I first met Carmen at a writing conference in the North Georgia Mountains. We balanced writing pads on our laps, perched pens in midair waiting to document any nugget of information the authors on the panel offered. Carmen and I are purists. We rolled our eyes when the people seated around us opened electronic devices. Their tap, tap, tapping irritated, but didn’t distract us. We wrote faster, harder, louder…capturing every important drop of wisdom. Terry Kay, beloved Georgia Author, was on the panel, his velvety voice full of encouragement and experience. We swooned, we soaked in his words, we left energized and excited about writing.
Time passed with little interaction. Carmen became like many other people, mere acquaintances who you only met at mutual author events; much like Amber Nagle, who was also at the same writing conference. Since I hadn’t invested time into my friendship with Carmen, I had no way of knowing that she is not only an aspiring author, she is an avid reader.
By that I mean she is well read. Very well read. She suggests books that I can not read. My brain is too busy, too undeveloped, too stressed . . . too . . . something; most times I can’t swim on the deep end of her literary pool, but merely wave and long to, one day, doggy paddle over to her side.
Carmen is one of the main reasons I am a successful author. Now she’s going to argue and I bet that we’re going to have a “discussion” over this post. I’ll tell you this much for true, she’d never take a sliver of credit for helping me, but credit is what she deserves. I don’t know what possessed her to march into The Book Exchange in Marietta, Georgia, haven’t a clue what made her whisper to the owner, Cat Blanco, any inkling that my book was worthy to be read, but I’m sure glad she did.
While I’m proud of my first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes, I know my place in the literary pool and it is carrying towels to others. If you haven’t read In the Garden with Billy, it is a work of non-fiction (impossible to sell in this world of fiction lovers); and, the book is about a local celebrity farmer (which makes it difficult to sell outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I don’t write about the Kardashians). But Carmen read something she liked and so she did what all good readers do, she made a personal recommendation, an unsolicited recommendation that I only learned about years later.
Many people see my interactions on Facebook and think that Cat Blanco and I are life-long friends. In fact, I’ve only known her for a short time. During that time I have tried to give readers my personal recommendations, and tell Cat about authors who have written fantastic stories like Ann Hite, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Julie Cantrell, and Karen Spears Zacharias. Do any of those authors owe their success to me? Nope. They are already veterans. I am the newbie. Carmen didn’t have to breathe a word, didn’t receive anything by saying a peep about my work; but I’m glad she did. She’s told other people about my book. Lots of people. I want to be more like her.
Most of you wouldn’t know about me without her. She set in motion something that surprises me even today. Her referral helped put my book on the map.
How can one ever say Thank You for that?
Since that time I have purposed to encourage authors, some I know, some I may never personally meet. I’ve started releasing quarterly newsletters where I suggest four books. My last list of suggestions can be found here. Authors have started asking me to review their books, Tweet about them, write blog posts, and I will consider it, if-and only if-I like what I read. Carmen and I agree that good books deserve to be read, talked about, and shared.
In my next book, Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches which Mercer University Press will release in a few months, I stumbled with a section of the manuscript. I asked Carmen, “What do you think? I want to be respectful, want to get this part right.” Then Carmen did what she does so well. She listened. Saying nothing, it was the act of listening, of letting me talk, and then process, and then wait while the muse wrestled me to the ground that bonded Carmen and I even closer. When I shared my newer version she said, “See.”
And I did see. I saw a beautiful friendship that had formed over the years. This particular section has evolved into one of my most favorite parts of the book. Carmen deserves the credit for that (she won’t take it, but I’ll give it to her regardless).
Tonight Carmen joined Amber Nagle in Cartersville where both read from the book, Project Keepsake. Family obligations kept me from Amber and Carmen’s special night. When I close my eyes I hear Carmen’s voice, thick with pride, perhaps even shaking a bit with emotion as she read about the keepsake that is precious to her. Friends, if you have ever kept a keepsake displayed on your shelf, or had a friend like Carmen who you carry in your heart; you simply must buy this book. Here are two links to do just that.
About Renea: Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. Friend her on Facebook here. Follow her on Twitter Here.