Tuesday 12 November 2019

Finding your tribe by Vanessa Harbour

The pace of life can be so fast these days. Many writers have several jobs on top of writing. When we are writing we know that by its very nature is solitary. You can spend hours on your own:



Staring at blank screens/pieces of paper.

Doing research – best procrastination ever – often even now that can be online so you might not see anyone.
Yes that it is my favourite Lamy pen
awaiting inspiration and given to me by a great friend/member of my tribe

Between these moments of being caught up amid the pressure of all the jobs and the writing on your own there is a risk that you might not keep in contact with your ‘tribe’. 

I use the term ‘tribe’ loosely but mean in the sense of community who share the same ‘language’, a close-knit group who get what you are trying to do and understand the problems you might be facing.  You are probably a member of several ‘tribes. They maybe are interlinked. Everyone’s tribe could and should be different. I know in my own family ‘tribe’ if I start talking about writing they get that glazed look of someone who is listening politely but really doesn’t care. They ask me polite questions but don’t get the process and wonder why things happen the way they do in publishing. It is difficult sometimes to explain. The tribe I am talking about here are fellow writers, editors, publishers and agents. People that you come across during your journey. 

Image result for social media logos
Image: https://www.trzcacak.rs/
Due to my disability and work commitments, it often means I can’t get to some of the amazing events and book launches that happen. I watch from a distance.  Relying on social media for an insight into what is going on there while offering support and congratulations. There are some people who are quick to knock social media and it does have its moments, but I have made some wonderful friends through there and keep contact with many. Social media moves fast and there are all sorts of political and ethical issues connected with some as well. I am not entering into those debates in this piece. For me, I use Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, for the moment. When you have something to celebrate there is nothing like the social media hug you receive. People are so supportive.  I will add a caveat don’t be afraid to step back from social media at times. There are times it can be overwhelming. I regularly take a break.

Do also check out the hashtags on Twitter that @AnnalieseAvery sets up, she always has exciting things planned and is brilliant at bringing people into the tribe. I also love podcasts (@damian_barr is another one to follow - great podcasts and book info). They are wonderful things to talk about on Twitter if you are nervous about getting involved.

Image result for Literary Salon Damian Barr
In the last couple of weeks though I have been reminded of how important it is to actually physically see the people in your tribe. I know I said it is not always easy for me, which makes it really special when I do.

Inline imageThe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) had their UK conference recently. If anything should be called a ‘big hug’ that should be. Such a supportive and enthusiastic environment. It is always full of joy. I was there to help out with my one of my close tribes: The Golden Egg Academy. Seeing them was always going to be a good start as a lot of our work is done via skype. I also got to catch up with agent friends, former students and Eggs. Writer friends were there in abundance. I saw Candy Gourlay, who I have known for a long time, mainly on social media and only occasionally IRL. Candy grabbed me and took me into the keynote in the afternoon. It was a wonderful talk by Mini Grey. Candy and I though took 15 brief minutes just to sit and catch up. It is amazing what you can cover in that time. Our children, the world and our writing. Talking to her took a great weight off my shoulders. It was a chance to be reminded of other people’s journeys. It is not always as simple as you remember.

Later in the week, I found myself in a beautiful, if wet, Sheffield, once again surrounded by awesome authors at the Sheffield Children’s Book Award. In particular, it was brilliant to meet the author Andy Sheperd IRL as we have so much in common. We spent the day catching up whenever we could. Touching base and understanding we come from the same place. We laughed so much.  

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I confess for a moment when I sat in the auditorium of The Crucible Theatre, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of school children who have read your book I felt pretty emotional. It was another great reminder of what an awesome tribe your readers can be.  I also remembered exactly why I write. For everyone in that place. Readers, librarians and teachers are fabulous. They are a great tribe to be part of too, so enthusiastic.

Both occasions were a great reminder that sometimes you just need to stop and talk with your tribe. Importantly as previously mentioned I know it is not always about the good stuff. Don’t be afraid to reach out if you are having a tough time. Your tribe will have your back. It often helps just being able to talk about things.

If in doubt, find your tribes. I know I am lucky with all mine.

Dr Vanessa Harbour

1 comment:

Lynne Benton said...

Quite agree, Vanessa - I have always found great friendship and support among the writers' tribe!