A thousand unseen helping hands


I’ve practically worn out a chair at the Maryland Historical Society’s library.

How did you become a writer? Or a reader, for that matter?

How did I get here? All those unseen hands. Sure, I’ve got the hands that have worn out the letter A on my laptop from hours of tapping out new stories, ideas, synopses, query letters. But I can never forget the unseen hands.

Some of them I know. My daughter Gina introduced me to NaNoWriMo. The folks at NaNoWriMo encouraged me (and millions of other scribblers) that we could, yes indeed, write a novel with pep talks, blog posts and links to organizations ready to help. (Some for a fee.)

When I said I was retiring to do this, my husband Ray said OK. He didn’t scoff, question or raise a single eyebrow. He finds books with details about the time period I’m writing about, goes on my research trips, brings me coffee for my early morning writing sessions.

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Who else? The list is so long. Museum curators, librarians by the score, parking lot attendants, even the police officer who told me where to find my car after it was impounded while I was researching a WIP. So many historians who write, collect, store, preserve and exhibit the countless items that spark some little idea for my story.


Etui at the New Orleans antique shop

Even an antique store in New Orleans where I saw ephemera from the lives of George and Martha Washington and the gem-encrusted etui where 18th Century ladies kept their sewing needles.

As for the actual act of writing. Where do I begin to list all those hands? My grandmother was the first to tell me I could be a writer. I must have been six. And all the English teachers who demanded my best: Mrs. St. Cyr, Miss Trueschler, Professors Korenman, Glick and Meszaros, my political science professor Dr. Brenner. Communications teachers Sister Sharon Dei and Jack Dawson. They all got me writing. With confidence.

I had editors, fellow journalists, even a college friend who connected me to Frommer’s. If I hadn’t written for them for a dozen years I don’t think I’d be writing historical fiction. I went to so many historical places in my travel guide days. So inspiring.


One of the Maryland Romance Writers’ great features is their writers stage at the Baltimore Book Festival.

The writing community, I had discovered, is so supportive. I wrote a newspaper article about the Maryland Romance Writers and one of their members said, “You should come.” I laughed because I didn’t write novels. And then I came. Not because I wanted to write romance (although it’s fun to write so I do) but because these were serious, creative writers who knew how to get their books out into the world. I love them all.

When I needed a critique group, it was there waiting for me. More unseen hands. Some of these dear, talented ladies even get up every morning for early writing sessions with me. And they say things like, “I’m so proud of you.”

We don’t write alone. We count on agents and editors and publishers who care even if they say no. We love the ones who say yes. I need my attorney to read my contracts and the artists who illustrate my work.

My kids and sisters read my stuff in its many incarnations. My father sent copies of my first novel to relatives and a writing friend of my mother. He listened to the audio book I recorded for him. Twice. My aunt said it was good enough to be a movie. And I got four roses from the Romance Novel Addicts Anonymous and a shout out from CBS Local.

So many unseen hands. I thank them all.

Tell me. Who have been your unseen hands?

The quote that prompted this giant “thank you,”  “A thousand unseen hands” is attributed to philosopher Joseph Campbell. I read it in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.



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