Guest Blogger: Lynn Emery

My goal for today: To try to get some writing done with three guys downstairs banging hammers as they take up the ugly flooring. If that's not enough, the blind man (the man who will hang the blinds, that is) will be here with his drill at 1PM. Drilling holes in the frames of over 20 windows is going to give me a headache for sure. I'll actually be glad to go to work tomorrow, just to get away from all this racket . . . at least until the movers show up with our stuff (and who knows when that will be).

While I try to keep a stiff upper lip and a clear, unpounding head, here's some wise words from author Lynn Emery.

Mix knowledge of voodoo, Louisiana politics and forensic social work with the dedication to write fiction while working each day as a clinical social worker, and you get a snapshot of author Lynn Emery. Lynn has sold fourteen novels and been a contributing consultant to the magazine Today’s Black Woman for three articles about contemporary relationships between black men and women. Lynn is a licensed social worker with a special interest in mental health issues as they affect women, and in particular women of color. She is currently working on a mystery and a short story for a romance anthology. Learn more about Lynn and her novels at

Take it away, Lynn!

Writer or Author?

by Lynn Emery

I have written since I was eleven. That’s what I say when people ask me, “How long have you been writing?” Finally the light bulb went off. What they really mean is, “How long have you been published?” Which brings up an interesting question posed by some, the difference between being an author and a writer. Some argue that you’re not an Author with a capital “A” until you are published. I say, “Bull”. Author is synonymous with “writer” in my book. So for aspiring authors, claim it.

I’ve met people who lived tortured creative lives because they weren’t published. They actually spent a lot of time beating themselves up because they hadn’t sold a book. Don’t do that. Believe me when I say there are plenty of talented people walking around who aren’t published. In fact I’ll go farther and say they haven’t sold a book for reasons that have nothing to do with their worthiness.

I’m a clinical social worker- yep, got the degrees, license and social worker T-shirts to prove it! My natural impulse is to reach out to people whacking themselves over the head because they haven’t sold a book, or who have sold but who aren’t rich and famous. Many people are searching for ways to convince themselves and the world that they are worthy. Selling a book is one of them. Once that’s achieved they then fight to become one of the small percentage who reach fame and fortune. You can guess what happens if the book never sells or once sold the world doesn’t beat a path to buy up every copy. So here is my best writing advice: like yourself for reasons that have nothing to do with someone else affirming your goodness. If you put your happiness in the hands of agents or editors then said happiness is built on shifting sand. Besides, agents and editors are wary of people who are so emotionally attached to their writing that any comment that doesn’t praise her writing highly causes drama. Who needs it? They are not in business to be your therapist, which is essentially what you’re asking them to take on.

What agents and editors want first is a fabulous book. They want to see characters that stay with the reader, plots that make the reader keep flipping the pages even when it’s time to go to work, feed the cat, answer the phone and all the other annoying things happening that pull them out of that wonderfully exciting world the writer has created. So give them your best, whatever it takes. Save the drama for your BFF (best friend forever) if you need to vent, stomp around and be in a bad mood about not selling or getting the agent you wanted. Know what that’s called? Being a professional, baby. Be it even if you haven’t sold a book yet. And for God’s sake, be a grown-up pro. Please. Thanks.

Five Ways to be a Pro:

1. Do your homework, please. Study the craft of writing and the business of publishing.
2. Read submission guidelines and follow them. Don’t try to be clever to get around them.
3. Join a professional writing organization. The information you will get in their newsletters and magazines is priceless for all authors, aspiring and veterans.
4. Save your pennies and attend a writing conference. Correction, the right writing conference for you. That means doing your homework.
5. Network with other writers. You’ll learn a lot that may not be in the newsletters, magazines and books you read on writing. (Uh, do I even have to say you should be reading those?) Now it’s not because some information is top secret. But there is just so much space in them. Besides, what you learn from other writers will probably be more up-to-date.

So there you have it: My touchy-feely social worker advice about taking care of yourself and my writer advice. You are an author if you’re writing. So go back to your keyboard and get that book done. When you become rich and famous invite me to your star-studded party, please and thank you!

Thanks, Lynn!


Patricia W. said...

" yourself for reasons that have nothing to do with someone else affirming your goodness."

I love that! I won't say I've been overly conflicted but I've struggled with this a bit. I've sold short stories. Am I published? Not in the eyes of novel writers. I've had a novella released in e-book form. Am I published? Not in the eyes of authors contracted with traditional publishers.

At some point, a gal has to decide for herself.

I'm an author.

Nice post, Lynn and Bettye.

Lynn Emery said...

Hi Patricia,

Thanks, glad you enjoyed the post. I think we all struggle with insecurity to some degree. Like you said, take hold of the steering wheel and drive yourself!

shelia said...

Lynn, great post. The life of a writer/author is filled with highs and lows. We have to see the blessing in every "little" milestone. I was also going to highlight the passage that Patricia did because that's one thing that is important--you have to believe in yourself--even when it doesn't appear that no one else does.