Opera singers are notorious for being difficult, demanding, arrogant, vain and prone to fits of jealousy. And that's just the tenors. :) The first use of the term DIVA was to denote a female singer with phenomenal talent - "divine one." For many years this talent was accompanied by the aforementioned obnoxious behaviors. It was expected, in fact, almost required. Fireworks backstage meant fireworks onstage. Of course a singer's diva level had to be commiserate with her talent. Nasty behavior was not tolerated for long if the singer was just average.
I never played into the DIVA thing when I was singing professionally. Oh, I once told an opera director I refused to sing with a tenor who was a bigger bitch than I was, but frankly the guy could have given Cruella de Ville lessons in drama. Gunning down a 200 piece orchestra without the aid of a microphone (Opera stages were not miked in Europe then.) is tough enough without having to deal with a nervous breakdown looking for a place to happen who couldn't hold a high C as long as I could and therefore wanted me to bail early. I. Don't. Bail. Ever. The director replaced the tenor, by the way.
When I was in grad school my best friend was another soprano - taller, younger, prettier - who studied with the same voice coach I did. We were both very competitive and often up for the same roles and solos. Through six years of grad school people wondered how we went head to head for parts and never became jealous or petty when one of us won out over the other. The secret? We respected each others talent. Period. For us the music was the important thing. There was something bigger than either of us and that is what we served. We both ended up being asked to New York to audition for Fulbright scholarships - the first time two students from the same studio, let alone the same university, were afforded that honor. The trip to New York was a blast because we went together. She ended up going to Italy. I went to Salzburg, Austria. We critiqued each others work. We administered kicks in the butt when necessary and we gave no quarter when competing against each other. We were each others biggest fans and we never let anyone forget it.
I have been fortunate enough to be in a couple of amazing writing critique groups. One of the first groups I was in included the amazing Lexi George
and the fabulous Debbie Herbert.
I can't tell you what a privilege it was to be one of the first people these ladies called when they sold! I was and continue to be so thrilled for their well-deserved success. These two aren't just extremely talented writers they are both wonderful women as well. Equally as important I respect these ladies as artists, as writers. I respect the work.
My present critique group is made up of some of the hardest working, most talented and most dedicated writers I know. They are also some of the most prolific writers in the business. I alternate between feeling like a complete slacker and simply being exhausted at the number of books they write in a year and the number of promotional events they do - online and off.
Some of them are traditionally published. Some of them are published by small presses and/or e-publishers. Some are self-published. Some are about to be published by two publishers. All of them take great pride in their work as well they should. They've written some of the most beautiful, powerful, funny, sexy romance novels I've ever read. They have my undying gratitude as critique partners and friends. They have my admiration as writers. They have my respect as artists.
You want to check out some great reads? Try one of these ladies' work.
Ella Quinn Gina Danna
Collette Cameron Marie Higgins
Marie Higgins Angelyn Schmid
Jenna Jaxon Lily George
Lauren Smith Robin Delany
Sandra Owens Nancy Goodman
The point of this post is this. I have been on this journey since 2007. I have done well on the contest circuit. I've signed with an agent and after a few years fired said agent. I've had plenty of requests for partial and full manuscripts. I haven't made it yet. Am I disappointed? Sure. Do I get discouraged or angry sometimes? You bet your big ugly alligator with a nasty disposition I do. Have I made voodoo dolls of editors and agents who have turned me down? I'm pleading the fifth on that one.
There are two things I am not doing. I am not giving up. Ever. I've got the patience of a vulture on an island full of giant tortoises. Eventually one of those suckers is going to die and I'll figure out a way to get through that damned shell. I mean, one of those suckers is going to buy. You know what I mean. I've had good examples in the ladies I mentioned above and their success makes me all the more determined to step up my game.
The other thing I'm not doing? I'm not ever going to allow my desire to succeed in this business color the way I look at another author's work or success. When I say I am happy for the success of other authors I mean it to my very soul. I don't get anyone who doesn't see it that way. I've seen and heard some hurtful and petty remarks about who is or is not a real author recently. I've heard catty remarks about who deserves this sort of respect or treatment or that sort of respect or treatment. Jealousy serves no useful purpose. When it comes to the people of whom we are jealous - half of them don't know it and the other half don't care. There will always be people who are better writers than I am. There will always be people who are more successful than I am. (Hell, that's about everyone in the business these days. I am too plump and lazy to conjure up the energy to be jealous of that many people! Jealousy is hard work!)
Writers are artists, every bit as much as singers. The art is the important thing. That is what we serve. The success of romance as a genre, as a business and an art, depends on the positive support of those whose work is worthy of our respect. Even when we want to smack some writer upside the head for writing something so incredible we want to delete all of our manuscripts, shoot our laptop and bury it in the backyard. As writers our time is valuable. We would do well to spend it in support of all authors who are producing work that continues to expand the number of readers of romance. As for those who perhaps don't, do we really have the energy to take that on? Trust me, bad art will take care of itself. (Milli Vanilli, anyone?)
The very wise historical romance author, Anna Campbell, once told me she celebrated each time another author sold a book because it meant the editors were still buying. Perhaps we should celebrate every time a romance reader buys a book as well. It means we're still in business, ladies. Jealousy in any form gets us nowhere. Writing a better book each and every time we type "Chapter One?" That's art. We're artists and our limits are in the hands of no one save ourselves.