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New Worlds in New England

Valerie Griswold-Ford (left) and Tee Morris on the road with Dragon Moon's Micro-Tour of New England. (Photo courtesy Tee Morris)
When I signed up to write the chapter on mythology in The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, I never realized exactly where it would take me. I certainly didn't think it would lead me to sit on a panel with three other authors (in my first panel discussion) or to my very first signing, where I showed up sans pen and clue. I definitely didn't think it would lead me to organize my first touring weekend.

I did hope it would jumpstart my writing again. Be careful what you wish for.

The experience opened up a whole new world for me, courtesy of Tee Morris, my fellow author. Tee answered my na´ve invitation to come up and help me promote "the Guide." Suddenly, over the course of one whirlwind weekend, I was thrust into the world of the working, professional author. And let me stress the "working."

Ironically, given the subject of my chapter in the Guide, this weekend also helped shatter one of the myths that I, along with a lot of other people who want to be authors, have cherished for a long time: that Real Authors (i.e., the ones that actually make a living off their writing) just sit and write.

You know the type -- the one with the tweed jacket, the fragrant pipe and the glass of sherry or Port beside the computer. Their words spill across the keyboard, configuring themselves into timeless works of art by the time they reach the display screen.

Once done, these Real Authors package the book off to their publisher and start on the next one. With holidays in between, of course. They live in a bubble, insulated from the vagaries of the market and actually sell the book. Admit it, it's something every writer, in some secret place in their heart, dreams of.

I could even tell you where my Real Author dream takes place -- a small house in rural New Hampshire, with a back yard large enough for my husband's fighter practice and a special room set aside just for me. I pictured serene winters, snow coming down gently as I typed diligently at the keyboard. A fire burned in my dream fireplace and my Siamese slept on the couch next to me. Lovely dream, don't you agree?

Let me clue you in to the reality.

The successful author swaps hats once she writes "The End." She drops her "writer" hat and puts on the one that says "marketing." She goes to cons and schmoozes with fans, other authors, editors, and agents. She calls bookstores, cafes, anywhere that might take her in to do a signing. She carries a box of books in the trunk of her car, "just in case."

She works just as hard selling the book as she did writing it. In some cases, she works harder.

I don't think Tee and I slept more than six hours in a row all weekend. I know we only averaged about two meals a day, and personally, I ran on caffeine and sugar most of the time. Was it worth it? You bet your laptop.

You need to be able to accept criticism, disdain ("You write what?" or "You're with what press?"), sometimes downright nastiness ("We don't deal with small presses -- it's unprofessional.") and get over it. The book will not sell itself, unless your name happens to be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, and even they go out on the stump once in a while. You must be willing to work to get people to read, and be willing to pay your dues.

Is it an easy life? No. I still work a day job, rent a two-bedroom apartment and sleep on friends' couches/floors/spare beds when I go to signings or cons. I write in the moments I can snatch, often passing up sleep to write. But it's still exactly what I want to be doing, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Well, almost anything. If someone offers a million dollars and an island off the coast of Maui to write from, I will entertain offers and can be reached through my publisher.

Valerie Griswold-Ford

Click here to learn the details of Valerie Griswold-Ford's Micro-Tour of New England, courtesy Tee Morris

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