No Room For Envy

Last week I went to two different book signings for friends. Hank Phillippi Ryan is one of my Sisters in Crime, and Ilie Ruby and I took writing classes together years ago. Both of their books came out in hardback (which is a big deal), and they both had readings/signings (another big deal). I bought both books, and had them sign them. I couldn’t have been happier for them than if it had been me.

Really, I mean it. In this competitive, crazy business, I decided a long time ago that it was much better to celebrate the success of my friends than to envy them. I have three friends who have signed three book deals with Kensington in the past year. I can’t wait to go to their signings. When I know someone who has been nominated or won an award, I send them an email. And I talk about it on Facebook and Twitter. I sing about other’s success, with glee.

Now, this may have started out as paying it forward, waiting for my turn. But I’ve learned three things over the past decade, since I have been taking myself seriously as a writer.

  • Success takes a lot of hard work. Writing till all hours. Missing out on events. Making time when there is none. Everyone I know who has had success, has earned it.
  • There is plenty of room for everyone. Especially now, with small presses and digital publishing as options. Someone else having success does not diminish my chances.
  • Life, and this business, aren’t always fair.

And here’s one more.

  • Being happy for people is a lot more fun.

Do you have a writing goal? Find someone who has reached your goal, and celebrate their success.  Be genuinely happy for them.

It feels great.


J.A. Hennrikus is the Executive Director of StageSource. She is a mystery writer who’s short story, “Tag, You’re Dead” was published in Level Best Book’s anthology Thin Ice. “Her Wish” is in Level Best Books’ Dead Calm. And “The Pendulum Swings, Until It Doesn’t” will be in Blood Moon in November 2012. She is a huge social media fan, and tweets under @JulieHennrikus. She wrestles with allusions of athleticism, is an avid theater goer and a member of Red Sox nation. Her website is

8 thoughts on “No Room For Envy

  1. Timely post, especially since this past weekend I tripped over to Barnes & Noble to putz around. There were two authors at the front signing and promoting their books – Hilary Weisman Graham who’s written REUNITED (1 Concert, 2000 miles and 3 ex-Best Friends) and Kristen-Paige Madonia who’s written FINGERPRINTS OF YOU (an unexpectedly pregnant 17 year old who sets out on a journey to find the father she never knew).
    These were lovely, dow- to-earth writers. We spoke about publishing, the process of writing their books, their book tour, how readers are responding to their books, etc. I watched them interact with teens who made their way to their table, giving them advice about writing, talking about their stories, asking what they liked best.
    It IS very encouraging to speak with other writers making their way and to share in their excitement about their stories and their hopes. I bought both their young adult books – not only to read, but to give them support. First time out of the chute and as far as I’m concerned, they deserve it.
    I cannot for the life of me understand why anybody would begrudge another writer success or hold back supporting them in any way they can.
    You’re right. Is is FUN!

  2. I’ve thought of writing a book. Seriously worked on some blogging, read blogs like this one and decided maybe it wasn’t for me. At least not now. I can truly appreciate what goes into getting a book published. I find some sadness in that. But I have a friend, Carol Woodliff, who recently managed to publish her book FROM SCARED TO SACRED: LESSONS IN LEARNING TO DANCE WITH LIFE. I’m so proud of her. And while at times I wish it were me (as you mentioned in your comment above, not a good place to go in my head), I’m grateful and blessed to watch her story unfold. Supporting her makes me happy and I know she would do the same for me.

  3. This is a wonderful post! I struggled with envy as a new writer, since my best friend in grad school not only published books before I did, but went on to win pretty much every major literary award–she was even nominated for a National Book Award! But my very generous friend never, ever talked to me as anything less than a fellow writer, and through the years, I began to feel like one, eventually decided that, if I was writing, then dang it, I WAS a writer. Eventually I published, too, and I have always made it one of my goals to reach back and pull other struggling writers forward any way I can. Envy feels bad, like staying up all night and eating chips and drinking tequila–it’s fun to be furious, but then you have a headache for days. Helping others out, well, that’s pretty much like having a great day at the beach with your friends. And, hey, if other people weren’t writing great books, what would I read???

  4. What an uplifting and positive post. I think more people should have this outlook! Being supportive and genuinely happy for people in their success is definitely way more fun than being envious of what other people have earned. Being positive in general is way more fun than being negative. And if you truly want something, then you simply have to put in the time and the work, no one’s stopping you.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with bullet point number two about their being room for everyone! Technology is awesome in that it opens the doors for us to find and connect with authors who write exactly what we want to read about. Remember the Apple app store commercials, “there’s an app for that” well there’s definitely a book for that and finding it is easier now than ever before. Need I remind anyone of card catalogs?!

    Happy reading and writing to all.


  5. Absolutely agree! You’ve summed up my own thoughts pretty exactly, in fact.

    The sad part is that it is amazing how much evvy there is – certainly I see plenty of it here in New Zealand, where the writing field is small and where opportunities to (trad) publish are often limited. One result is an often vicious exclusiveness which can (and does) leak out into behaviours such as ‘hostile reviews’ in leading magazines, that do commercial damage to other authors. As I see it, much of the cause flows from the way the less generous authors validate themselves as people. All too often, they conflate that validation with their status in their chosen field of interest. Others working in the field become a threat to their own sense of persona – triggering responses that, however clad in intellectualism, are emotional.

    It seems to me that authors have two choices. Either they can view the field as a limited commodity – a fixed territory – consider others in the field as a threat to their own self-worth and income, and deliver all the loathing and creative invalidation they can muster. Then they can crawl to the top of the pile of broken debris and hatred they have created and feel proud they have made it theirs exclusively.

    Or – as you point out – they can view others as colleagues – friends – to be encouraged. Earn respect. Earn trust. Help build a bigger and positive-spirited community in which everyone can trust each other, everyone wins – and where the author ends up rising on the back of the support, respect and admiration they have fostered, all the way to the top of a far larger field. The territory is not limited; it grows with its contribution,

    As I told a friend of mine in the UK the other day, kindness is such a simple human virtue.

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