing thing that happened that will be one of my go to reminders about the good that exists in the world.
I've never met Summer. Or Jessa or Tamara. But Summer has made me laugh numerous times. She's made me realize I'm not a complete loser because sometimes my anxiety is too much to make me feel normal. She's posted really cool Doctor Who gifs that I can then forward to my best friend in an attempt to make her think I'm getting cooler with age.
I don't know Jessa. But when I self-published my story Forever Christmas and reached out to the few people I'd connected with via twitter at the time, she helped me promote it. She didn't know me. But she helped me.
I don't know Tamara but I follow her on Twitter and truly appreciate her candor and the way she gives her time, with Jessa, for #Pitchmas. Plus, she's got the coolest twitter handle ever: @feakysnucker.
This is one of the biggest rallies of support I have seen in the writing community that I'm grateful to be part of-- but it's by no means the only one. I've had friends support and encourage, give up their time to edit, critique, retweet, and push me forward. I've had authors who have so much on their plate give up time to email me, answer my questions, and offer their time. Scarlett Cole, who wrote the incredibly awesome and sexy The Strongest Steel, said yes when I asked if she'd provide a blurb for my story Damaged. That means she has to give up her time to read it. Shannyn Schroeder did the same for my story Falling For Home. Carly Phillips, (CARLY PHILLIPS you guys!) emailed me back and said she was sorry she couldn't help out-- but she took the time to email back. Same with Roxanne St. Claire and Bella Andre. It might not seem like much, but it's a LOT. It matters.
Writing can be lonely. Most of the time that's fine because we like being in our own worlds creating all the dialogue and events. But sometimes, when you're waiting (which you're constantly doing), it gets to be too much. And you need someone to tell you to keep going. Someone who knows how hard the waiting is. And I feel so incredibly lucky to have so many someones. I haven't mentioned them all here...I couldn't possibly mention every one of the people that have helped me, supported me, or encouraged me. There's seriously SO many.
But what I can do, what I try to do, is give back. I can be the one RT-ing so someone gets a wider audience. I can be a judge in contests, even though my time is limited. I can offer a query critique or book suggestions. I can buy books, review them, share them. I can pull someone into the community the way others pulled me in. I can actually remember when Brenda Drake followed me and I thought, oh, who is this person and why are they following me. She is another example of the power of giving. The time and energy and kindness she offers the writing community with her contests and support is unparalleled. I get to be part of that in some small way. She followed an unknown writer and any time I've ever reached out, she's responded with humor and kindness.
The urge to list people is strong, but my fear of forgetting someone is stronger. So for now, I'll just hope that if you've made me feel connected, made me feel like I belong here, I hope I've thanked you. And I promise that I'm trying to pay it forward.
The auction that Tamara and Jessa ran closed and I contacted my winning bidder. She was gracious and sweet, saying, "Thank you for responding so quickly'. And I thought, thank you for letting me help you. Thank you for wanting my feedback and letting me be part of your journey. Thank you for giving, not just because it's the holiday season, but because it's who you are.
We teach our kids to give because it's a way for them to connect and see the bigger picture-- we are not alone in this world and we have the power to make a difference. We never know the impact of a kind word, subtle gesture, or positive response. I'm so far from perfect, perfect is a dot to me. But I know that I'm trying. That I'm making giving part of my life and my girls' lives. And even though I do, it feels completely selfish because while it helps someone else, I think it helps me more.
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