Helpers


Years ago, my son attended his first Boy Scout camp.

And got lost.

In the middle of the night.

As temperatures plummeted to the 20s and then the teens.

He came wandering to the campfire the next morning, near-hypothermic, bleary-eyed and visibly shaken, but alive and well (relatively speaking). He recovered quickly when dosed with hot chocolate and smothered in blankets, then told his tale.

He had become lost when trying to find the outhouse and didn’t want to “bother” anyone for help. So he wandered around in the small hours of the morning alone, cold and afraid.

Oof.

Because he was so afraid to reach out for help, as the sun began its morning hike over the mountain, he crawled—as unobtrusively as possible—into another scout’s tent and slept near the opening.

So as not to disturb.

So as not to stand out.

So as not to make a fuss.

Double oof.

As he told his tale, I could feel something rise up inside of me. Fear, concern and relief, of course. But also something else.

Recognition.

I do the same thing.

I realized that I spend a great deal of my life trying to fly under the radar and avoid reaching out. Turns out that’s counterproductive when it comes to book promotion. Turns out it’s also counterproductive to life.

I remember when the release of my debut novel neared. It became clear that that my job of writing and editing (and rewriting and reediting) was over, and I was now tasked with sharing my book with the rest of the world. That sounded as appealing as dental surgery.

I work in advertising, so people said, “Um…shouldn’t you, like, know how to do this?”

Well, yeah. But it’s a lot easier to beat the drum for someone else. Especially if you’ve spent your whole life trying to go unnoticed.

I soon learned that there was a huge community that not only welcomed me, but was there to help with Book Stuff. They held my hand, showed me the ropes, and offered tips, tricks and insights.

More importantly, I learned that this same community is also there for Life Stuff. When one of us gets sick, loses a loved one, faces a crisis or needs support, we’re there. No questions asked. No limitations. No stipulations.

Terms and conditions do not apply.

So when I’m tempted to sleep at the mouth of someone else’s proverbial tent—or see a friend wandering the forest alone—I remember all the helpers who are here, there and everywhere.

We’re here to help each other find our way.

Has someone helped you professionally or personally in a profound way? Have you been that helper for someone else? Or on a lighter note, do you have any camping misadventures to share?

(Oh, and a quick note: I’m traveling for work and might be a bit slow to respond.)

*Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

44 thoughts on “Helpers

  1. Many of you lovely ladies here have been much help to me in my writing career directly or indirectly, with advice, granting me guest posts and otherwise encouraging me in my writing career. Like many writers, I am an introvert, and although I’ve largely overcome it, I still have a tendency to hunker down and try to do everything myself instead of asking for help. Which leads me to mention that I have a new release coming out on Monday. This time, I’ve even hired someone to help me with the PR!
    By the way, did that scout troop have a buddy system in place? That’s especially important when you have a lot of new scouts. Sometimes all a timid boy needs is his Scoutmaster’s assurance that not only is it okay to wake up your tent mate to go with you to the latrine, it’s mandatory.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Congrats on the new release, Tom!!

      His troop had a buddy system in place. Ironically, my son’s buddy (who is also his best friend) noticed he was missing all night but didn’t raise the alarm because he figured his friend was fine…somewhere else. I think we’re on triple oof now! They learned a good lesson on buddies, speaking up, and that it’s okay to ask for help.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. It was a big help to me when I read Janet Evanovich say she was employed by Janet Evanovitch. She worked for her. That helps me treat it more like a job, and to distance myself from the author-person who needs an employee to get the word out. And to write her books. I’m SO glad your son turned out to be OK! That could have had a much worse ending.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. What a wonderful and wise approach Janet has! That is absolutely brilliant.

      Yes, I was SO glad my boy was okay. A few hours afterwards, he thought it was a “totally sweet” adventure. I’m not so sure I agree, but he likes to tell the story!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This post brought a little tear to my eye, Kathy. So very true.

    I feel like the entire mystery writing community acts as “helper” to all its other members, and appreciate every single one of you–writers, readers, editors, publicists, everyone!

    But yes, selling yourself is one of the hardest things to do, and I dread it with each new book.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. If you dread marketing, you just need to change your mindset about it. You’re not out there yelling at people to buy your book to help YOU … you’re yelling at them to buy your book to help THEM. You’re doing them a favor by offering your book. How else will they be able to find new entertainment? Maybe you’ve just gifted them with their new favorite author. Think back about your favorite books or authors. How did you hear about them? Most likely, someone told you about them. Did you look at them with distaste or did you say ohmygosh, thank you!

      Change your mindset. It’s just a little jump to the left … and then a step to the right … with your hands on your hips … then bring your knees in tight ….

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Oh, Kathy, that story gave me a visceral reaction! So scary. I’m glad everything worked out, and that lessons were learned all around.

    As for the helpers in publishing, you’re absolutely right. My first book was published in 2001. Ever since, I, like Blanche Dubois, have relied on the kindness of strangers. I hold one hand forward, asking for help on my rugged and rocky climb up this mountain, and one hand backward so I can help pull someone else up behind me.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Kathy, what an experience for your son to go through. Yikes! I’m glad everything turned out all right. (I have to ask, though: Is it an urban legend about dropping a Boy Scout off in the middle of the wild and then having them survive it for a merit badge?)

    As for the writing community, let me say that I’m sooo glad to part of the Chicks and to be in this caring group. I was also (and continue to be) mightily helped by the amazing Naomi Hirahara. The mystery community as a whole (readers, writers, etc.) is fabulous!

    I hear everyone about the difficulty of selling a book. I’m in the middle of it now with this release week!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Releasing a new book is WORK. Huge congrats once again!!! I love this series so much.

      Chicks is an amazingly caring group, and oh my goodness, Naomi Hirahara IS amazing!!

      I think there is a survival merit badge, but everything is super regulated these days. I think they build shelters and find safe drinking water and such, but there are safeguards and supervision. Ironically (or not?), my son DESPERATELY wants to do this.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. My hubs has horror stories about leaders drinking beer all weekend from when he was in scouts, none of which would be tolerated today! I can absolutely see them being dropped in the wilderness. “If you stumble on a liquor store, don’t forget to bring some back to us!”

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathy, your son is very brave. If I was lost in the woods in the dark for five minutes, I would’ve been screaming for help!

    And I was thinking just this morning how I should work more at promoting my books. As I looked at my latest royalties check!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I find it helps greatly to divide royalty checks by bags of coffee equivalents. Then I feel positively rich and productive, and ready to write the next book!

      Like

  7. Ooof, wow. My heart was racing as I read your son’s story. I’m so glad that he’s okay and can tell the story in hindsight now, but it must have been so scary. Aw! Then the rest of it made me teary. Roller coaster of emotions.

    The writing community has been amazing–I constantly see people who have published turn around and help others on the journey. Hooray for helpers! Special shout out to Chicks for their unwavering support and many kindnesses, of course. Also Sisters in Crime. And so many individuals whom I’ve had the honor of meeting along the way: writers, bloggers, readers. People helping people. 💕

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Kathy, what a beautiful, beautiful post. I totally get how hard it is to reach out. Believe it or not, I have a hard time too. The way I get around that is through the concept of paying it forward. It’s okay to ask if I plan to balance it with giving back to someone else.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Your sweet son! I would have been the same way. I’m awful at asking for help. When I had just had my twins (and then had three kids under the age of three), a sweet woman (who had asked how she could help and I told her I was fine), kindly reminded me that many times allowing others in to help and support you is a gift of them. It makes them feel good to help. So instead of thinking of asking for help as selfish, think of it as I’m allowing others to feel good about helping and allowing them to be part of my journey. I liked that perspective 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, Marie, I love that! I had that same convo with my dad. He was still living in AZ away from all of us kids and needed cataract surgery. He was loathe to ask someone to drive him. I said, “If your friend needed a ride after eye surgery would you drive him?” … “Of course!” … “Would it be a burden on you?” … “Absolutely not. I’d be happy to help.” … “Then why wouldn’t you allow someone else to do that for you?” … “Umm ………”

      Liked by 2 people

    2. That is so lovely, Marie, and what a good reminder. Letting others in and allowing them to help can be a gift to both helper and helpee. And if they can be a part of our journey, it’s just one more meaningful shared experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. So glad your son was okay! And I think most of us really hate self-promotion. It is definitely much easier to talk up someone else’s book. Luckily, I have been fortunate to have many people help me in my life, not because they had to but just because they were kind.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Kathy, sorry I’m late to the party, thanks to WordPress-comment-disappearing fun. But this is such a beautiful post (love the photos, too!). It truly inspires hope and courage in all of us during these crazy-awful times. Every day, I am grateful for the friendship and support of my fellow Chicks, our readers, and everyone in our mystery community. On a lighter note, my idea of camping is a lovely seaside/woods adjacent cabin in Maine, or perhaps a soaring A-frame with hygge essentials in, say, Aspen. I am terrified of bears, snakes, lightning, and drunk woodspeople with guns (all of which I’ve run into while “remote” camping with my flyfisherman husband). Your son sounds like an amazing young man. My Cub Scout’s first camping trip was in a small field behind a Brooklyn church. Wildlife sightings: a raccoon and possibly some uninvited campers of the rodent variety. (They had pizza.)

    Liked by 1 person

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