May 23, 2016

Southern Hospitality: Writers Raising Each Other Up

By Tina Ann Forkner

When I visit my sister in Tennessee, I love spending time browsing the shops in Franklin. Not only are the shops adorable with flowers spilling over on the sidewalks and air conditioning to welcome you inside, but the people make you feel as welcome as a cool glass of lemonade on a hot day. You just can’t hang out in the South without being blessed by all that Southern hospitality.

What if the writing world were the same way? What if we showered fellow authors with something that would look a lot like Southern hospitality? On the most part I think we do, but I wonder how often we who are farther along in our careers forget what it’s like to be a new writer. Of all the professions a person could choose, being a writer can be the loneliest.

I remember being that person who sat alone on the first day of her first writing conference. The first time a published writer sat at my table, I thought I might pass out. She even wanted to talk to me, which made me feel welcome and like I might really belong at that conference. I’m still grateful for that author who showered me with hospitality at her table, much the same way the folks in Nashville shower visitors with Southern hospitality.

Here are five ways that all writers can practice a little bit of Southern hospitality and raise each other up:

Offer Encouragement: Southerners always say the nicest things, even to people they don’t know. Whether you are far into your writing career or brand new, there is always somebody who could use a word of encouragement when it comes to writing. This could be as small as a kind reply to a social media status or as big as reaching out to them in an email. Face to face, it might mean sitting at a table of less experienced authors instead of with our usual groups, or asking another author how their writing is going. These things all seem small, but to another writer, they might mean the world.

Invite Someone to Your Writing Group: Southerners love to invite you over for supper. We can do the same in our writing communities. Writing Groups are complex and most of us resist shaking up that chemistry, but you never know when someone new will infuse life into the group, or what kind of writer that person will turn out to be. I wrote poetry in college, and I will never forget when a group of published Sacramento poets invited me to be part of their critique group. Being part of that group didn’t make me a famous poet, but it grew me as a writer and affects my fiction even today. Invite another writer to your group, or just offer to buy them a cup of coffee.

Don’t Step On Someone Else’s Dream: I can’t even count the ways in which I’ve witnessed other writers inadvertently stomp on someone else’s dream. In today’s publishing world, there are so many different ways to succeed as a writer and no way is wrong. Even if their publishing journey is not your glass of iced tea, listen to what the other writer has to say about it and try to say something nice about their goals. If I listened to some of the advice from naysayers in my writing life, I would’ve quit years ago. 

Promote Other Writers: People in the South are always bragging about how great Southerners are. They are just so proud! Writers need to do the same thing. We can brag about other writers and the writing world. This is something I feel very passionate about. I’m part of a group called Tall Poppy Writers and we actively support each other. We don’t only support other Tall Poppy Writers, but we support and promote writers who are not in our group. Take a look at the writers you are connected with in life and on social media. How can you lift them up?

Introduce Writers to Other Writers: Southerners don’t know a stranger, so be a friendly writer and make sure all your writing friends know each other. Sure, we writers sometimes have connections we don’t want to share with anyone, but we can look for times when introducing one contact to another would be a good idea. One of my best writing friends introduced me, via email, to my publisher. If she’d been stingy with her introductions, I might still be looking for a publisher.

These are just a few of things we as authors can do to enrich the lives of other writers and spread a little Southern hospitality. I find that the writing world is by and large very accepting of others, but it never hurts to add a little more sweetener here and there to brighten another writer’s day and give them a step up.

Happy Writing!
Tina Ann Forkner is a substitute teacher and award-winning author of multiple novels including her newest release The Real Thing. Her novel, Waking Up Joy, is a recipient of the Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Medallion Award of Merit for Romantic Elements. Tina is also a proud member of Tall Poppy Writers and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Learn More:

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