Friday, March 2, 2012

Giving Back and Being Counted



As I’m sure most of you are aware, Judi McCoy lost her battle with diabetes last month. She fell into a diabetic coma back over Thanksgiving and never rose back to awareness. Her family really held out hopes, but in the end…it was too much for the lady.

I don’t think Judi’s family really understood how much their
wife and mother had given to the romance community or how important she was.
As news of her passing spread through FB and other social networks, the deluge
started. Fans, other writers, students, all coming forward to offer condolences
and praise Judi as something they cared for.

Judi was one of the few established writers who made it her mission to work with the absolute rank newbie writer. The person who had an idea for a story, and that might be it.

She inherited the Beginning Writers Workshop at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention from Anne Peach. Anne was Judi’s teacher and when cancer took her, Judi stepped in.

Now, Judi made it her business to always be honest with her students. She shared what her advances were, how the system worked. She was blunt about the market, about genres… She strong-armed authors into offering critiques for her students. She met with each and every one of them at RT for a private one on one conference.

And she was funny. I’ll never forget in Pittsburgh when she coined the phrase ‘humping fairies’ when asked about Laurel K. Hamilton’s Mary Gentry series. She wasn’t being insulting, that was all she knew about the books! Judi really didn’t have a filter when it came to what she said.

It made her quite charming. She also stood up for writers to write anything. When faced with another author who was furious at the very idea of MM romance, Judi just shrugged. She admitted it wasn’t her thing, but people wanted it, people bought it and she wasn’t going to fly in the face of that. Judi gave her e-mail out to her students, answered every e-mail, and listened to them when they needed to chat, or vent, or get advice.

RT is in April and it will be my first without Judi being there. The class is going on, this year, with one of Judi’s regular presenters taking over, Linnea Sinclair. But will the class be there next year? I just don’t know.

What I do know is that Judi was the example I want to live up to. Be there for the rank beginners, those who aren’t sure what they write, if they can write, how to write…and encourage, encourage, encourage. I don’t have the experience with the industry, or the reputation of Judi McCoy, but in her honor, I’ll do what I can. As a member of my local RWA chapter, I make it my business to reach out to the real newcomers and encourage. I am THE cheerleader. I may not know all the ins and outs, or all the right writing phrases, but I can smile and tell them what works and what doesn’t. (I just can’t always explain why…)

Since I’ve explored writing I’ve had doubts that I write romance. This year, I sorta figured it out and I do write romance. (With a little ‘r’.) But the Romance Community is one of the most supportive groups I have ever encountered. Yes, they suffer from growing pains and battles with social changes. But through it all, they remain accessible and welcoming of new authors.

I want to do my part to represent it that way. Because of Judi, I discovered the RWA. Because of Judi, I went to the Nationals in San Francisco and picked up the promo postcard for the Revenge. Because of Judi, I met the pirates.

I will miss her so very much. From her I learned that giving back to the community is sacred. When Judi wrote that she was proud of me, it made my heart sing. I want her to be proud of me as I move forward.

Giving back is its own reward. No matter how much you know or think you don’t know…we can all give back. I hit ‘like’ on FB when someone posts they signed a contract, or I sit across from a newbie at Starbucks and read a few pages…I do what I can. I figure from little to big, they all count.

We all have those days when even the smallest wink from a stranger can lift our
spirits and renew our faith in ourselves. And writers need a lot of encouragement. Those imaginary people in our head are wonderful, but sometimes they bring along nasty cousins who hammer away at our self-confidence. Judi was good at dismissing all of that.
I may never have a best seller. I may never win any awards. I may never get that one first class flight for by my royalties. But I will make Judi proud of me and give to my community. And that counts for something.

*****
She didn’t write what I write. She didn’t inspire me to create new worlds or take chances with what she wrote. But she made me laugh and I count her as one of my mentors. Her example inspires me. What about you? Ever been smiled at and told you can do it…and it sticks? Just what you needed? Are you turning it around and giving it back? Let us count the ways we can make Judi proud of us…

19 comments:

Missy Jane said...

Beautiful post, Maureen!

Kathleen Ann Gallagher's Place to Reflect said...

Thank you, Maureen! As I sit in front of my manuscript, in my pajamas, teary eyed, I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

An eloquent post!

Giving back is what makes us stronger!

Judy will be sadly missed!

MsHellion said...

What a great post, Mo! A wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady! We will all miss her.

I do think Romance Writers are some of the most supportive, INCLUSIVE writers you can meet. We're very much a party of "If I can do it, you can definitely do it"--which I find reassuring. They don't claim that writing isn't hard work, but they refuse to say if you haven't taken millions of classes in writing or attended this many conferences, you couldn't possibly be a serious writer. They're in the category of "It takes all kinds." And I think it shows in the various genres and subgenres we offer to our readers. There's a story for everyone; everyone can write a story if they put their passion to it.

Being welcoming and inclusive are important attributes to have as a writer. I know a lot of us are more shy, but being shy is not the same as being kind to people.

Maureen said...

Thanks, Missy. And for calling me that morning.

Kathleen - writers and their pajamas...all is right with the world!

Hellion - I have really found romance writers incredibly supportive and the entire framework that exists to help budding writers...it's wonderful.

Marnee Bailey said...

This was a really touching tribute, Mo. Thank you for sharing. And you're so right; the Romance Community is one of the most supportive group of artists I've ever encountered. There's room for all of us. A very gracious and welcoming crew.

As to Judi, I'm sorry for your loss. I never met her personally, but she sounds like a truly wonderful lady.

TerriOsburn said...

I was fortunate to meet and spend a good bit of time with Judi. When I joined my first chapter back in 2007, she was there from the start dishing out support and tough love. She was a social butterfly and a staunch believer in every writer she met. I was blessed to know her, and someday when I get "the call", I'll hear her voice in my head saying, "See? I told you to finish the dang book!" LOL!

P. Kirby said...

"And she was funny. I’ll never forget in Pittsburgh when she coined the phrase ‘humping fairies’ when asked about Laurel K. Hamilton’s Mary Gentry series. She wasn’t being insulting, that was all she knew about the books! Judi really didn’t have a filter when it came to what she said."

Heh. She may not have been trying to be insulting, but she was dead-on in that assessment. Nope, not a fan of LKH.

I've stuck with Critters Online Workshop for years as a means of paying forward. When I started writing, it was a valuable resource for a newbie, a place to get feedback from a diverse body of readers. Evaluating other people's work and having my evaluated was ultimately far more beneficial to me than all the how-to-write books in the world.

Since I don't write short fiction at all anymore, I rarely run anything through Critters myself, but I critique a story every week anyway. (It's not entirely noble. I learn something about my own writing every time I read and evaluate a story.)

Nice post! :)

Maureen said...

Thanks, Marn...she was a total kick in the ass, in more ways than one!

Terri is right, Judi's favorite comment was 'Finish the damned book!'

Pat...I feel like a fool...you were in Pittsburgh!? I was in Pittsburgh and so remember that comment! I can't believe we were in the same class and I don't remember you at all!

TerriOsburn said...

Uhm...I'm pretty sure Pat was just quoting you. NOT saying she was in Pittsburgh too. LOL! Though I could be wrong!

I have pictures of Judi somewhere. Took them at a local conference. But she threatened me with death if they ended up anywhere online and I believed her.

Maureen said...

Uh...ooops!

*snort

It's morning, it's early...I'm brain dull...

Janga said...

A lovely tribute, Chance. I thought of you when I first read of Judi's passing. I first read her books because she inspired such enthusiasm in you. She left a wonderfully generous example for you and others to follow.

I too have found the romance community overwhelmingly gracious and generous. I've been ready to pack it up more than once when Anne Gracie reminded me that I am a writer.

Maureen said...

Janga - It is one of those things that is so easy to do...offer words of encouragement. Smile and say, "Yeah, it's tough sometimes, but you are still a writer. So you write!"

Those things make all the difference!

With Judi, it was "Finish the damned book!"

TerriOsburn said...

It was funny, when I finally did finish an MS and got to tell her, she immediately said, "It's about damn time. Now where have you submitted?"

She never let up for a second. So determined!

TerriOsburn said...

Janga - You aren't just a writer. You're an AMAZING writer. Never forget that!

Maureen said...

Ha! I can hear her, just like that!

Scapegoat said...

I'm sorry I've been MIA today - especially with this lovely tribute.

Maureen - you know how I felt about Judi and I thank you so much for continuing her legacy of helping newbies. You both helped me more than I'll ever be able to repay.

Judi came into my life at such a critical moment and I'm sorry to say I don't think she ever truly believed me when I would write to her and tell her how much she meant to me. My mother, who was the 1 person in my life who would keep on me to start writing had just passed away and Judi's mentoring and voice really spoke to me and filled that void.

When I'm published it will be so much because of hearing her voice in my head pushing me on. I wouldn't say she cheered me on - it was much more aggressive than that! :)

Judi will be so missed.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

What a wonderful tribute. I'm sorry to say I never met the lady, but have heard so many singing her praises. The romance community will definitely not be the same without her. Romance writers are a close-knit bunch, and losing one saddens us all.

But you are so right, Maureen, the best way to honor her and so many other fabulous writers who have gone, is to continue on and strive to make them proud!

AC

Anonymous said...

I teared up. What a beautiful post.

Dana

Maureen said...

Scape, you were such a kick in Orlando and I'm so glad Judi was there for you. She believed you, she believed in everyone. And I'm glad to be there for you now.

Aunt Cindy - I wish you had met her. I bet you'd have liked her and laughed a lot!