The Friend Part of the Writing Life

by Roger Johns

Well, the New Year is only two days old, and I’m already off on the wrong foot––I’m three days late with this blog post. It’s a good thing I didn’t have punctuality on my list of resolutions. Oh well. As I look back on last year, it’s something that happened last week that really grabs my attention and gives me a lot of good feelings for the year ahead.

A friend from a former life got in touch. Before I turned to writing crime fiction, I spent nearly twenty years as an academic, teaching business law, and other law related courses in collegiate schools of business. My friend from those long-ago days (who still teaches at a university in the Northeast) called to ask me to join him in updating a research project we had worked on together, nearly a decade ago. The merits of a new research collaboration aside, our conversation put me in a nostalgic state of mind about my old line of work, something I had never expected to happen.

As much as I enjoyed my days in the academy, when it came time to retire, I had no trouble at all exiting the profession. I didn’t miss it––not the teaching, not the grading, not the committee work, not even the research (which, strange as it may seem, I truly enjoyed).

But, as the months after retirement rolled past, I did find myself missing one aspect of the academic life. Every year, numerous academic conferences are held all over the country. These are forums to present research, forge connections with colleagues from other schools, and develop opportunities to serve the professional organizations that sponsor the conferences and publish the journals that form the backbone of every academic discipline. It’s also the place where friendships are formed and maintained. I hadn’t realized how important that aspect of the academic world was to the personal side of life, until I was away from it. Alas, by then, there was nothing I could do about it.

However, as I plowed ahead with my writing ambitions, I made a wonderful discovery. In at least one respect, the writing community functions much the same way as the academic community. There are countless conferences and book and literary festivals, all over the country (all over the world, actually). Small ones, large ones, huge ones, devoted to every slice of the writing world you can imagine. Readers, writers, aspiring writers, agents, editors, publishers, and writing teachers attend. There are opportunities to talk about one’s latest book or short story, opportunities to forge professional connections and learn how the business works, but most importantly, it’s the place where new friendships are formed.

In the crime fiction slice of the writing world, there are a few must-attend conferences, which I go to, but there are a lot of others to choose from where new parts of the country and the writing community can be explored. And what a friendly, welcoming, and incredibly helpful community it is. Writing crime fiction is fun––it’s a blast, actually. It’s the most fun job I’ve ever had. But the people who know me, know that I do a lot of promotion, as well. Setting up a promo schedule is complicated and time-consuming, and a necessary part of the writer’s life, but the personal payoff is enormous. To those whom I’ve met and become friends with, over the last few years, thanks for taking the time to be part of the writing community. To those whom I’ve not yet met, I’m looking forward to meeting you at some point in the future. To the readers, writers, and aspiring writers who may be reading this but have never been to a writers conference or a book or literary festival, put it on your bucket list. It’s a great place to meet new people, learn about new books, and make new friends.

I’m grateful to my former academic collaborator for  putting me back in touch with the best part of my old profession and for reminding me to be thankful for the many new people whom I’ve met along the way in my new profession. Happy New Year, everyone. May you prosper, be healthy, and find new friends.

ROGER JOHNS is a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, and the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books: Dark River Rising (2017) and River of Secrets (2018). He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective▪Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee, a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural, and the 2019 JKS Communications Author-in-Residence. His articles and interviews about writing and the writing life have appeared in Career Authors, Criminal Element, Killer Nashville Articles, and the Southern Literary Review. Roger belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. Please visit him at www.rogerjohnsbooks.com.

8 thoughts on “The Friend Part of the Writing Life

  1. It’s wonderful exchanging thoughts and ideas with other writers who understand what you’re going through. Happy New Year and all the best for 2019!

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  2. Well said, Roger. I’ve been overwhelmed with out welcoming and supportive the mystery/thriller writing community is. Thank you for highlighting this so effectively. It’s been great to count you among my new friends!

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