THE REAL MVPS
A Letter to My Readers by Stacy Campbell
Where would an author be without readers? Alone and stuck with manuscripts and ideas, that’s where. Before putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, I was an avid reader. There is something about an author’s ability to tell a story, transport the reader to a new world, or give pause about taboo or foreign topics that still blows my mind. With social media interaction and more stories being turned into movies, readers are able to reach out to their favorite authors and tell them how they feel about their literary offerings, sprinkle them with words of encouragement, or sneak in story ideas on the low.
Alex Haley encouraged me to write years ago. Mr. Haley, the guest speaker at an Arts lecture at Albany State College, mesmerized the crowd of students as he shared how he’d “scrunch down” on the front porch of his family’s Henning, Tennessee, home and listen to his elders spin yarns about the past and his lineage. He shared how long it took to write Roots. As he named his elders one by one, I felt a kinship with him; I recalled my elders telling their tales of triumphs and woes. After receiving his autograph, I told him how much I enjoyed his writing and that I hoped to write a book someday. After scribbling his autograph in one of my composition notebooks, he said, “Keep at it and don’t give up. You’ll write that book someday.” I heard him, but I didn’t believe him. After all, the discipline it took to write seemed as distant to me as riding to the moon on a Harley. Wasn’t gonna happen.
Over time, I’d write ideas on napkins, handwrite a few chapters, formulate a plot or two, but fear and negative self-talk convinced me I didn’t have the stamina to write books. I told myself being a reader was good enough and I could support authors who were doing their thing.
Fast forward to 2002. I set sail on a ship with other avid readers for the Summit At Sea. Terry McMillan’s Waiting To Exhale had broken publishing records, received numerous awards and ushered in a magnificent wave of African-American authors who garnered contracts, movie deals, and represented a new platform that chronicled our stories. I buzzed around the ship with the likes of Trisha R. Thomas, Timmothy McCann, Travis Hunter, Tracy Price-Thompson, and Valerie Rose to name a few. Notably, Trisha R. Thomas had gotten word that Halle Berry optioned the rights to her novel, Nappily Ever After. Every writer I met thanked me for reading their work and encouraged me to tell the stories inside me. When I made it back to land in Florida, I decided I’d write or die trying.
It took eleven years after the cruise for my first book, Dream Girl Awakened, to be published, and I can say hands down my readers keep me going. They are the real MVPs. Whether it’s someone reaching out to me to say they could identify with a character or that they saw relatives or friends in my work, or that they flat-out hated what they read, my readers prop me up when I’m stuck, when my characters don’t want to talk, or negative self-talk rears its vicious tongue in my head. There are millions of books on the planet! Readers have unlimited options to entertain themselves. I swell with gratitude and appreciation each time someone tells me they’ve read my work. I do the Snoopy dance when someone tells me they spread the word about one of my books. I’m still growing on this journey, but it didn’t take long to recognize if no one reads your work, you’re in for a lonely ride. To the MVPs, I salute, value, and treasure you!