When I opened up my blog to guest posts last week, S-Jay Hart was the second person to ask to be involved. (The first was Conny, who wrote about mental health, schizophrenia and dementia earlier this week.) I was so excited, because if I've learnt anything from working with S-Jay, it's that she has a wonderful way with words - her books Oh My Stars and Pluto & The Debris are testament to that!
I think everyone involved in Sapphic Fiction will be able to identify with what she's written here. Thank you for contributing, S-Jay!
Three years ago, I, like many of you, felt incredibly lost. Isolated by a pandemic and with a sudden influx of spare time on my hands I turned to a favourite hobby of mine…reading. I have always been an avid reader, of anything and everything. From novels, to peer-reviewed studies and even the back of cereal boxes. I have always loved stories that coincide with real-life experiences, but throw in a little romance too. What can I say? I'm a Leo, it’s a prerequisite to be a true romantic.
My first taste of WLW stories came from trawling through fanfiction.net way back in the day and even dabbling in writing some Doccubus/Calzona fan fiction of my own. But I never knew the true depths of what lingered out there until one day, while trawling through Kindle Unlimited I stumbled across a book called “Every Slow Song” by Erica Lee. Needless to say I was hooked.
I quickly devoured all of her books then discovered Melissa Tereze, Jourdyn Kelly, Lee Winter, Monica McCallan, Lucy Bexley and so many more wonderful women who were out there writing stories about women who love women. Not just stories but actual full length books. I didn’t have to wait weeks or months for chapter updates. These incredible writers were out there doing the goddesses work and I was so excited upon realising there was an extensive back catalogue waiting for me. These women were writing the romance I enjoyed reading and writing it in a way I could REALLY connect with the characters. There was hope.
I devoured over 3000 WLW books over the next twelve months. Not only that but I became a beta reader for many of these wonderfully talented humans and got to witness firsthand the skill they exhibit. Again I was enamoured.
I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it was that I had stumbled upon this fantastic community of women all helping each other thrive. Don’t get me wrong there are always people who don’t want to see others succeed and over the years I’ve seen the ups and downs of the community but even in those moments, there is always someone with their hand out ready to pick you up when you fall. There's always a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend when you have a question, and even a familiar face to call on should you need them. Some of these authors became my friends, some I’m lucky enough to call my found family. But all of them are people I admire. Because let’s be realistic here, who wouldn’t admire a collective of powerhouse females (and some pretty awesome trans men) who are carving a place for themselves and showing the world that you can be successful and live your dreams. Women who are showing that you don’t have to sit in waiting for a major publishing house to deem you worthy.
These stunningly talented humans grabbed their pens, computers and even their phones (I see you!) and showed the world they make their own rules. They write, design their own covers, learn the ins-and-outs of publishing, manage their own finances, take full creative control and all the while offer help to those starting out. They create safe spaces such as conventions where they offer masterclasses, participate in panels where they speak on their experiences and even mentor those of us wishing to learn about the industry. These women stand tall in an environment they were never meant to grow. They plant seeds in patchy gardens and bring colour to a genre that has been very black and white for years. They breathe life into the world with each book they publish. They breathe life into us… into me.
Last year I self-published my first novel and it’s achieved more than I ever could have imagined. I didn’t do it alone though. Some of these wonderful people helped me with formatting and beta reading, some with easing my fears about publishing, and some actually sat with me when I finally got the nerve to push “publish”. I sat on releasing my book for a while because as much as I knew my story had to be told I wanted to make sure it held up against the incredible writing already out there. I wanted to do these women justice. I didn’t want to stand on their shoulders, just a moment next to them was enough for me. But again I wasn’t let down. In fact, these strong, independent, talented humans lifted me up. Shared my book. Sent me well wishes. Asked me to participate in events. Then there were the readers, who are heroes too. People who took a chance on me like I did on those who came before me.
I don’t know what my life would have been like had I not discovered these authors and this community. I do know that I am thankful each and every day for their existence.
To the authors reading this who are struggling with your WIP, those panicking that you’re not reaching your word count…we will wait for you. For those of you who think this trope’s been done before…we want it, again and again. For those of you thinking that no one is going to read it… there's an audience for you. New readers will come. New authors will emerge too.
Keep stepping up. Keep throwing on your cape (even if your cape is a hoodie) and writing the books. Wave the flag. You’re changing lives with your words. I know, because you changed mine.
They say you never forget your first. Erica, thank you for Skylar and Kennedy and for making me believe I could be good enough.
To all of you powerhouse indie authors out there paving the way. YOU ARE THE HEROES WE DESERVE.