Someone helping another person up a mountainA few months ago I wrapped up the fall session of the creative writing class I teach. The last night of class always includes a section that covers momentum and how to maintain it. If publication is your goal, the best advice I can offer is to surround yourself with other writers who are serious about improving their craft. I know of no better way to stay excited and motivated than to be part of something larger than yourself, a journey shared with others on the same road. Most of the time this takes the form of a writers’ group. A typical writers’ group meets regularly to give feedback on story ideas and the writing itself. I’m fortunate to be immersed in a strong group with exceptional writers, authors who are going places.

Two members of my group recently had new books come out. The first one is Steve Cushman’s Heart with Joy.

I met Steve after I’d reviewed his short story collection Fracture City for Our State Magazine. I’d just turned the piece in and a week later he walked past me in the gym. After introducing myself, we became friends and he later join my group.

Heart With Joy is a bit of a departure from Steve’s first novel, Portisville, a grittier story that won the Novello Literary Award in 2004 and recently debuted as an ebook. In contrast, Heart With Joy is a coming of age novel about finding your passion, a subject that resonates with me. The book is a comfortable read, and I gave a copy to a friend. He thoroughly enjoyed the book, saying the read was refreshing, much more his style than a lot of the over-hyped, steroidal “best sellers” on the market today that turn out to be mediocre. Keep an eye on out for Steve Cushman. He’ll do big things. Check out his ebook for Portisville here.

Dena Harris is the other member of my group with a new book out. Her humor book, Who Moved My Mouse?: A Self-Help Book for Cats (Who Don’t Need Any Help), is a brilliant little parody that takes a snarky look at the self-help classic’s from the cat’s point of view. I still can’t read the bonus chapter, “The Secret,” without laughing out loud. Watching Dena go through the whole publishing process, from finding her agent, to getting an offer from Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, was an education unto itself. Dena’s hard work every step of the way inspired me in many ways and reminding me once again how much control each individual has over his or her destiny. Dena had multiple rejections and several setbacks including an initial agent who left the business when the economy turned south. But she didn’t let it stop her, and now her book has sold foreign rights in several countries. She’ll soon sell all the copies her publisher ordered and they’ll need a second print run.

Check out both of these exceptional authors, two people I’m glad to call friends.

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