Whenever I think about me as a writer, I can only recall good memories. Surely, there were some bad things along the way, the stings of rejection letters or the frustration of when the writer’s block hits, but they just don’t come to my mind as if they weren’t that significant. And when I focus on the bright side of being a writer, several memories constantly come up to my head, and I’d like to share them with you.
Feedback on my novel from a writer whose writing I love
Long time ago, when I was young and naive, after several years of writing short stories, I made a first attempt of writing a novel. That fantasy romance (yes, I wrote a romance!) barely passed the minimum novel length, but it was at the time the longest piece I’ve finished back then. And after rounds of editing and beta-readers feedback, I went about submitting it to the publishers. I got my rejections, but I also got an email from an author whose writing I admire. At the time she had read submissions to a publishing house and, as she explained in the email, she remembered my name as that of someone’s who wrote reviews of their books, so she made an exception of providing me feedback versus sending standard rejection.
Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about story structure from that one email, and a bit on how to write a summary. But what stayed with me for all these years were the words she finished her email with: “If you’re really attached to this text, I’d advise you to think it over and try to rework it. But you could also start another book, because in my opinion you should keep writing.”
This email lies buried somewhere within my mailbox (I guess I’m not much of a fan-girl if I hadn’t even printed it out), but whenever I have a worse day, I remember how lucky I am. I not only got feedback from a writer whose stories made me both cry and laugh, and whose style I admire, but I also received the best encouragement one could ever get.
My friends’ understanding of my passion
Writers are not necessarily very social creatures, but back when I lived in Poland I I’ve met quite a few friends over the Internet and on spec fiction conventions, and every once a while we’d travel hours on the train to meet for a couple of days. One of the friends’ family went away often, so he provided a place to sleep for all the non-locals and we’d spend that time playing games or talking about books and the fandom. Yes, there was wine and beer too. And some cocktails that shouldn’t be discussed in public, though in our circle they’ve became legendary over the years.
I enjoyed these meet-ups greatly, but there were days I’d felt more compelled to read, like when one of the friends brought the last Harry Potter book to lend it to me (I was supposed to take it home and send it back to him, but I was done with the book before the weekend ended) or to write. I still remember that crowded party with everyone talking and laughing, and me in the corner, covering page after page in frantic words, all of them in purple ink. (Yes, I still use purple ink when I hand-write.)
You know what my friends did? They let me be. Among the friendly pokes, laughter, and taking sneaky photos, they just pressed a glass of wine in my free hand and let me write. If anything could show what friendship is about, this was it.
And even though the ties loosened over the years with people getting stuck in their lives and me moving to Ireland, that memory is still with me. And I still appreciate what they did. It also comes back to me when another of my friends visits me in Dublin and when I tell her: “I need to write now”, she just gives me this hour or two of space as if it was the most obvious thing to do.
My story published in Nowa Fantastyka
When I was beginning to write, Nowa Fantastyka—the oldest Polish speculative fiction magazine, felt like an unreachable peak when it came to publishing. I didn’t have my hopes up when I submitted my story to it, but I waited patiently, and when the advised time passed, I made a call to the legend editor, Maciej Parowski, to ask him about the story. The conversation was short, but I got a promise that the story will be read.
An email came shortly after, and it was an acceptance. What followed was a chance to work with a man who somewhat taught generations of speculative fiction writers how to write. The story was short, so there wasn’t much to do about it, but Maciej Parowski’s suggestions helped me understand some aspects of the craft I didn’t think of before. It’s not like I got better just because I worked with him, but his editing showed me what I could do to get better.
A reader remembering a story I wrote 15 years ago
When I wrote my impressions from Pyrkon 2015, I’ve received a message from a person I’ve never met, and we might have missed each other in Poznań, my hometown, as she arrived there when I’ve already left for Ireland. She wanted to comment on my post, but she started her message with something that left me astonished: she mentioned a short story I wrote 15 years ago and told me how it inspired her when she worked on organizing LARPs (Live Action Role-Play).
For me as a writer, meeting someone to remember the story I wrote so long ago and find inspiration in it, is one of the most rewarding feelings. It means that not only someone read my story, but it also influenced them in a positive way.
A dedication from my friend in my favorite book
Me and my friend always end up gifting each other books. And as our libraries steadily grow, it gets harder with every passing year to pick an interesting title, I still can’t think of not getting my friend a book. A part of that tradition is writing a personal dedication on the front page, and it’s always fun: the notes are often somewhat frantic, written last minute (including, situation when the gifted one waited for the dedication to be written moments before receiving a gift) and not always related to the book itself. Sometimes it might be a funny association with its title or an account of struggles to get that particular volume, but they always make the gift very personal to me. I have quite a few books with such dedications, but one of them often comes back to me. It’s written in a beautiful hardback edition of “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, and among other things it said: “I wish you that you will one day write a novel as good as this one.” Needless to say, to get something like this in a book by the author I admire is a wonderful feeling.
There are many more positive memories. Every accepted story, every reader who cared to share their thoughts with me, every time I come up with a great plot twist or an interesting character. I could list them all, but these five are probably the most important for me. Unless, of course, I’ve forgotten about something, but if the memory got lost, how can it be counted among of the significant ones?
And what about you? Do you have any positive writing-related memories?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.