Thursday, February 5, 2009

SEA my Early Encouragement, by Heidi R. Kling (Okay, bad pun)

Sara asked me if I had something to write about early encouragement. I do. I think I sort of feed on encouragement. All my life I have. It was often easier to trust other people's judgement than my own,  especially in regards to my writing. 

I still do that. I send my chapters to my friends, my agent, "Is this okay? Does this work?" Because I'm not always sure. I mean, I like it okay, obviously, I wrote it. But I need other people to tell me if it really works. And I can tell right away if someone is faking the unconditional Mom-love vibe, "Oh yeah, this is great..." (Avoids eye contact, flits away.)

Meh is not something that encourages me to keep going.

I fear Meh.

So flash back a few years and I'm in this wonderful critique group and I'd been sharing the first draft of SEA for awhile. Many false starts later (I'm the queen of false starts), I had a decent draft going and a new woman joined our group. An illustrator who was hoping to write words to go along with her pictures.

What we do is go around the table and read. 
When I started reading from SEA I watched her eyes light up.
She leaned forward.
She focused on my every word.
When I finished the chapter she leaned back and sort of sighed a little.

Then she wrote me a letter saying that she adored what she'd heard, that my character Deni reminded her of a boy she met in Mexico as a teen with his dark hair and sultry eyes and haunted smile. That the steamy heat of the story brought her right back to that moment, of new exciting fresh dangerous love. And at the bottom of the letter she wrote:

"I have a good friend who is an editor. I'd love to show her SEA when you are finished, if that would be okay with you?"



I did a happy dance and praised whoever brought her into the group. I thanked and thanked her.

That contact didn't end up leading to a publishing contract, but it did light the candle under my fingers to get the draft done. It also led to agent interest and other editor interest. It encouraged me to start my blog. To get out there with my story.

Her enthusiasm convinced me I was not working on a meh manuscript, but something that brought out real emotions in people. She felt the heart of the story, was moved by the beat of those Indonesian drums. 

And it kept me dancing.


  1. Oh, that's a lovely story! So exciting when somebody connects with your book in that way -- and so encouraging.

    I'm like you, I like to show my work to people in mid-draft to make sure it's working for them, that I'm headed in the right direction. A lot of people say you shouldn't, and admittedly there are drawbacks (like getting discouraged if they DON'T like what you've done so far, and second-guessing yourself to the point where you can no longer write) but personally I've found the feedback I've received during the process more valuable and ultimately affirming than not.

  2. Heidi,

    This is a wonderful post. It's great to hear what encouragement did for you and also to hear that I'm not the only one looking for a little bit of that kind of encouragement.

    I'm glad you found what you were looking for, finished your draft, and have succeeded doing what you love.


  3. Can't wait to get my hands on a bound copy of Sea and be reunited with Deni! The boy in Mexico was named Sergio.

  4. I love this post. It reminded me of my first critique group, and the first time other readers (other than mom & dad!) were enthralled with my story. I remember driving home with the best high ever, a constant smile, and the reassurance that I was a good writer. I can't wait for SEA!

  5. Friends who are writers are the most important thing in a writer's life. This just underscores that!

    Wonderful story!!

  6. I think that all writers crave encouragement and perhaps validation. It's a job hazard of sitting alone in a room with your thoughts all the time. I crave it constantly. Ironically, it's also really hard for me to accept it...

  7. I'm glad you posted this! I think encouragement is vital to us when the quest for publication can be such a struggle.

  8. Cool!

    I like that: "light a candle under my fingers."

  9. Awesome story and awesome post!

  10. Man, isn't that what this is all about? The opportunity to say something, the hope that someone will reply? What a great story!

  11. Thanks everybody--I'm so lucky to have such an awesome circle of friends. =)

  12. Heidi, you are wonderful to post this encouraging story to inspire other writers. You and Christy are just the latest shining stars to join a writers group that has been going strong since 1992. We know talent when we see it!


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