When I was growing up in Clinton, South Carolina I was an avid reader. Lloyd C Douglas, Thomas Costain, Anya Seton and others were favorites of mine. They took me to worlds I could only imagine and introduced me to people who were a little different than the ones who surrounded my life. I could only imagine what these authors were like in real life. It never entered my head I might actually be a writer some day and meet some people who wrote for a living.
When I became an adult and moved to Georgia I started doing interviews for magazines. You can imagine my shock when I was actually asked to interview Stuart Woods. I had been a fan for years, and knew he was from Georgia, but to get to actually meet him. Wow! And then I met Anne Rivers Siddons. Things just got better and better.
The third author I interviewed was William Diehl. He was the one who influenced me the most and the one who became an actual friend of mine. Bill and I had a friendship until the time of his death, and I miss him still. He was one of the big influences on my life and especially on my writing dreams. He would re mind me he had not started his literary career until he was fifty so it was never too late for me.
When I finally did take the plunge and jumped into the waters of writing Jackie White and Milam Propst were there to keep me afloat. They were both authors who had been published by Mercer University Press and they urged me to take my stories there. I eventually did and the relationship I have found with Mercer has been a happy one.
Now as I began to go to book festivals and to have book signings I met more and more authors. I was surprised how supportive they all were. I never saw any angry competition, no backstabbing, no jealousy – it all was a climate of cheering each other on.
Now some of my best friends are the writers I have met. We correspond by e-mails, arrange joint book events together, and look forward to our meetings rare though some may be. It is a small circle of friends bound together by the mutual joy of writing, and there is always room for one more person to join.
I consider myself very, very fortunate to get to know people who are writers by profession. And it continues to amaze me to think that little boy from Clinton, South Carolina grew up not only to continue to love reading books but also to have the thrill of writing them.
The great thing about life is it constantly offers surprises. Anything is possible. One day you are reading books and the next day you are talking to the people who write them. If you are lucky enough to write some of your own then you have the chance to enter a small circle of friends who share your dreams.
Writers are the most supportive people in the world, or at least that has been my experience. I have found encouragement everywhere I have turned. I still rely on my writing friends to keep me motivated, keep me informed, and keep me in touch. The song says “I get by with a little help from my friends” and in the case of my small circle of writer friends, I surely do.
Jackie K Cooper is the author of four books, his latest is THE BOOKBINDER. In September 2008 THE SUNRISE REMEMBERS will be published by Mercer University Press.