“Why don’t you go on and tell me everything about yourself, so I can see you with my heart.”
- Kate DiCamillo, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE
I’m a careful person. I don’t trust quickly, don’t easily make true friends. Don’t get me wrong, I am an extrovert, thus, am friendly and enjoy talking to people on a social, casual level. But real, raw, tell-you-everything-so-you-can-see-me-with-your-heart? Not so much. Takes some time for me to feel safe enough for that.
I wasn’t always like that, but that’s another story.
The people with whom I do feel that safe are those in my tribe.
We all have a tribe. Some of us have more than one. I have a husband and two children, they are my tribe. I am still unusually close to the friends I grew up with in Minnesota even though we are all spread out. We’ve literally grown up and are now growing middle aged together. They’re my tribe too. And in my first career, television news, I had a tribe. The folks who understood the vagaries of our business, the excitement and agony, what personal sacrifices it took to succeed.
But it wasn’t until PitchWars that I finally found my writing tribe.
Before that, I had joined Twitter and spent time trying to figure out this talkative, funny, opinionated, and brilliant community of writers. I flailed about, trying to figure out how to interact with other writers in ways that are professional and not stalkery.
And then I was chosen for PitchWars 2015. And the angels sang. My mentor, the amazing Kendra Young, took my manuscript, deftly identified its (many) problems, and set me to work reconstructing a better story.
The pressure was both searing and exhilarating. It was the first time I’d ever revised an entire manuscript with the actual help of an actual real writer – and my changes were significant. Structural overhaul, eliminating characters, deleting some scenes and reimagining others. Plus getting rid of about nine hundred gajillion filter words.
And in the middle of all of it, I had to have surgery. Not like landed-in-the-ER kind of stuff, but critical to my health nonetheless.
So I was pressed for time, a little foggy, and suffering from the same insecurity that dogs us all.
But. There was a saving grace.
The other warriors. On a secret, members-only Facebook page where we could bare our tortured writer’s souls.
And I’ll be honest – I didn’t bare a lot at first. In fact, I barely contributed. (Sorry. Pun. Couldn’t help it.) Remember how I said I’m careful? I was. I read everything and sometimes commented. I even asked for advice sometimes. But mostly, I just watched. Because that’s what I do.
And as I watched, here’s what I found: funny, kind, thoughtful, brilliant, trustworthy writers, all of whom wanted the best for each other, all of whom were unfailingly willing to give time, advice, perspective, beta reads, encouragement, sympathy, jokes, GIFs, and so much more. Plus, bonus, some of them were fond of bourbon and/or red wine.
My people. My tribe.
Nearly a year later, I still don’t contribute the most to our little group. But now when I get quiet it’s only because life is too busy to play or because I don’t always have something fresh to say.
But when I do say something, I know these are people to whom I have told maybe not everything, but a whole lot of things. And they’ve seen me with their hearts. And I trust them.
Enter PitchWars. And while you’re sweating the selection process, reach out. Find the people who could be in your tribe. Even if you’re not selected, you’ve got something you didn’t have before. People you can reach out to for advice, encouragement, support, and GIFs. People who can suggest a new brand of bourbon you’ve never tried or help you celebrate every moment of exhilaration or offer hugs for all the frustrations we endure on the path to publication.