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The Karma of Creativity

How does giving back fuel writing fiction?

Ann Garvin
Source: Ann Garvin

Contributed by Ann Garvin, founder of Tall Poppy Writers

The Tall Poppy Writers is a group of women writers I assembled to support each other in building an audience of thoughtful readers. We often hear from our readers how stories involving empathy, kindness, and selfless giving to others have impacted their lives. It soon became a natural extension of our group—both the writers and readers—to give back to the larger community, raising money for girls’ education and literacy in third-world countries. I asked some of the Tall Poppies how they think creativity and giving back are connected. This is what I heard:

“Because of my books, I have been able to reach survivors of domestic abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, abandonment, bullying, and incarceration. Additionally, I have been invited to meet with groups of people who have not had these direct experiences but who want to help. By sharing stories and honest communication, we build empathy and inspire positive action.” —Julie Cantrell, author of The Feathered Bone

"Releasing art into the world—whether your medium is the written word, oil paints, dance, or other—is an inherently generous gesture. There's something selfless about letting go of your work with the hope that it connects with at least one person while risking criticism and rejection by many more. It's no surprise that some of the most creative people I know are also the most generous." —Amy Impellizzeri, author of Secrets of Worry Dolls

“My Mom blogger motto is #kindnessrocks. Hell or high water, my team works to expose meanness and turn it on its head. The beauty of the Tall Poppies is that I feel so at home — writing, sharing, laughing, and baring my literary soul in a place that is safe, creative, and above all, kind." —Lisa Barr, author of Fugitive Colors

“Before I was an author, I was a grief and trauma counselor, working with children of cancer patients. Art therapy was my primary means of communication with those children. My experience bore out this truth: taking an internal experience—even one that has, at its core, a wretched genesis—and manifesting it as an external object that has value and even, perhaps, an unexpected beauty, is a universally positive process. Creativity is transformative.” —Ellen Urbani, author of Landfall

“Giving back for me has meant teaching writing in a prison, offering free workshops at my library, and working for years at a conference where I connected writers with agents. The bonus is when readers feel less alone, more understood by something that I have written. Huge bonus.” —Jacqueline R. Sheehan, author of The Tiger In The House

“Karma connects creativity and giving back. You volunteer, help others, treat the barista with respect, try to be kind, and when you sit down to write, your imagination turns on like a friendly lightning bolt to the brain. Nothin’ beats karma.” — Cathy Lamb, author of 10 novels

Ann Garvin is the bestselling author of I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around, and two other novels. She is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater and taught in the Southern New Hampshire University MFA program. Her essays have been published in Writer’s Digest, USA Today, and many other publications, and she has performed in Listen To Your Mother and The Moth.