Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Friend Who Helped Me Face My Fears


When I learned the date I was scheduled to write a post for this blog a chill ran down my spine. April 24th was the day a very close friend died suddenly while running in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC.  Jim was a divorce attorney—a mediator, really, because he was a big believer in there being two sides to every broken relationship. I never watched him mediate between two angry, hurting people, but I spent enough time around him to know he was perfect for the job. Jim was one of the clearest thinkers and best listeners I've ever known.

Like most of my friends in Washington, Jim was way into politics and international affairs, and loved to debate and argue the issues from all sides. But what really fascinated him was listening to people's personal stories, the more complex the better, and analyze how their childhood scars and adolescent traumas shaped them. So when I started writing romantic suspense featuring deeply flawed, damaged characters, Jim eagerly offered himself as a sounding board. I didn't have much confidence as a writer back then, and he was a very busy man, so at first I declined his help. But he was the kind of guy who inspired trust in people, and he ultimately persuaded me to go out on a limb and let him read my very first manuscript. I still cringe at the memory of how afraid I was that he'd think less of me for having written such schlock.  

Looking back at that first book, which I called Headmistress, it's clear that Jim was not only generous with his time (the thing was a 500-page monster), his critique was incisive (and kind!) and challenged me to stretch myself as a writer. He insisted I send it out to editors, which I did, without success. Years later I borrowed from that early manuscript, and Jim's critique, to launch a dark, sensuous book about a school mistress called Son of the Enemy, which will be released in June. I like to think he would be proud of me if he read it.


Was there someone in your life who inspired you to break through your fears and go for it?  Please share your stories!

—Ana Barrons




18 comments:

Shelley Munro said...

That's a great story, and congrats on your upcoming release. I don't really have a support story like that, although my parents were always very encouraging about careers. I like to think my Mum would be proud of my writing. She died suddenly when I was 21. That was in April too and a long time before I considered writing.

Ana Barrons said...

Thanks for writing, Shelley. I'm sure your mother is very much on your mind this time of year. My mother was hugely supportive of my writing, but she died before I was published. I know she would have been proud of me.

Cathy Perkins said...

I'm sorry your friend is gone. He sounds like a wonderful person.
When I finally inched out to show someone my first story, I turned to my daughter and my best friend. They didn't offer the critique you mentioned, but their encouragement ("when can I read the next chapter?") kept me going.
My mother was a reader and passed that love to all of her children. She died ten years ago, long before I started writing, but I can feel her smiling from heaven.
Congrats on your upcoming release!

Ana Barrons said...

Thanks, Cathy. It was my mother who started me reading romances, when we were on vacation together in the White Mountains. When I started writing I couldn't give her chapters fast enough! Moms are great that way, aren't they?

Anne Marie Becker said...

Beautiful story, Ana. We all need cheerleaders in our lives, right? :) For me, I suppose it's my husband. He helps me get time away from the kids to focus on my writing (and stay sane). He believes in me and it keeps me going. There are so many things in life I can face easier because he's there with me.

Dee J. said...

What wonderful memories of a great friend... Sorry for your loss, but I'm sure he's with you in spirit and so proud of you! My mom died before I even started writing, but I have a feeling she's watching me and maybe she's even a little proud too. Congrats on the new release!

Ana Barrons said...

Thank you, Anne Marie and Dee. I do feel that Jim and my mom are with me in spirit, and I often ask myself how they would like a particular scene or character. So far I've heard no complaints.. ;) And I do still have very supportive husband and sisters, and a great critique group cheering me on, but without Jim pushing me and convincing me that my first manuscript wasn't the pile of I thought it was, I might not have continued.

Marcelle Dubé said...

What a lovely tribute to your friend, Ana.

I'm still blessed with both my parents, and they are my best cheerleaders.

Elise Warner said...

A lovely tribute, Ana. I stagemanged a 100th anniversary tribute and when having dinner with the group had an extra glass of wine. Blurted to the playwright and his wife that I had written one and he read it. His encouragement led me to write others and later write non-fiction, short stories and my first book.

Toni Anderson said...

Lovely story, Ana. It always hurts to lose people we love and who inspire us.

Ana Barrons said...

Oh my goodness, that's a great story! Thank you for sharing! And thank you, Marcelle, for your comment. I appreciate it.

Ana Barrons said...

Thank you, Toni. I guess we learn along the way not to take people for granted. They leave too soon.

jean harrington said...

A moving, heartfelt story, Ana. Yes, I've had a lot of support for my writing over the years from so many people, I really have to stop and think of all of them and why they chose to offer me encouragement. You've given me something wonderful to think about.

Clare London said...

What a lovely post, Ana, thanks for sharing! My grandmother bought me most of my early YA books and fostered my love of reading and writing. And my Mum read some of my early publications - even if there were explicit m/m love scenes in it, bless her! - and always had encouraging feedback. Nana's gone now, and Mum's got dementia, but I think we laid such a good foundation for our family that it's built confidence for all the following generations.

Now what about my hubby and adult sons who are proud of what I write - but more than faintly bemused?! LOL

Anonymous said...

My Mom was a great cheerleader too, though she didn't understand why I was writing romances, she was glad I was writing.

She's passed now, but I've got a great critique group who won't give up on me - Thnx Joan, Joyce & Linda!

Ana Barrons said...

I hear you. Nothing like a great critique group to keep you going!

Joyce said...

Hi, Ana! That's a really wonderful story. Good friends are priceless -- as are good parents. When I announced that I planned to write a novel, my dad (after first saying, "Cool!") sat me down and told me how hard it would be to be successful but that if that's what I really wanted, I should go for it with all my heart and, above all, keep my sense of humor. So I did. Thanks, Dad! And thanks, Ana, for sparking the memories. : )

Rita said...

Oh! He sees you and is so very proud. Thank you for sharing this story.