Tomorrow is William Shakespeare's 449th birthday. I'm going to say something nice about him and it took me nearly an hour to find one. And that seems to be the one and only "positive" thing associated with him.
According to history.com, Shakespeare had inspired an American fan to introduce every bird mentioned in his works to his country. Out of the 600 and more references on birds, Eugene Schiffelin, who belonged to the American Acclimatization Society in New York, only imported those absent in America. The society was founded in 1871 to introduce plants and animals from Europe to North America.
Schiffelin imported 60 starlings (debuted in "Henry IV, Part 1") from England and released them in New York's Central Park in 1890. His goodwill, however, had caused problem today. The starlings had multiplied to more than 200 million in the United States. They not only dominate the skies and become a public nuisance but also threaten the lives of native birds.
I was flipping through the book "Some Writers Deserve to Starve! 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry"
when a chapter caught my attention - Truth 12: Writers Rarely Help other Writers.
When I just started writing freelance full time in 2007, I had
never thought about helping other writers. In the first place, I had no experience and no contact to share with other writers. But If I had them, I'd gladly offer to any writers who wanted them. In her aforesaid book, Elaura Niles noted that beginning writers are more willing to share information and "help each other up the ladder of success" than established writers. Her logic is this: "The lesser you have, the lesser you feel you have to lose". Realistically speaking, she is right.
Now in my fifth year of writing, I have amassed a lot of contacts and experiences and according to Niles, I'll have more to lose if I were to share them with other writers. However, Niles has also cautioned against the pitfall of negativity. "It distracts you from the true goal, writing. Which,
in turn, will make you even more negative. It's the classic vicious circle."
Last year, I recommended my writer friend A to my editor for an assignment that I didn't have the time to do. Shortly after that, I came to know that A took over my other assignment with that publication. I didn't become bitter about it; bitterness is a deadly negativity and I don't want it in my life.
When I made that recommendation, I knew A was struggling financially as a beginning freelance writer. The thing about helping fellow writers is you have to know why you're helping them. If they are your close friends, helping one another is part of friendship. It wasn't A's fault that my editor "dropped" me; it could be that A's writing and rate are better than mine. Nevertheless, I moved on with my writing. Few months later, the same editor contacted me and gave me back my assignment.
"A bee goes to the flowers for the nectar. He doesn't know he is serving the greater good by pollinating. The good of an action is often not seen by the person perpetuating it. Try anyway. Trust your instincts. Expect nothing in return. Be surprised if fruit shows up later." Elaura Niles
Helping other writers needs not necessarily be the sharing of contacts and experiences. When I'm not writing I help out at an independent bookstore. The owner counts on me to display the shop's window. Last month, I took the opportunity to showcase the books of local authors as the media was debating about literature and local authors. One of the books that I had picked was a children book by a lawyer-turned writer, Patricia Chew whom I befriended at a book fair. Patricia has written two books on animals; her first book was self-published. Because of that she has to promote it on her own. She stood for hours cajoling people to buy her books while struggling to keep her bag stuffed with promotional materials in place on her lean shoulder. My heart went out to her.
The writing community in Singapore is small and writers are struggling to make a living out of their passion. It is important that local writers help, encourage and inspire one another. I don't believe that you should force yourself to buy books that you won't read in the name of support. But you can always share them on your social networking sites when you come across new local titles. My best friend is an aspiring novelist and now helps me with Booktique. We email each other writing opportunities and inspiring quotes on writing.
"Pass along the good deed. Even if you have limited contacts, share. If you help someone, let those who helped you know that you were inspired by them (it's the bee thing)." Elaura Niles
When writers are approached by other writers for help , we often think of the negative consequences of our kindness. But helping other writers can be helping yourself too. Earlier this year, I accepted a big project with an incredibly tight deadline. I hired several freelance writers (including my best friend) to help me. Without them, I couldn't have completed it on time.
Next time that you are in a dilemma over helping other writers, listen to Niles: "Always keep your mind and eyes open. Just as the bee doesn't know his effect on the world, often we don't either, but if you pay attention, sometimes you may catch a glimpse of the big picture."
The Logos Hope is the world's largest floating bookstore with over 5,000 titles including Christian books. Run by a German charity organization, the onboard book fair is part of its mission to bring books to countries where books are less accessible.
Books are processed in a warehouse in Florence, USA before they are delivered to the Logos Hope and are sold at below recommended retail prices.
The staff and crew on board the Logos Hope are all volunteers from over 45 countries and are unpaid during their one or two-years' onboard service. Though they are all volunteers, they meet the standard required by the international maritime regulations.
Even the Captain is unpaid.
So how does the Logos Hope remain sustainable?
Half of the funding needed comes from the sponsorship of personnel on board given by friends, family and other supporters. Hence, applicants have to secure their own financial sponsorship before joining the Logos Hope. Another quarter of the funding comes from the sale of books and non-book items (such as souvenirs) in the onboard book fair. The last quarter comes from gifts and donations given by individuals, trusts, foundations and community groups.
Whenever the Logos Hope sails to a country, it also helps to set up libraries in local schools, children’s homes, and other community organizations. Since 2004, it has distributed more than 3
million books and had more than 2.5 million visitors onboard.
Based on their schedule, the Logos Hope is now in Dry Dock, Hong Kong till 13th May, 2013. Thereafter, it will set sail to other parts of Asia. Sadly, it is not sailing to Singapore; the closest is to Malaysia, Kuching.
Photo source: GBA ships