Writer Gets Over Self - With a Little Help from Loved Ones

When I give talks or signings or make appearances at book clubs, I'm almost invariably asked some version of this question, usually by someone with a slightly awestruck expression: "So, are your relatives excited to have an author in the family?"

Thanks to a recent conversation with my mother, I now have a terrific new story to help answer to this question.

On the phone yesterday, she was complaining that there's nothing good on TV and she doesn't like to watch as much in the summer.

"You could always pick up one of those books of mine you've been collecting," I teased, since my mom has never been a reader (and often makes unintentionally hilarious excuses trying to explain herself.)

She then launches into a story about how I might enjoy reading but she's never...(loses train of her thought, before launching into:) "It reminds me of when my sisters once convinced me I'd just LOVE buying a kit and making my own hook rug. I loathed every minute of it. It was torture! Sheer torture."

Then it hit me. She was comparing the odious task of reading one of my books to what I remember as her years-long struggle to finish the single ugliest rust-and-floral shag hook ever to come out of the 70's.

Better yet, she had no idea why I broke up laughing and thanked her for the brilliant anecdote!

To be fair, both of my parents love to brag on me, just as they're very proud of my brother the electrician and my sister the RN. In turn, I adore my family, including my husband and son, and think it's probably healthier that to them that my career is simply one small facet of who I am to them and not the focal point.

Besides, over the years, their many "flattering" comments have helped me keep my sense of perspective -- and my sense of humor.

If there's a lesson to be drawn from this, maybe it's that you can choose to collect a bag of bitter hurts, or laugh and take things in stride. You have very little control over anything your family members say about your writing, but all the control in the world over how you choose to perceive it.

So what's the "best" comment a family member's ever made about your writing?


JoAnn Ross said…
I can so identify! When I told my mother, back in 1982, that I was writing a romance novel, she told me, "My dear, you must remain true to your art."

Since I was working on advertising copy for Maytag washers at the time she called, and was about to move on to extolling the wonders of Big O Tires, that made me laugh.

Btw, I had one of those 70s shag rugs on the wall. My cop sister made it for me for a housewarming gift.
Debra Mullins said…
My mom and two sisters read every word I write. They are big romance readers. My other sister does not read fiction, and when I was telling her about a book I was working on, exclaimed, "You talk about them like they're real people!"

Well, to me they are.

However, while she does not read my books herself, she talks me up to everyone who does read and keeps my cover flats hanging on her walls (she's an artist). Support comes in all forms :)
Ha! Those are good ones.

And JoAnn, I had a finish of my rescue mutts ripping a shag rug from the wall and shaking it like a dead rat! :)

You're right, Debra, about support coming in all forms. I lot of times, I think it's much easier for people who don't know an author well to really immerse themselves in her books.

And some people are just never going to buy what you're selling. That's ok, as long as there are others out there eager for our tales.
Joni Rodgers said…
I actually love that the Gare Bear has never read any of my books. He says there are enough people rendering opinions about my work and (since his opinion would be one of the few that really matters to me) he'd rather let me work without the feeling that there's someone reading over my shoulder. His support is based purely on the fact that this is what I am, and he loves me.

He does, however, listen to my endless prate about the publishing industry and has rightly said to me on a number of occasions, "Take a pill. There are no emergencies in publishing. A publishing emergency is like a fire on a glacier."
Ha! I love that, Joni. You're husband and mine both work in jobs where, if they screw up, people die. Sort of puts the rest into perspective.
Great post, Colleen! I can't remember how many times family and friends have said to me: "Why don't you write books like [insert their favorite author here]?" Or: "Jennifer has to write those books [romance], so she can make money."

Happily, I can go back to what I love doing without rancor, and happily, for every friend and family member who doesn't understand why I do what I do, there are the same number who think it's wonderful. My MIL (who recently passed away), adored romances and was incredibly proud of having a romance author in the family. Bless her.
Mylène said…
My mom doesn't read my books, either (I think because she finds them too hard). She does like to read/skim books, and usually reads the ending first. I sometimes ponder what last sentence I could write to get her to read the whole thing.
"Shaking the shards of the broken wineglass from the rumpled sheets, [insert name of Mylene's mother] sighed once before slipping back into her stained dress."

I'm betting that would do it! :)
Christie Craig said…

This is priceless. Love it.


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