Three Things for Writers

Please welcome the wonderful Anne Calhoun. She’s an amazing writer – in fact, I stalked her after I read her books and enticed her into being my friend. She is wise and warm and …well, wonderful. She’s had a hard month – she lost her mother – and yet she gave us this post, which totally made me cry. You will, too. Please welcome Anne Calhoun. ~Jeffe Kennedy  Anne Calhoun

I’ve been writing for publication since 2008, so that’s…oh boy, seven years now. The thing that stands out most in my mind about what you’re not told as an aspiring writer is how much advice you’re going to get. When I started writing I thought the advice was like standing in front of a fire hose, and that was BEFORE indie vs traditional publication came around (back then all anybody bickered about was e-publishing and how erotic romance was ruining the whole goddamn genre, which just goes to show you how pointless it is to get heavily invested in whatever the current contentions are, unless you like conflict. Then, by all means, dive right in to the issue du jour).

The thing that no one tells you is that you’re going to get so much advice. All the advice, and then some, including:

  • Advice you want.
  • Advice you don’t want.
  • Advice you wish were applicable to you because it would solve all your problems.
  • Advice you hate with the passion of a thousand suns and will never, ever take but later find is exactly what you need to know.
  • Advice from people you admire that’s shockingly wrong, and advice from people who inspire insane, gut-wrenching jealousy in you that’s so infuriatingly right you have to take it, even though the adviser makes you want to kick puppies.

You will be inundated with advice, like wasps swarming from a nest you had no idea you poked until your eyes are swelling shut and you need morphine for the pain. Everyone has some platform, a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a guest spot on HuffPo. Everyone has an opinion. Ask a room full of writers how they handle a particular part of the process, or why they write, or what their goals are, or what they think of Fifty Shades of Gray and you’ll have so many conflicting opinions you want to rip your own head off and kick it across the floor just so you don’t have to track the conversation any longer.

The bad news is that there is no external, magnetic, true north to writing, and no North Star in the sky to follow to keep you on track. The good news is that you are equipped with your own personal north star. You can call it your conscience, or your muse, or Spirit. The labels don’t matter. What matters is whether or not you follow it. In the end it makes no difference if you write a book that sells millions of copies or if you write a literary novel that’s read by four people (including your editor and agent) as long as you’re happy.

If you want something more practical, I can offer this: I remember exactly two pieces of advice given to me in the last seven years. (Your mileage may vary.) The first came from two writers at my local RWA chapter: Julie Miller, who has written nearly a hundred books for Harlequin, and Kristin Gabriel, a Rita winner. I asked a question about the backstory in my WIP, and their advice was given in unison: “Start when he walks into the bar.” I remember that.

The second piece of advice was more reassurance than advice, and came from my agent, Laura Bradford, at RT in NOLA in 2014. Panicked after yet another turn in front of a fire hose about the right way to publish, I found her in the lobby and had a hand-flapping, hyperventilating panic attack. She gripped my upper arms and said, “You’re not doing it wrong!” All righty, then.

Oh, and one final piece of advice about life, given by my uncle after my mother died unexpectedly earlier this month: “For fuck’s sake, be happy.”

That’s the Anne Calhoun version of Advice for Writers: The Things They Don’t Tell You. Start when he walks into the bar. You’re not doing it wrong. For fuck’s sake, be happy.

Sail on, little writers. Sail on.


The LIst by Anne CalhounMatchmaker and stationer Matilda Davies is in the business of connecting people. For those on her list, Tilda will find the man or woman of their dreams—whether it’s for an hour or a lifetime. Haunted by a traumatic past, the British ex-pat is driven to create lasting connections, but she’s never put her name on her list. Instead, she limits herself to emotionless hookups. Then she meets Daniel, who wants not just her body, but also her heart…

Daniel Logan hides the soul of a poet under the suit and tie of an FBI Agent. He specializes in financial crimes, piecing together stories of greed and devastation, then ensures justice is done. He plays by the rules—until he meets Tilda. The combination of passion and mystery draws Daniel deep into the dark, desperate past of the woman he fiercely loves.  Daniel knows that no matter her secrets, he’s the perfect match for Tilda, but even pleasure doesn’t come with a guarantee…


After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, Anne landed in a flyover state, where she traded business casual for yoga pants and decided to write down all the lively story ideas that got her through years of monotonous corporate meetings. Her first book, LIBERATING LACEY won the EPIC Award for Best Contemporary Erotic Romance. Her story WHAT SHE NEEDS was chosen for Smart Bitch Sarah’s Sizzling Book Club. Anne holds a BA in History and English, and an MA in American Studies from Columbia University. When she’s not writing her hobbies include reading, knitting, and yoga. She lives in the Midwest with her family and singlehandedly supports her local Starbucks.


Three Things for Writers — 7 Comments

  1. Great advice. I hope you’re taking that last bit-“For fuck’s sake, be happy”-better than I am. It’s incredibly hard when dealing with the death of someone you love. I’m so sorry about your mother.

  2. Thank you for the wonderful advice, Anne. Sometimes I forget the ‘for fuck’s sake, be happy’ thing so thanks for the reminder. I’m sorry about your mother. I know how tough it can be; my mom passed away last summer. Take care.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *