This is the start of a new year, and with the promise of its endless possibilities, I want to take a moment to look back to the best of the old year with a tribute to a very special person who has profoundly influenced my life as an aspiring author.
For aspiring authors, writing can be a lonely endeavor, not when you're moving about the stage breathing life into your characters, but when you’ve written the last word of that scene or that chapter or that manuscript. How do you know if what you’ve done is any good? Yes, you can turn to best friends, critique partners, and contest judges, but how do you assess the subjective comments of so many, and especially of those who aren't editors or published authors. How do you decide what comments to take or toss? And, always there lurking in the back of your mind, how do you know if you have what it takes?
I lived in this shadowy and uncertain world until last year when a multi-published author took me under her wing and taught me how to fly. Now, my world isn't made up of shades of gray, but a palette of pure white, brilliant blue, vibrant green, burning orange, and bold red. Because of one very special person, the new year is filled with endless possibilities. Who is this person who colored my world? And what did she do to fill my New Year with such promise? Come with me. Read on about her...and my moment in time with her.
Let me tell you about my mentor—the beautiful, talented, and generous Janice Lynn. As many of you know, but for those of you who mightn't, Janice is a beloved wife, adored mother, practicing nurse, American Title I Winner, 2003 Golden Heart® finalist, multi-contest winner, and multi-published author. When it comes to her writing, all her contest wins and releases are too numerous to list, but I'll mention a few, if only to wow the aspiring authors in the crowd.
Her first release was Jane Millionaire ~ Dorchester Love Spell, 2005, the American Title I Winner and 2006 Golden Quill Winner for best first book. Among the many positive reviews, Suzanne Coleburn of Reader To Reader Reviews/The Belles & Beaux of Romance wrote: "Don't miss this fabulous book. Janice Lynn is definitely an author to watch!" and The Romance Studio, 4 hearts commented: "After reading Jane Millionaire, you'll want to keep Janice Lynn on your authors to watch radar."
No wonder then that her 2007 release entitled The Doctor's Pregnancy Bombshell ~ HMB Medical 11/07 became the 2007 National Readers' Choice Award Winner. What a thrill she had to win this award at the RWA National Conference in San Francisco last summer! Also last year, she had two releases for Harlequin: The Heart Surgeon's Secret Son ~ HMB Medical 3/08; and The Doctor's Meant-to-be Marriage ~ HMB Medical 5/08.
This year, we'll see several more of her releases: Surgeon Boss, Surprise Dad ~ HMB Medical 2/09; The Doctor's Meant-to-be Marriage ~ HMB Medical 4/09 (US version to tie into the eHarlequin read); eHarlequin.com Medical read ~ May 25, 2009; The Playboy Doctor Claims His Bride ~ HMB Medical 8/09; and The Nurse's Miracle Baby ~ Mills & Boon Presents 11/09. And, for 2010, Janice currently has two scheduled releases, although both are still untitled.
Needless to say, Janice is on the go 24/7/365. Yet, when Helen Scott Taylor, author of The Magic Knot ~ Dorchester Love Spell, 1/09, the American Title IV Winner, and 2008 Golden Heart® finalist, approached her with the idea of being my mentor, she generously agreed. I don't run in the circles of the Janice Lynns and Helen Scott Taylors of the writing world. A year ago, my only connection to Janice and Helen was From the Heart Romance Writers, which, by the way, I can't recommend highly enough to aspiring authors.
Oh, how anxious Janice was at the outset, perhaps even more than I was! It must be daunting to take on the role of mentor to an aspiring author, especially when you don't know the nature or abilities of your protégé. I suppose she must have asked herself, "Will she get angry with me if I'm honest?" or "Will she ignore my advice after I've given her my valuable time?" or "Why am I doing this?" But, as she soon discovered, I was ravenous for a dish of her guidance. How relieved she was when I welcomed and embraced every comment! But I'll share a secret—her relief with my love of revision couldn't possibly have outmatched my delight with her advice on revision.
So, what made it work so beautifully? I can only say that it was as simple as this—Janice heard my voice in the darkness...and I saw the light of her lantern as if it were a beacon calling me home.
Contrary to many critique partners and contest judges, Janice's focus isn't about showing not telling, beats not dialogue tags, active not passive tense, fast not slow pacing, etc. For those of you who are new to writing, these are some of "The Rules" (those rules usually unknown to new writers, zealously followed by aspiring authors, and often disregarded by published authors). No, rules aren't Janice's thing. She's interested in substance—GMC, emotion, reactions, characterization, hook—and in voice. With her gentle guidance, I revised and polished until my story was my story, but written with greater depth and breadth, and yet written in my voice.
In retrospect, even though our time together was to make golden my words, Janice's words, not mine, fired the lantern that lit my darkness. Last year, she wrote to me: "You have VOICE. All the other stuff can be fixed, but VOICE is one of those things you either have or don't have." And this brings me to my final thought about Janice as my mentor and her most profound gift to me as her protégé—she discovered me, and in her discovery, I found myself as a writer. Perhaps that's the thing I needed most from her and she didn't let me down.
Now, with Janice's golden words lighting my way, I fly alone just beyond her wing, soaring in the brilliant blue toward the burning orange, breathing vibrant green into my characters, and painting a pure white canvas with streaks of bold red...knowing that, with her generous spirit, she'll spread her wing over me should I falter and fall back to Earth.
And so, to you, Janice, I make this tribute from the depth and breadth of my heart and soul.
© 2009 Madeline Smyth. All Rights Reserved.