Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why I Give Back to Writers (Life Changing Moments Series)

I first met--more like spotted--C. Hope Clark at the Georgia Writers Conference a couple years back. Then, I first got to talk to her in depth when we were both speakers at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference. She is a wealth of knowledge about funds for writers and a wonderful writer of fiction. Plus, she's just a really nice person to chat with. Hope is editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website recognized for 11 years by Writer's Digest in its annual list 101 Best Websites for Writers. Hope speaks at writing conferences across the United States and continues to freelance, but her passion runs deepest in her mysteries. Lowcountry Bribe, the first in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series, was just released from Bell Bridge Books (www.bellbridgebooks.com). She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina. For more information, check out www.chopeclark.com.



I was pushed into FundsforWriters against my wishes. I already had a career as an administrative director for a small federal agency, making good money. My writing consisted of budget justifications, congressionals, investigations, strategic plans. My peers recognized my ability to spin whatever slant Washington DC needed.


When asked by one peer why I didn't write for myself, I had no explanation, so I started a ritual writing 15 minutes a night. Then I asked random websites if I could write for free, for the clips. The year was 1998, and nobody paid for online articles, but I was eager and desperate to define myself in some way other than my bureaucratic, locked-in-the-box employment.

One evening a journalist, KD McIntosh, e-mailed me asking for advice on finding grants and markets she could handle from home. She was temporarily homebound due to an illness, she said. An editor from a book review site directed her to me, knowing my job had something to do with federal grants. KD and I peppered each other with e-mails for about a year. I sent her references to aid her dilemma, and she advised me to teach writers about finding money, since I had a feel for that type of thing. I laughed at her suggestion. Nonfiction wasn't my vision--too close to the day job I was running away from. I yearned to write the great American novel--specifically a mystery about a bureaucrat, a bribe and how it all goes awry.

A tiny writers' group in Atlanta asked one of my editors to meet them at a Barnes & Noble and speak on how to write for the Web. She asked me to speak in her place. During the presentation, however, a few of the ladies shifted the topic, fussing about financial woes. Before I knew it, I advised them on the financial side of their writing careers.

They went home and told their friends, who told others. My e-mail box amassed dozens of requests, to the point I spent my precious writing minutes answering queries, over and over, all basically asking, "How can I earn money as a writer?"

I returned to KD and asked how to create a newsletter mailing list, a talent she'd mastered working for a newspaper. It was the only way I know of to answer a hundred people at once and return back to my fiction. Over a six-week period, she taught me how to manage a newsletter service. She always had time for me, with an endless supply of patience.

In two months, I had 200 readers. Editorials became addictive for me. The number soon climbed to a thousand. I e-mailed KD, asking how she got so wise reading me so well. I came alive in those newsletters with the realization I helped people. I could still write my novel, but here was a type of writing I'd never pondered--motivational and how-to pieces. They flowed off my fingers. I was so excited. So were my readers.

However, KD didn't respond. Puzzled, I e-mailed again. A stranger answered and said KD was in the hospital, and I could send a card or letter, but she didn't have e-mail access. So I sat down and wrote the biggest thank you note in a beautiful lilac-floral card, praising her for pointing me in an exciting new direction.

The hospital returned the card unopened. She died the day it had arrived. She hadn't told me she was in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer, and I cried for someone I'd never met, feeling so indebted for the gift she left to me.

KD helped me appreciate authenticity. She taught me to capitalize on my strengths. Empowered by her memory, I chartered my course to take FundsforWriters to as many readers as possible with a sincere purpose to educate and support writers. To respect writers' dreams. To help writers see dreams they never knew existed, just like KD taught me.

Today FundsforWriters consists of four newsletters delivered to over 42,000 readers. I left the day job. And my mystery came out January 31, 2012, about a naïve bureaucrat who was offered a bribe that went awry. But she comes out the winner in the end.

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Check out previous posts from the Life Changing Moments Series:

7 comments:

Sun Singer said...

Since I was pulled in the world of grant writing (for a while) without planning to be pulled into it, I often wondered how and where you got your start. What an inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it.

Malcolm

psw said...

Excellent 'real-life' story. One of those 'pay it forward' type of things. Thanks for acknowledging KD McIntosh's role in this post. I don't know her, but I honor her.

Tigger :) said...

Thank you for sharing!! I remember KD from my early days on the MW's :) She was always willing to share her knowledge with anyone and everyone - and she was so very nice.

Cat York said...

Hope Clark on Robert Brewer's blog. :) Two wonderful writers who are always helping others. Thanks for this post. Very inspirational. -cat

Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much. Paying it forward is important. We just have to be sensitive and open to the hints and nudges in our lives, to capitalize on what's being whispered to us.

JLC said...

Inspiration in a nutshell, and week after week! I have yet to meet (either online or in the flesh) a successful writer who isn't ready to help those of us with hope ad ambition and too little knowledge and/or experience.
Wonderful to see you in yet another venue.

Dianna L. Gunn said...

Wow. What an amazing story. As someone who's been subscribed to FFW for years, I knew bits and pieces of the story, but this is really something else.

You're wonderful Hope, and I hope you continue to honour the legacy KD McIntosh left behind. She helped us all too, in her own way.