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.
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