Every November Southern Magic holds it’s Readers Luncheon. This is a very special time for me because it was my first event as a reader.
In July of 2013 I joined RWA. Shortly after, I joined Southern Magic. Then I saw that registration was still open for the Luncheon that was roughly two weeks away. I filled out my form and paid as quickly as I could.
I still remember that day like it was yesterday, with no time between — the seconds wiped from memory… Walking in the doors and seeing the registration table gave me goosebumps from excitement. Once the doors opened and we made a mad rush to our tables that excitement was barely contained.
I just happened to pick a table with a Harlequin author that had just indie-published her first book in her HOT series, Lynn Raye Harris. Her husband, Mike Harris, sat with her. If you’ve never seen them together then you are absolutely missing out. Just looking at the two of them you can tell that they are absolutely supportive of everything that the other one does. They lean into each other in a way that’s no longer conscious. They glance each other’s way when the other’s not looking. If that wasn’t enough, then you should watch Mike take pictures around her. He’s got a great eye with the camera, but he wears a grin on his face the entire time. It’s from pride. He’s extremely proud of everything she does. That’s a love story.
At that Luncheon, I was so terrified that I would be judged — thrown out for being an impostor. However, they took me in and made me feel welcome. They saw me as someone that just loved books. I hadn’t been a part of RWA for more than four months at the time, Southern Magic probably about two or three months. However, I was a part of something that made sense. I belonged.
During that luncheon Lynn and Mike were so friendly and engaging that it made me feel as if I could really be an author too. They treated me like I was a friend — same way most military treat brothers and sisters in arms. It was relatable and reminded me of what I loved in the Navy.
Prior to that I was nervous, terrified even. Could I really do that, what they did? Was I really capable of that? What if I failed? All of the insecurities bubbling forth…
After listening to so many inspiring things that day I set out to build something special for me. I began working really hard. I still held onto my insecurities, but I was slowly burying them. I was slowly realizing that I could write and that’s what I love.
Then, then the next Luncheon (November 2014) rolled around. I had misplaced my faith that I could be a writer. I had forgotten how wonderful writing was. Tragedy had struck and I had lost my voice. I was broken and sad. I was terrified that I would be seen as lacking because I hadn’t written anything worthwhile. I hadn’t published hundreds of books and I hadn’t made a name for myself… Despite my feelings, I still smiled. I smiled like everything was ok.
I felt out of place with the way I was dressed, due to a recent house fire at the time, but it didn’t matter. I sat at a table with Jamie Farrell, who has wonderful stories of happy marriages and second chances, and Olivia Gracey, who made me a bride for the day and sings in a BAND! I had never felt so beautiful.
I once again saw Lynn and Mike. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize they had a different table until after it was full. However, they made me feel as if I belonged. No one saw my attire and judged me for it. Lynn and Mike still treated me like a long lost friend and once again made me feel as if I belonged.
I took away a lot from that Luncheon. I watched Christy Reece’s presentation as she described what being a writer was like during the “off” moments. During her presentation, someone mentioned that they had found their tribe. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I do now.
My tribe is the writer that struggles, yet still goes on. My tribe is the writer that gets a bad review and works harder. My tribe is the writer that says “you will do great” and mean it. My tribe is the writer that has a hundred successful books and still loves their one unsuccessful one. My tribe is the writer that still writes, even when they’re still waiting on the first book to be published five years after writing it. My tribe is full of good and lovely things. My tribe began with Southern Magic.
In 2015, I was too ill to attend the Luncheon and it hurt. I missed getting a refill of all the wonderful things with my tribe. The never-ending support that they all provide, the words of encouragement that mean so much to me, and the “never give up, just keep working and you’ll succeed” mottos that follow me everywhere. At that moment I decided I would stop being a chicken and continue. I was going to make my tribe proud of me.
In 2016, I received my first contract. It wasn’t for a big book deal or anything. It was for a short story that was being published in an anthology. However, my tribe… My tribe treated it as if it was the best thing ever. They made me feel as if I had finally succeeded, if a world that can sometimes feel lonely because we’re mostly introverts connected by a thread. They made me feel as if I had won the world in a prestigious contest. It was wonderful!
As a result, I have indie-published my own novella and have three more stories coming this year: two novels and a novella. This November I will host my very own table… as an author. I hope this is just the first of many more years to come, but I can’t wait to sit with my tribe and know that I succeeded. That is one of the best feelings and I can’t wait to share it. I may never been on a bestseller’s list, but I found so much more than that with my tribe. I found a place to belong. And for someone that’s never truly had that, outside of the military, that’s worth it’s weight in gold.