Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Needed That

Today I had a much-needed lunch with a dear friend whom I've known since eighth grade (and who has gone by the nickname "J. J.-Panda" since then for reasons I don't recall. I've referred to her before, such as in this post).

Among the many subjects covered in the two hours we chatted over our Training Table sandwiches (oooh, yum . . .) was what's happened to some of our high school friends. One is a professional opera singer. A very, very good one, I might add.

We reminisced about how the two of them sang a duet at the end of one of our choir concerts and how amazing it was. (I swear, she's one of the best sopranos I've ever heard.) It gave me goosebumps, and the rest of the audience, too, judging by the much-deserved standing ovation.

And then she said something that took me totally off-guard: how proud she was of some of those friends for what they've made of themselves with their talents . . . including me.

I snorted. Probably rolled my eyes.

I mean, sure, I've several published books, and that's a big accomplishment. I won't pooh-pooh that.

But I'm no Stephenie Meyer. My husband wishes for the day he could retire and we could live on my royalties (never gonna happen, at least with what I sell). The number of readers I have is microscopic when compared to even moderately successful authors outside this market.

She stopped me cold. "Don't underestimate what you do," she told me. "Really."

And she went on, describing how needed the kind of thing is that I write. How there are thousands of women out there, just needing a break from life, something that takes them away from their stresses for awhile and reaffirms their faith. And then they remember that they bought a book by me, and they crack it open, and it brings them relief and confirmations of their testimonies.

She teared up, and I did, too. But I shook my head, waving her words away.

"No, really. That's been me with your books," she insisted. "And I'm sure lots of other women." She described how one of my books had made its way into the hands of a sweet woman she knew across the country—someone not LDS—who then gave it to another friend. "You don't know how your books are spreading and who they're going to touch. It's important, what you do."

I have to admit that there are lots of times I've wondered if there's a point to it all. I mean, sure, I get some fulfillment out of it. But really, what kind of drop in the literary pond are my books? This can be a rather discouraging market on several fronts, and it's easy to get buried in those many, varied issues.

I believe there's a reason I went to lunch with J. J.-Panda today. There's also a reason she's one of my dearest friends ever. I needed to hear her words, to have her bolster me and lift me up.

On a slightly different note—but one that dovetails with some of those LDS-market issues—I was sent this link today by Josi.

I'm ridiculously emotional today, apparently, because even though it's not a serious or poignant post, it almost made me cry because of the subject matter.

In short, it's about one of the many brick walls we LDS novelists find ourselves smacking our heads against all the time. What a delight to find someone who has taken down her wall and given us a chance.

I have no delusions that this particular brick wall (or all the other LDS book-market issues) will go away anytime soon, but today I'm feeling a bit more optimistic.

And I'm remembering that even if there are just a few readers out there that I've touched, made smile, or bettered a day for through telling a story, then my work does have a purpose.

That's not to say I wouldn't love to have an advance a fraction of the size Meyer gets. (It would be nice to, oh, pay off the house or something . . .)

But I'll try to be more content with where I am, because maybe there really is a reason that I'm here. For J. J.-Panda, at least. Thanks, babe. I needed that.


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Oh wow, what a poignant moment that must have been for you, to get a glimpse of how much your work means to the women who read it.

It's hard to get LDS fiction up here in my neck of the woods, but I managed to smuggled one of your books up here last summer and I've read it several times now. For the very reasons your friend described.

She's right. Don't downplay what you do because it really does matter.

Blondie said...

I've always loved J. too.
I hope you asked for her insight into your current project. She would be another good resource.

Tamra Norton said...

Thanks, Annette! I really needed to read THIS post today! I've felt the same way so many times. And then I'll get an e-mail from a teenage girl telling me one of my stories has touched her in some way. How easy it is to get caught up in the daily word counts, blogging, or marketing strategies and forget that maybe we've made a difference, for the better, in even ONE person's day.

Heffalump said...

I'll admit that I haven't read a lot of LDS fiction. One day though I ended up on your website and read the sneak peek of Spires of Stone. I already knew who you were through cre8buzz, so I decided to give it a read and boy was I mad when I got done! I was already sucked into the story, only I live in a small town with no Deseret book, and the shipping getting it online is outrageous, not to mention I didn't want to wait to read it.
Luckily I remembered that a friend from church reads pretty much nothing else but LDS authors, so I called her up and she brought over Spires as well as House on the Hill and Journey's End. I burned through all three books and quite enjoyed them all.
I also love knowing that I don't have to worry about a lot of wordly influences in your books, I know they are a safe read.
I will admit that I have those vampire books, but in many ways those books are mindless fluff and I think that is why so many people like them.
Don't sell yourself short. You may not get the paycheck, but the stories you write have meaning and aren't just something to escape into.

charrette said...

Amazing what spending quality time with loyal friends can do...not the least of which is Remind Us Who We Really Are. (Funny, because my post today was centered around the same idea.)

Glad your friend had the power to bolster you and shine a light on all the good you do. Everybody needs a lift like that!

Shirley Bahlmann said...

A great shot in the arm! Now if you could get shot in the other arm, you wouldn't have to type lopsided.
You're amazing, Annette.
There-now you're ready to churn out your next best-seller.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Your writing has always been brilliant, and I thought that before I "met" you through blogging :) !! In fact, when we started commenting on each others sites I felt proud to know you :) !!

And I am still patiently waiting for a sequel to "Spires of Stone." I fell in love with that book and the characters you developed. You are a master with words. Keep it up!

Anna Maria Junus said...

You're very fortunate to have a friend like that.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in the doing that we don't have time for friends.

And yet, look how important taking that time was. I bet you went home all raring to go back to work.

Janette Rallison said...

Ahhh, I needed to hear that today too.

Anonymous said...

awh annette ~ i love that your jj panda bear friend told you that. your post made me tear up. maybe there was a reason why i was supposed to read your post today, too.

you matter so much, don't forget it girl. what you do, the circle you influence, the lives you touch, it all matters so much.

blessings, kathleen :)

Anonymous said...

re: the Finland thread on c jane's blog. Who are your parents? If they're who I think they are we may be distantly related. (you can respond via e-mail if you like: henfeatherzATgmailDOTcom.)

Amber said...

What a great friend, but she speaks the truth, what you're doing is important.

Brillig said...

Glad J. J. -Panda managed to set you straight, lady. :-D For me, meeting you was like meeting a celebrity. What you do IS important. Glad someone made you believe that today.

Annette Lyon said...

Thanks, everyone (esp. Heffalump and Ordinary Mom--you guys rock). Your comments mean a lot!

Anonymous said...

I don't know that I've read more than a few LDS Fiction books in my life time. It doesn't help that we're well outside of Utah. Maybe when I'm in Utah this summer I'll try to check out one of your novels. Which one would you recommend I start with?

Thanks for stopping by my blog by the way!

Annette Lyon said...

Summer, That's a tough question. Like picking between my children or something. :)

I do think my historicals are my best work so far, which narrows it down a little. If you like Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, you might enjoy Spires of Stone, since it's largely a retelling of that story. But I have a lot of readers who say House on the Hill or At the Journey's End are their favorites.

If anyone out there has a suggestion, feel free to throw it in!


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