RU Staffer Becke Martin Davis is blessed to have a large, widespread tribe. When her core tribe members meet at Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together (almost) every year, waiters at their favorite restaurants quake with fear. Becke’s tribe is easy to find – just follow the raucous laughter!
When you final in a contest or sell a book, who do you call? Who do you call when yet another rejection lands in your inbox? Odds are the person you’ll reach out to is a member of your tribe.
I am the oldest of five children in a large extended family. When I moved from place to place, my family was my anchor, making it relatively easy to settle into each new location. With a grounding of friends and family, I was content in all the places we called home. But it wasn’t until I started writing fiction that I discovered the kindred spirits I call my tribe.
Merriam-Webster has many definitions for the word “tribe,” one of which is “a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest.”
Despite growing up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, I was a pretty inept detective when it came to self-analysis. The first clue smacked me in the face when I attended Jennifer Crusie’s Cherry Con in Cincinnati in October 2007. It was the first time I came face-to-face with a room full of writers. Some were multi-published, others were struggling on their path to publication. A few, like me, loved to write but talked of writing as an item on a bucket list, a “someday” thing. I left that small conference with a stir of unfamiliar excitement – no, more that that. I was gobsmacked. It was the first time I considered writing as something that I could do and, maybe, for my own peace of mind, I should do.
I had no particular skills or education to back up the idea that I could write a book. I’d done it before, writing books about plants and landscaping, but it wasn’t the same thing as writing a romance or a mystery. I knew more about powdery mildew than writing points of view. I’d been writing articles for the landscape trade for over twenty years, and I’d been entirely self-taught. But writing non-fiction didn’t really count as writing, did it?
I knew it would be a lot scarier to make up a story out of the whole cloth. I’d read enough books to understand what was required, for the most part, but I didn’t know where to start. I fretted over margins and fonts. I spent ages creating this cover for my first story, before I learned that 12-point Times Roman would make a submission more attractive than my clip-art eggs.
I remember panicking when I tried to convert my computer word count to words on the printed page. I invested in a new computer, quickly discovering the terror of a blank screen. I needed help. Finally, I contacted a few people I’d met at Cherry Con, and had my first introduction to a tribe.
Jennifer Crusie’s fans are known as Cherries, and the first encouragement and support I received was from fellow Cherries. One thing quickly led to another. I found out that Jenny was giving a workshop in my neighborhood, at a local chapter of Romance Writers of America.
I joined both RWA and the local RWA chapter in order to attend that Jennifer Crusie workshop. The Ohio Valley Chapter of RWA became my source of information, support, encouragement, inspiration and critique partners. The friends I made there know me better than anyone – better than my own family. It breaks my heart that OVRWA was forced to disband this week after more than 25 years, due to some complicated new RWA guidelines. But my OVRWA tribe lives on!
Attending writer’s conferences and less formal get-togethers strengthened my new friendships and gradually more links were added to the friendship chain. In a broad sense, conferences provided networking opportunities, but chance meetings have also led to deeper, more enduring relationships.
Joining Romance University expanded my circle of writer friends even more. Jennifer Tanner, especially, is a constant inspiration and Carrie Spencer’s humor keeps me sane when things go wrong. (And when it comes to anything tech related I’m working on, they often do.)
It was at Lori Foster’s Reader-Author Get-Together in Cincinnati that I realized I had found my tribe. I was wearing a ratty nightgown, sharing a bed with my daughter-who I sometimes drag to conferences-as my friends rushed in and out of the room, pausing long enough to try out their elevator pitches and let me try mine. It suddenly hit me—they get me, and I get them. I really love these people. THIS is my tribe.
NO ONE sees me without make-up. They have. NO ONE has a clue to all the weird stuff in my head. They do.
They’ve seen me at my whiny worst after getting bad contest scores or yet another rejection. They’ve read my stories and treated me gently, without laughing in my face when I went over the top. In fact, they urged me to go even further.
They know I’m aware of my tendency to use caps and exclamation marks when I totally shouldn’t, and they know I’m more likely to use an em-dash or ellipsis than a comma or period. When I slip into British-isms I’ve inadvertently picked up from my husband, they let me know I’m speaking a language they don’t understand.
Finding your tribe can save your sanity – it might even save your marriage. And when things fall apart at home, at work or along your writing path, it’s the people in your tribe who will wipe your tears and help you get back on your feet again. When good news comes your way, it’s all the sweeter when your tribe is there to crack the champagne or just pat you on the back.
Your tribe might not live right in your backyard. My tribe branches out across the country, stretching all the way to Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Facebook and emails keep us connected, and every so often we renew our ties with periodic meets at conferences. When I need to be recharged, nothing beats seeing my tribe up close and personal.
Since I moved to Chicago two years ago, I’m missing my Cincinnati support system. I joined local RWA chapters but haven’t made it to the meetings – we got rid of our car when we moved to the city, and none of the meetings are nearby. My days are filled with joy since I started watching my granddaughter, but there is a hole in my life where my writing used to be. The desire to write is there, and I’ve had lots of support from author friends. I even get some support from Facebook friends. But I finally figured out what’s missing – I miss my tribe.
My advice to you if you haven’t yet found your tribe is to look at the person sitting next to you – at a chapter meeting, a writer’s conference, even a book-signing. Look for the person who laughs when you laugh – especially if it’s at something inappropriate.
And if you keep bumping into someone, look closer. It might be fate giving you a nudge. I met Monica Burns at RWA National in 2009 when we kept running into each other at a bank of elevators. I think the stars shone a little more brightly when I introduced her to Rosie Murphy, my great friend and my RWA roomie.
Being in a tribe doesn’t mean you have to always agree – when it comes to our heroes, my tribe is at loggerheads. We hardly ever agree on who’s hot and who’s not. Which is just as well, because Gerard Butler is going to have his hands full without all the rest of us getting in that line.
Your tribe is made up of your BFFs, but it goes beyond that. You know you are safe within your tribe. You can speak without fear, and share your dreams as well as your failures.
The holidays are stressful, and families can ratchet the stress up a notch or three. Don’t worry if you haven’t yet found your tribe – it’s out there, waiting for you. Others may have different definitions of a tribe. The author of this article calls it “your 1000 fans.”
You don’t have to polish yourself up to attract your tribe. The whole point is to find people who will take you as you are. I’m an extrovert, as I’ve mentioned before, and I appreciate that others, such as this blogger, might find the search for a tribe a daunting task.
Relationship expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D., says “If you want to find your tribe, then first you need to rediscover your beautiful core essence. Once you experience a sense of at-home-ness within yourself, then you will have an easy time finding your outer tribe.”
Finding your tribe can help in all aspects of your life, even finding the ideal day job. (Of course, one day we’ll all outshine J.K. Rowling, but in the meantime…)
There are even health benefits to finding your tribe, according to Psychology Today.
If you haven’t yet found your tribe, don’t despair. Dr. Julie Connor provides some excellent suggestions here.
The author of this post says, “The members of your tribe are your allies on your life journey,” and stresses that it’s a reciprocal relationship. Everyone in an effective tribe gives back as well as drawing support from the group.
Tribes can be large or small. You may find your tribe at a young age or as an empty-nester. You may stumble upon tribe members almost by accident, as in the case of this blogger.
If you need more suggestions, just Google “Finding Your Tribe.” You may want to clear some time to go through the responses – there are roughly twenty million of them.
I give thanks every day for my wonderful tribe. This holiday season, I wish you joy and the comfort of finding your own tribe.
How did you connect with those in your own tribe? What traits do your tribe members share?
Best Wishes for Happy Holidays and a Fabulous New Year!
Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued earlier this year. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books and one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter. Becke has two adult children, an awesome granddaughter and two cats. She has been married 43 years and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.
Check out Becke’s Pinterest page here: http://pinterest.com/beckedavis/
Blog #2: http://familytreethyme.blogspot.com/
- Weekly Lecture Schedule – December 29th to January 2nd
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for June 4 – June 8, 2012
- In the Beginning by Becke Martin Davis
- Who Reads Romance, Anyway? by Becke Martin Davis
- Romance University in 2011