Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Merry Jones at SJWG
Victoria Marie Lees.
At the South Jersey Writers Group monthly meeting held on November 2l, 2013, writers and friends welcomed Merry Jones, an established novelist and writing teacher at Temple University. Merry has a master’s degree in Communications from the University of Pennsylvania and an impressive array of writing credentials from humor to non-fiction to mystery, including her latest release, Outside Eden.
Merry opened her discussion with a surprising fact: The average writer earns about $3,500 per year.
“So why do we write?” She asked the assembled writing group.
That’s a good question.
Merry informed the group that some people have a need to communicate. Writing is a communication process. “Writers are writers because they can’t help it. If we don’t write, we feel guilty.”
The process of writing is a lifestyle for the writer according to Merry. It’s a part of their personality, a basic fundamental aspect of their lives.
One of her grad school professors felt that creative people must create. If they didn’t, there would be physical symptoms to deal with. Merry finds she becomes grouchy and agitated if she doesn’t write regularly.
While some writers at the meeting agreed, some writers felt that they needed to wait for inspiration or a reason to write. This brought up a very real obstacle for many writers: incentive. With no agent, no book deal, why am I writing? Why write if I’m not getting paid to write. I should find a real job and make money.
Merry understood their quandary. She had it at the beginning of her career, too. She informed the group how the publishing field has changed since she wrote her first book, advances are much smaller, no paid tours by the publishing house. Editors don’t promote writers like they used to. They don’t help writers much.
“In publishing no one is your friend,” Merry said, “not your agent, not your publisher. Sales numbers are how you acquire your next book deal.”
Merry was cut by St. Martin’s Press because she was a midlister, as that publisher eliminated all midlisters at that time. Her agent cut her off too. She was lucky, though. Through some writing friends she acquired another agent about a year later, and because she continued to write, Merry had books to give her new agent. Small presses are a good alternative to the big publishing houses.
Writing groups are essential for both the budding writer as well as established writers. “All writers need writers to share experiences, energy, and the drive to continue writing.” Merry said.
And she’s correct.
Do people really decide to become writers or is it instinctive? What do you think? Why do you write?
Victoria Marie Lees has been a member of the South Jersey Writers' Group for several years, maintains blogs at Adventures in Writing: One Woman's Journey, Parenting Special Needs Children, and Camping with Kids, and she can be found on Twitter.