Why Being Kind Matters: On Author Karma and other kind people

While attending my first RWA National Conference last year, I first discovered the idea of “author karma.” This is the idea that basically, in the romance industry, despite being massive, it can also be very small, and by saying something unkind about another author / agent / editor, you never realize who you might be talking to, like the author’s best friend, or the agent’s business partner. A few poorly considered or mean-spirited comments can drown a career, or mark an author as an unkind, difficult to work with individual, especially in the world of instant-communication we live in. Negative people are draining, which is why most are avoided.

But it’s not the negative side I wanted to focus on. It’s the positive side. The entire idea of author karma mattered to me because, while I try to be a kind and professional person, I have also met so many others in the industry and otherwise who are like this.

Which leads me to my little gush about Kelley Armstrong. If you’re not familiar with this author, she is a Canadian writer who writes modern paranormals with a few series, as well as a series of books about a female assassin. While she’s a wonderful author, and one of my favorites, she’s also a very kind person. I came into contact with her through a strange interconnection of my best friend meeting her half-way across Canada, and Ms. Armstrong being kind enough to say she’d accept an email with questions from me. This was already so encouraging, so wonderful, that come the conference, I just wanted to thank her in person for this when I saw her at a signing. Which is when she asked if I wanted to meet her for coffee, and chat a little more. She probably doesn’t know this, but I was over the moon (though of course, I tried to play it cool). She proved again and again how kind, genuine, and generous a person she was, so when I “grow up” (ie: if I’m ever as successful as she and in a position to help others) I know I want to be like her.

So with this highlight and talk of author karma at the conference, and my considering how I wanted to be like Kelley Armstrong, it occurred to me: wait a second, I kind of already had. Because the month before, I’d been contacted by a much younger writer who had just won a contest in high school for her writing, and she contacted me for information about how one went about going published. I had sent her back a long email with (in brief) the kind of things she needed to know, a brief overview of the steps it required / were involved (all without trying to scare her, I promise!). Now, I can’t claim to have been as helpful, nor do I feel this calls everything “even,” but it did start me thinking: who says you have to wait until you “grow up” to start spreading the author karma? We all know other writers, other artists.

And even if it’s not author karma, what about just generally being kind anyway? Who says we’re too busy to smile at someone? Have you ever been having a lousy day – if you’ve ever worked retail, particularly over Christmas, you know what I mean – and one customer or person who took the time to be kind, to remember you were human, made all the difference? What about the agents I’ve been querying who were kind enough to send me a quick, unsolicited note to say they had indeed received the material I sent? It is small things like this (particularly when you’ve just slaved over something or fretted over the pressing of the ‘send’ button) that make a huge difference. You think, wow! Aren’t they nice? Or someone who sends out information or offers a helping hand you never expected? These I met aplenty at the conference as well, and even before.

So what’s stopping you? Or, what kind things have you tried to do? I am trying to be more encouraging to others both in my private and personal life. I don’t expect I will change the world, but then, it was never my plan to do so. What I might change is someone’s outlook, or just their mood that moment. Besides, being positive generally makes you and everyone else feel better, so why would you want to be otherwise? Please share what kind things you have done, your experiences with author karma, or why you think the concept has merit or could be important. I look forward to hearing from you, and hope you’ve enjoyed the read. J

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