Tuesday Therapy: The Art and Obligations of the Favour

I’ve been running these Tuesday Therapy posts since November, when I was inspired by my dear friend Angela’s comment that “you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.” Man, that is such a fantastic quote! So I blithely started this series, thoroughly enjoying all of the posts about writing we’ve had so far — and looking forward to all the great ones yet to come!

But I wanted to properly invite Angela to participate in the series — after all, the ‘elephant’ advice was completely spontaneous — so I’m delighted to share her Therapy session on The Art of the Favour with you today.

Angela Slatter is the author of so many incredible short stories it’s actually hard to keep track at this stage. In 2010, she had two collections published, Sourdough & Other Stories with Tartarus Press (UK) and The Girl with No Hands & Other Tales (Ticonderoga Publications). Two collections in one year! AND Sourdough was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award, while The Girl With No Hands took home the Aurealis Award for Best Collection 2010. If you haven’t read these books yet, but love beautiful fairy tale retellings, dark fantasy, and strong female characters, then go track them down immediately. It’s okay — we’ll wait. You will adore them.

Favour [noun] = an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.

An essential part of building a supportive community – indeed part of getting anything done – is the favour. I don’t mean cash in brown paper bags or Strangers on a Train kinds of favours … no, I mean the favours that help people along in their writing career.

Things like professional advice and critiquing, or letting someone know there’s an anthology their work might fit or if a publishing house has an open reading period. Pass on opportunities because one day someone might do the same thing for you. Higher level favours may take the form of introductions to editors, publishers, agents and other authors. It might be judiciously extending invitations to writerly functions to help people make connections and create networks – the caveat is, of course, don’t drag along an entourage of forty-two wide-eyed newbies, manuscripts clutched in their sweaty hands, who devour the cheap wine and the dollhouse canapés like a plague of locusts (people will remember you brought them).

As the definition says, a favour is an act of kindness. If someone has extended a favour specifically to you (the favouree), it’s really bad form to then pass it on to someone else – someone the original favourer does not know. At least ask permission. Favours are extended because someone met you, liked you, thought you have the potential to go further if only you get a helping hand – favours are personal. Do not re-gift favours.

Indeed, when offering a favour, make sure it’s yours to give. Don’t provide someone’s contact details without their permission. Don’t offer someone else’s reading and critiquing services on their behalf – professional writers are professionals because they arrange their lives in order to have time to write. Any time they devote to favours is time they choose cut out of their writing schedule – you don’t get to do that for them. Don’t assume that anyone, let alone a professional writer, is sitting around scratching her/his arse just waiting for you to send her/him your magnum opus for free reading/editing/sending to agent/publisher, etc.

Favours are not things that you are owed by the Universe.

Remember if someone has done a favour for you, don’t make them regret it. Don’t take it for granted. If you’re ever able, pay it back in some way. Don’t just be a favour-sponge, always taking and never giving. Send a little writing sugar back out into the community, help others on the way up the ladder. It’s good for your karma and you may want folk to remember you kindly at a later date.

Be professional, be gracious and for the love of all that’s holy, unholy and even vaguely tref, remember your manners and say ‘thank you’.

Angela Slatter is a Brisbane-based writer of speculative fiction. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies such as Jack Dann’s Dreaming Again, Tartarus Press’ Strange Tales II, Twelfth Planet Press’ 2012, Dirk Flinthart’s Canterbury 2100, and in journals such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Shimmer, ONSPEC and Doorways Magazine. Her work has had several Honourable Mentions in the Datlow, Link, Grant Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies #20 and #21 and the Datlow Year’s Best Horror anthologies, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Aurealis Awards five years in a row.

In 2012, she will have another collection of short stories, a collaboration with friend and writing-partner-in-crime, Lisa L Hannett. Midnight and Moonshine will be published by Ticonderoga Publications. You can visit her website here or find her on Twitter @AngelaSlatter.



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