Book signings do not generally engender a great deal of interest. I've been to some that brought out only a very few people and one in which no one came at all. Now that hurt! Royalty checks are few and far between and at the rate of 10-15% of the price of a book, for instance, do not make for much excitement in the bank account. And in the past, my husband at work and even my kids in school, took flack for some of my columns. But if a writer is blessed, then from time to time, they do receive favorable comments in reference to the words they have put on paper.
I've been told that there are writers in the state of Missouri who have signed off on major publishing contracts with New York publishers. (And as of last week, I can say I've actually met one!) I've also been told there are folks in Missouri who have won major amounts of money in the lottery. I suspect that their numbers are similar. The truth is that 95% of the writers (and artists) in this country and probably in the world, do NOT earn their living or even a major portion of their livelihood through their art. The do it on the side.
Some would wonder why but the truth is we do it because we have to. We have to let 'it' out, put our thoughts, our beliefs, our hearts down on paper or we will explode, or at least, that's the way it feels. I remember a quote by Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, to the effect of 'when I was looking for a place to write this book, I felt like I was pregnant with eight characters, and I had to find a place to start writing and quickly, to let them out.'
I am reminded, maybe more often than most, WHY I do it. While a paycheck is obviously quite the incentive, I, too, am motivated by those gotta-let-it-out emotions. But beyond that, I have benefitted from 30 plus years as a freelance writer, working with nearly a dozen different editors over the years. That has helped to mold and shape me as a writer. And the result is that I have been blessed in many ways.
In recent years, I have written and published six novels and they have been wonderfully received by readers and reviewers alike. I've also worked for eight years as a writer for a regional farming newspaper, Ozarks Farm & Neighbor. And it is in those two that I have found the greatest rewards for my writing. The first is in meeting so many people--farmers and ranchers, artisans, young people, and other writers--whom I would never have met otherwise and the vast majority have been such a delight. As I've said more than once, 'my job is often to go for a beautiful drive in the country, have a charming conversation with some new folks and go home and write about it.' And they pay me to do this!
Best of all perhaps, and closest to my heart is when someone tells me 'I just love your Bennett Spring books;' 'your column last week was right on!' or 'I cried at the end of your book, Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice.' To know that something I've written has touched another person, made someone think or brought joy or tears...that's what keeps me writing!
Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home, and
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance with co-author Dick Dixon