A year ago, I had four children ten and under, including a barely one-year-old and his two-year-old sister. Since late 2010, I had written three novels, all of which were “complete,” or so I thought at the time.
Writing time was—and is—whenever I can grab it amid diaper changes, snacks, reading board books, sorting laundry, and all the mundane but necessary details of maintaining a household and caring for young children. Throw in some volunteer activities, and, yes, my husband, and whatever minutes I could cobble together for an uninterrupted task did not add up to much. In other words, I could have been the poster child for 10 Minute Novelists.
Despite my many duties and distractions, I had to write sure as I had to breathe. I’d been writing for business and for pleasure most of my life, but I had fallen in love with novel-writing. It reinvigorated my creativity and challenged me in way that differed from the demands of motherhood.
Yet I’d hit an impasse.
I belonged to a local writers’ group but hadn’t attended a meeting in years due to nursing babies that needed their momma at bedtime, evening activities for big kids, and my husband’s work schedule, which took him out of town for weeks at a time.
Even the meager resources I’d availed myself of on the Internet and elsewhere kept pointing me to critique groups and networking with other writers. How in the blazes was I supposed to do that with toddlers in tow?
I scoured the Internet, I sent messages to other writers, and I prayed, but I remained stuck.
That’s about the time I discovered 10 Minute Novelists. I had read and enjoyed Katharine Grubb’s romantic comedy Falling For Your Madness after I’d seen it recommended in Catholic Digest. After that, I must have “liked” Katharine’s Facebook page. I can’t remember. But somehow I was invited to join this new group for time-crunched writers.
I was as crunched as they came, and I signed on in March 2013. By fall, I had signed a contract for the publication of my debut novel. Coincidence? I think not.
Here’s how being an active member of 10 Minutes Novelists has helped me grow as a writer:
- Support, both practical and emotional. I suddenly had access to a growing knowledge base. With members at all points on the writing trajectory, there was always someone who could answer my myriad questions. And someone who understood the highs, lows and idiosyncrasies of writers.
- Encouragement. I don’t know if I’ve ever come across such a diverse group whose members were across-the-board supportive. If a harsh critique got me down, there was someone online to lift me up.
- Camaraderie. The fellow members of 10 Minute Novelists got me in a way my family or friends couldn’t. They fussed over commas and inactive voice. They pulled out their hair resolving a plot problem. They killed their darlings (and knew that expression referred to Stephen King, not infanticide). They got me, and I got them.
- Critiques. Finally I’d found a place to share my work with people who understood the purpose and value of a critique and how to give it.
And here’s the one I didn’t anticipate:
- A Widening Circle of Friends. 10 Minute Novelists opened me to a wider circle of friends and acquaintances in different time zones and different countries. People whose first language was not English. Those with differing beliefs in God. Writers in unfamiliar genres. And some with whom I already shared much in common ,who felt like old friends from the get-go.
In practical terms, the qualities enumerated above have helped me revise and edit my manuscripts, develop and maintain a website and blog, build a social media platform, and increase my productivity.
And I got this great salsa recipe, to boot.
Could I have accomplished my goals without 10 Minute Novelists? Maybe. But it would have taken me a much longer time and not been nearly as fun.
So, thank you, Katharine Grubb, for following your inspiration and creating this supportive, respectful, productive group. And thank you, fellow 10 Minute Novelists, for sharing your wit, your wisdom, and your writing life. Ad multos annos!
Carolyn Astfalk lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and four children. She blogs at carolynastfalk.com