You Get Out What You Put In

Last year, when I was in the thickest part of the work for the NJRW conference materials, juggling work, kids, writing, life, and volunteering, one person close to me kept asking, but why? Why do you agree to do that? Why do you give that writer’s group so much time? For lots of reasons, of course, however today I want to focus on that age old tenet: You get out what you put in.

Often, it’s the intangible stuff that’s so great, like that feeling of being included, getting the inside jokes, sharing history, forging friendships, the pleasure of common interests. Maybe you feel valued, because your time is appreciated or your contribution helpful. Or, perhaps there’s simply a sense of satisfaction.

Many times though, there’s a direct end result, a more tangible bonus. You may not even recognize it right off, but if you trace back a series of events or conversations—viola! The whole chain began because you put yourself out there. And I’m not talking solely about volunteering here. I also mean being social when you might have chosen the quiet of your hotel room, or attending a monthly meeting even though you had to scramble to get kid coverage on a crazy day, or reaching out to someone to further a personal connection when you didn’t necessarily have to…

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Last week, I saw the boomerang effect in action in a very real way. Bear with me—I’ll attempt to keep this as brief and uncomplicated as possible. I attended a conference hosted by Liberty States Fiction Writers (LSFW)—a group I’d been meaning to reconnect with for some time. About a month prior, R.A. DeFranco, passed me a book and said, essentially, “Check out Melinda Leigh, her writing reminds me of yours, she’s doing very well at Montlake in dark RS (Romantic Suspense), I’ll introduce you to her at Liberty States.” First thing at the conference, I joined up with friends, Ruth and Jen, from my own writing group, New Jersey Romance Writers (NJRW). They hailed one of the LSFW women and (gotta love nametags) low and behold, it was Melinda Leigh. I introduced myself, mentioned that R.A. had recommended her books and why, and that I enjoyed her book She Can Run. We discussed that I had submitted via my agent to Montlake and really wished I could have connected with that editor at the conference, except she was skyping, not attending. Melinda suggested I find the ed/agent coordinator, Linda, who I do know a bit from long ago, and try to snag a last minute appointment. Ruth and Jen (and by then, Nicole as well) all urged me on. Linda asked her friend Gwen to give up the last Montlake spot for me. In turn, I handed someone else an Entangled spot I had picked up. [Not only do you make the most of opportunities that come your way, you also pay it forward. Which believe it or not, is par for the course in the romance writing community—a more supportive, generous group you’ve never seen.] Long story short, I did talk with the awesome Montlake editor, who did say she’d take a look at my manuscript. Mission accomplished.

Surely, you’ve experienced your own boomerang effects. Perhaps you call it karma. Maybe you picture a beneficent snowball gathering matter as it’s rolled by your own two hands. Do share your experiences if you have a moment to comment—I’d love to hear them.

As for me, will Montlake’s editor be intrigued enough to read my manuscript now that she’s “met me?” Maybe, maybe not. It’s possible that I only hastened a firm “No, thanks.” Perhaps we’ll receive no response at all. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll find the first Jenna Blue title within Montlake’s releases someday.

At this moment, the outcome doesn’t matter. The point is: that day’s good fortune happened with darned good reason. Without R.A. recommending Melinda, without the push of fellow writing friends, without an old connection and some generous writer’s hearts—heck, if I had savored my cup of joe in the quiet of my car that morning, missing that crucial half an hour of networking—that series of events wouldn’t have happened. Take it even further back: If I hadn’t shared my trials and plans with my writing friends, if I hadn’t been involved in NJRW where I met all those great people (both by volunteering and by accepting invitations extended to), if I was still keeping my writing a secret like I did years ago….none of that could have happened.

Of course, we can’t be involved everywhere, in everything. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. So, I pick and choose, and so must you. Get out there, get involved where you find enjoyment. Share your journey, strengths, support, encouragement, and knowledge both inside and outside the writing community. I do, and I will. I hope you’ll join me. Because, you never know—you and I both might just get out what we put in. 

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13 Comments

  1. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  March 25, 2013

    Hi Jenna,

    Love this post and love that I was able to help you make a potentially impactful connection. I agree with everything you said about the boomerang effect and the journey. Writing is a singular endeavor. We spend most of our time sitting at the keyboard weaving our tales, but after putting myself “out there” I feel a strong connection to the journey of many. Sometimes I even hear the voice of a CP or two! We are all interwoven now. Not to mention, I count the connections forged in such a wonderful community of people among my blessings.

    RoseAnn

    P.S. Been meaning to compliment the lovely branding of The Femmes blog! It looks great. You ladies (and your graphics designer :)) ROCK!

    Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  March 25, 2013

    That’s such a good way to put how invested I feel in my fellow writing friend’s path, “a strong connection to the journey of many.” Perfect, thank you! I agree, we are so blessed! And yes, Joanna, is our amazing techie–doesn’t the site look great!? Thanks, R.A.!

    Reply
  3. Nicole Doran

     /  March 25, 2013

    True sentiments all around! So glad I (and others) were able to be in your corner last weekend. The feeling of support in this community is something that still amazes me every meeting I attend and every conference I go to. That’s why I do it – volunteering my time that takes away from other aspects of my life (family and writing, etc.) Because no matter how down, up, or in-between I feel about my words, my path, or this crazy idea to be a writer…others actually get it. Fingers crossed you hear something from that editor soon!!
    Nicole

    Reply
    • Jenna Blue

       /  March 25, 2013

      Nicole, thank you! I, too, am so glad you are in my corner. Likewise, I’m in yours! So true: it makes all the difference in the world to be able to spend time with people who “get it.” : )
      Thanks for keeping up with us Femmes!

      Reply
  4. Great post, Jenna! I was sorry to miss the conference, but I am glad the fates aligned for you there. It doesn’t happen often, so you have to take advantage of it when it does.

    I have never forgotten the authors (both published and unpublished) who extended a hand to me in friendship, advice, and support. Even if I’ll never take them up on it, it just goes to show that romance writers are a lovely, supportive, encouraging group.

    And RoseAnn, glad you’re enjoying the new design!!

    Reply
    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  March 25, 2013

      Great work, Joanna! I’m looking forward to the NJRW April meeting!

      RoseAnn

      Reply
  5. Jenna Blue

     /  March 25, 2013

    Agreed, Joanna, that’s the point exactly. You may never have need, but the opportunities are there. And we all do our part in creating those same paths for other writers. Thanks for your hard work on our gorgeous blog! : )

    Reply
  6. Jenna, this post is spot on. Putting myself out there is something I actually taught myself to do way back in high school.

    I had always wanted to be in the drama club. I joined as a freshman, but for the first production, I really felt like a fish out of water. Believe it or not (!) I was very shy. I would stay in the background, do what was asked of me, and I didn’t really interact. Meanwhile, I wanted to be one of “those people”, the fun group that shared inside jokes, made sarcastic jibes at each other, laughed and goofed on each other. So I observed, and took mental notes. One day, I’m not sure why, I decided to make my move. Somebody made a comment, and I snapped out a quick rejoinder. Everyone was a bit surprised, then they laughed. That was when my sarcastic sense of humor started to develop. It was also when I was welcomed into the fold. It’s amazing how humor is such a link between people.

    NJRW has always been such a welcoming group. I remember thinking at the last meeting, when guests and new members were asked to stand and introduce themselves, that I felt extremely proud to be a part of such a welcoming and supportive group. I imagined all the “newbies” had a really positive experience that day, especially since we had our JeRo celebration as well, and the camaraderie was uber-evident. Even Michael Hauge said it (and seemed a bit shell-shocked about it). Romance writers are the singular most supportive group of writers he has ever encountered.

    That speaks volumes, don’t you think?

    Jaye

    .

    Reply
  7. Jenna Blue

     /  March 26, 2013

    Jaye, that’s a great story! I was much like you, always hanging back and it took a long time to feel comfortable in groups. I can’t picture you shy, but I know people say the same about me! : ) Agreed, too, that humor is a bridge in so many ways. I was so sorry to miss that celebration for JeRoWriMo last week. Perfect time to showcase our enthusiasm for the new folks. Like you, I count my lucky stars, that NJRW is such a welcoming group!

    Reply
  8. Jenna, Great post. I think all of the Femmes have experience this boomerang effect, to a certain extent. It is so helpful to have people with generous hearts willing to take bat for you.– especially knowing what a talented writer you are! Sometimes it is timing, and being in the right place as karma takes hold of your fate. I’m glad opportunities have come knocking for, and that you’re making your own opportunities too! Cheers, Michele

    Reply
  9. Jenna Blue

     /  March 27, 2013

    Thank you, Michele! There’s that quote about success. What is it perspiration meeting planning and opportunity. I think I have it all mixed up, but our writing network provides the opportunities for sure. And I’m just as happy when a fellow femme or njrw member or other writing pal finds some success or good things as for myself! xo!

    Reply
  10. Hi Jenna. It took me around a year floundering with my writing before I attended an NJRW meeting. I can be very shy around people I don’t know and putting myself out there in front of a group of strangers to talk about my writing was a huge step for me. It’s also one I’ve never regretted and am thankful for every day. I’ve met so many wonderful people who’ve inspired me to be a better writer and encouraged me that publication is possible.

    I did encounter a boomerang effect at the NJRW Conference last year. Soon-to-be-published author & friend, Diana Quincy, re-introduced me to an agent I pitched to earlier that year. I hadn’t received a response from the partial I sent and the agent apologized and asked me to resend to her, which I did following the conference. The experience taught me I need to be “on” at all times. I need to be ready with my log line because you never know when you’ll be presented with an opportunity to “sell” your story concept.

    Reply
  11. Maria, you are another one that I would never have pegged as shy! : )
    Thanks for sharing your boomerang effect. I think the more aware we are, the more we recognize these moments. And the more we get out there (and the longer we are in this biz) the more times these things will bear fruit!

    Reply

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