Post Date: April 20th, 2012
When C. Hope Clark announced the debut of her first novel, Lowcountry Bribe, she shared in her weekly Funds for Writers newsletter her plan to tour writers’ groups.
What a great idea, I thought. Since her weekly FFW emails share contests, grants, agent/publisher resources, and editorials on market and craft, she’s able to talk not only books but also about every aspect of the writer’s life. I wrote her immediately, since I already belong to two groups and am starting a new writing partnership. I teamed up with my parents, not only writers but also consummate hosts, and offered Hope a place to stop along her tour.
Last night we saw yet again why many view Hope as “the Oprah of the writing world.”
- She’s a wonderful storyteller. As a friend commented to her, “You had us mesmerized.” Hope talked easily about the grueling process of birthing this book (14 years!) and personal events that inspired the novel, such as being offered a bribe while working for the government, pursuing criminal investigations, and working alongside federal agents.
- She’s been through it. Let me say it again: 14 years. This is the story that most writers relate to, as not many of us are Snooki and Kim Kardashian who can say, “Book?” and poof, someone writes it for them. For years she shared her work with local critique groups and an international online writers’ group even though she was told her first draft “sucked.” She kept showing back up with new drafts. One of the most encouraging stories was about the very first draft of the novel. She deleted it off her computer to resist the temptation to repurpose anything, but she did shelve it in hard copy. When this past year her publisher, Bell Bridge Books, sought a title, she stumbled on the infant draft. The publisher had just sent her “Lowcountry Bribe” as a possibility. Hope, 14 years prior, had thought to call her work, “Lowcountry Bribery.” There was a collective “ahhh” in the room when we heard this story, and here’s what I got out of it: No matter how bad that first draft, believe that its existence in your writer’s life serves a purpose.
- She can laugh at herself. She noted how every trauma she’s been through has ended up being useful later on. Writing can make meaning out of the mess we call Life, and Hope talked about taking horrible moments and reconstituting them as fiction. She also admits to being a shy writer who’s figured out how to talk to large groups. You have to have a sense of humor to overcome that kind of discomfort. You can check out The Shy Writer, one of her first books, to learn about how one overcomes the fear and challenges of getting outside the writer’s cave.
I read Lowcountry Bribe quickly–ate it up like a good meal–and know I’ll buy the next book. You can read my Amazon review here. Let’s just say that Hope’s Carolina Slade is a the perfect protagonist writers need as a model for big choices, big action, and big trauma. She is the opposite of the meandering, in-your-head, do-nothing characters that plague many novice manuscripts. I add Carolina to my list of writing prompts of how to kick start your pathetic characters.
I loved the book, and I’m not a mystery reader. I just did a genre switch–unlikely for someone in their fourth decade of reading–and I credit Hope as a person. Hope, the encourager of writers, is the reason I bought her book. I felt like I had gotten to know her over the course of newsletters and blogs, and I cared about her success with this book.
Hope’s story and how her work hooked me is a great example of 21st century reading experiences and how flat our world has become. I would never have met Hope without the Internet. Maybe a subscription to Writer’s Digest
in old-school print format might have made the connection, as she’s written for the magazine and also won Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers for 10 years. But the relationship we have built through her blog, e-newsletters, Facebook posts, and tweets, and her answers to my emails, is a product of today’s online publications and social networking.
Hope walked out of the car, a four-hour ride to our side of the world, talking about the edits she’s doing on the second book. After several hours of hob-knobbing with fellow writers and fans, she got back on the road to edit some more. When I wonder if I can get up the energy to take up my manuscript in revision
yet again, I will think of Hope, get hope, and start again.
- Have you met an author lately? Attend a book talk at your local bookstore and meet someone new.
- Have you crossed a genre line lately? Read a book outside your typical tastes and see what happens.
- Have you subscribed to Funds for Writers? Check out Hope’s list of contests, publishers, agents, her advice and editorials, and other resources, and make a commitment to follow through on a bit of advice.