FAQ for writers

I’m writing this because, ten weeks before the launch of my first book, I am realizing that I have several outstanding requests from other writers that I just don’t have the capacity to fill as generously as I’d like to, and that the demand is likely to accelerate.  I hope this is somewhat helpful, if not quite the panacea one might desire.
In my own experience, the #1 way to get good advice and support for your writing is to be part of a community of writers and creative peers. By this I don’t mean a Facebook community (though I do love me some FB), but a real writing group, class, community group, open mic, creative organization, coach, and/or some combination of these, that meets regularly and keeps you in touch with people who are able to assist each other. 
If you are a writer of South Asian descent, I highly recommend getting involved in DesiLit, joining or organizing your local chapter, and attending one of the national DesiLit conferences that brings together writers, readers, and publishing professionals.
Q. I finished / am finishing / am working on a book.  Can you put me in touch with an agent / editor / someone in publishing?  
A. First of all, congratulations on your work, that’s fabulous!
Unless I already know you AND your work intimately, I’m afraid I do not feel comfortable recommending you to my agent. My friend Mary Anne Mohanraj has a more detailed response to this question on her website, including excellent advice to which I can’t really add anything.
There are many good resources on agents and publishing out there; Poets & Writers magazine is a good one to subscribe to if you’d like to stay on top of the latest trends for publishing your literary writing. P&W regularly features interviews with agents, calls for submissions, features on new writers, and other practical resources.
Q. Can you read my work / my manuscript?

A. Like you, I’m a working writer who needs to carve out time for writing amid many other activities, including wage-earning ones. I love to coach other writers through various stages of the writing process, and I love to read and critique manuscripts. I am lucky to be able to do this work for a fee.  (Sometimes I’m also open to barter/trade for your skills in exchange for mine.)  Right now I am taking a break from that work until after my book tour, so if you’re interested in working with me, please do get in touch after May 2009. 
Meanwhile, I highly recommend the services of Kristy Lin Billuni. She is warm, incisive, sharp, talented, affordable, and super-fun to work with: everything you’d want in a manuscript midwife.
Please note that neither Kristy’s nor my services include connecting you to an agent/editor/etc. You should be suspicious of any manuscript consultant who charges money for such connections.
Q. Do you have any writing advice?

A. Well, it’s hard to give generic advice. Again, finding or forming your own writing community, and/or hiring someone to help you, are really the two best ways (imho) to get advice at the level you need it.  I did both in order to write my book, and I found it was well worth every minute and penny that I invested in these activities.
I’ve also found books on writing and creativity to be helpful. The books I turn to again and again are:
  • The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron – on finding and holding to your creative path.
  • Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg – on writing as a practice, with easy, repeatable exercises for generating new work.
  • Unstuck, by Jane Anne Staw – on working through creative blocks.
And there are plenty of others out there.
I wish you the best, and know you’re already on the right track by reaching out to the universe for help, support, and creative validation.