A Whole Lotta Gratitude by Joy Preble

One of the first things I say in almost  every workshop I conduct for aspiring writers and those new to this crazy business is to say THANK YOU. Often I quote Mark Twain, who once observed that the world owes us nothing.

I tell that last part to students, too, when I visit schools and classrooms. It tends to be the scariest, most annoying thing I say, mostly because we want so strongly to believe otherwise. I love a good meritocracy as much as the next girl, but the truth is, it doesn't always work out that way.

You write the novel of your heart and it doesn't get front listed. You give your all to a job and then company politics change and out you go. You are the most qualified candidate but the other guy gets more votes. Someone else lies and cheats and panders and beats you to the finish line. And on like that.

That's how it goes. But to quote my late Uncle Harry who was given to abrupt turns of phrase, "So what?" Uncle Harry had come to America after WW2 with absolutely nothing. He'd grown up privileged, lost it all and much of his family to the Nazis. He built back a comfortable life here, and despite his gruffness (that's a nice way of saying it) he was generous with family and friends. He knew that anything could be taken from anyone at any moment and it made him this fascinating mixture of angry and kind. As I type this, I think he is part of why in my writing I am so interested in what happens to people when the rug gets pulled out from under them, when they lose everything, or at least the important stuff.

And so. I'm grateful for so many things. For family that makes me laugh and love. For my tribe of creatives who keep me pushing to the next story. How lucky am I to have done a different job (teaching) and now have this other life of writing and books on shelves that at some points in time I only dreamed of. If you are reading this and you came to your dream job early in life,  bravo! If like me, you wandered for a while, bravo to you, too! I am beyond grateful for my even newer job as a bookseller and programming director at a lovely indie bookstore. Thankful for colleagues there who are all thoughtful and funny and clever and hardworking and generous and goofy. Thankful for the smarty-pants doctors who got rid of my thyroid cancer eight years ago and who nipped it in the bud last year when it tried to sneak back.

I'm grateful to have seven (7!!) books on shelves and to finally have figured out how to write this current one that I've been struggling with. Thankful to editors and agents and all those people behind the scenes. And to every critique partner who tells me when I'm writing crappy stuff. Everyone needs people who tell them when they're doing it wrong. Yeah, really.

Keep at it, my friends.
Til next time.


  1. This post made me stop and think.... What you said about your uncle being this fascinating mix of angry and kind... and what you said about everybody needed people who tell them when they're doing it wrong. Food for thought!

  2. Yes! Keep at it. I was also really struck by the description of your uncle. There's got to be a book there.


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