You know that saying... the whole ripple effect thing.... So I've always been way too sentimental for my own good, but part of me can't help but give praise where it's due.
Have you ever had one of those people who influenced you in a big way, and you aren't sure how to thank or acknowledge them for it? I've had lots. But what makes me a sappy nerd is that I try to express that gratitude, one way or another. I haven't stumbled across too many people like that in the past couple years, but now my inner nerd is telling me there's someone worthy of a huge THANK YOU. (See, my self-deprecating nerd remarks are really my own defense mechanism against the potential embarrassment that can come from putting yourself out there like this--if I laugh at me first, it's not so bad if you laugh at me too. Am I getting to analytic for you? Apparently I do that.... but moving on....)
I heard from someone recently, someone I haven't heard from in a while. I'd say an "old friend," but I don't know if he'd consider our association that. I've never technically met the guy! haha. We were in an online critique group with a few other people. It was definitely good times. Always good critiques and interesting discussions. Unfortunately, it all came to a bitter and unexpected end, the group crumbled to bits, and I haven't heard from this person since. I'll keep him anonymous, since he may well want to remain that way.
I sure do miss that original group we had going, though. We had a good mix of people of different ages, genders (only two different ones, as far as I know ;-P), backgrounds, writing in different genres. Maybe because I was the baby of the group, I sometimes got that big-brother feeling about a couple of the guys in the group. You know, that feeling that someone's looking out for you, trying to encourage you, show you your potential, etc. (and I mean this in a literary way, like a writing mentor might do). And I, being the novice, ate up every word of encouragement and criticism. Couldn't get enough.
If you've ever been in a writer's group, I'm willing to bet there was one or more people whose criticism you considered longer, harder, or just plain more than others, and whose praise just seemed to carry more weight than others. Because this guy was such a talented writer in his own right, and because he was always so thorough and thoughtful in his critiques, his opinion just had a little more weight to it for me. In fact, the only reason my giggling-like-a-pre-teen thoughts about writing erotica have evolved into something more serious is because this guy I've never met, but who I respect immensely as a writer, said an explicit sex scene I had written was actually good. Bordering on erotica, he'd commented, but the good kind. Erotica with a purpose. I never thought those words would have impacted me this much, but they did. To the point that I'm actually trying to write something like that, instead of having it happen accidentally.
That kind of encouragement was also a major influencing factor in some major revisions I did with To Call Home (Charlotte). The story had to grow up a lot, so I made it happen. And I did it without being embarrassed about the darker aspects (sexual and psychological) of the story that started to peek through. And damn if I'm not prouder of the story now than I've ever been! And more confident in my own ability, too.
Can I really pinpoint that one person, that one comment, that one moment, as the catalyst for all of this? Maybe it's unrealistic. Maybe my sentimental nerd is just grasping at coincidences, or making a mountain out of a molehill, or whatever. But maybe not. There are others from that group who also deserve a big thanks, but I'm still in contact with all of them and can do that any time (like perhaps in the Acknowledgements of my first pubished novel...perhaps?)
Either way, I couldn't let a favor like that - a favor he probably didn't know he was doing for me - go unacknowledged. So, if you're out there, still reading, you should definitely know who you are, and know that I'd love to continue the dialogue, if possible. Or if not, just know that I owe you a HUGE thanks, and I wish you the best in the future!