One thing that's struck me, reading blog posts like this one by Book Chic and this one by Brian Kell and this one by Courtney Sheinmel and many, many, many more like it, is the ripple effect that people have on those around them. Maybe that ripple effect is more pronounced in the age of social networking; maybe it's more pronounced in the lives of writers, whose job is communication. I've now read dozens of stories about the ways in which L.K. Madigan touched her fellow writers, her readers, her agent ... people she met, and people she never met. The outpouring has been so strong that her husband has decided to keep her blog open; please follow this link to read his words.
It emphasizes the effect we have, and can have, on one another. The time taken to share a kind word, answer an email, extend a helping hand, is time well spent. People remember those things and cherish them. I'm a writer, and my main body of work is novels and short stories. But I think the time I spend blogging and commenting on forums and answering email is valuable, too: not because I'm trying to build a "platform" or sell books, but because I'm interacting with people in a way that matters. Sure, internet time can involve some joking around and the sending of silly cat pictures, but 1) there's a lot more than that going on here and 2) sometimes we need silly cat pictures.
Another untimely passing this week was that of a YA writer whom I didn't know at all, but whose novel I enjoyed: Perry Moore. A couple of years ago, Moore's book Hero won a Lambda Literary Award as a best novel for gay and lesbian young adults. I would bet it was greatly appreciated by gay and lesbian teens who hunger to see more characters like themselves in mainstream fiction, in addition to being appreciated by those of us who found it a fun read.
The thing about writing is that we just never know where our words will go. When I was growing up, in the pre-internet age, I rarely had any contact with authors. I think I wrote one fan letter. I couldn't look at my favorite writers' websites, follow them on Twitter, comment on their blogs. I treasured their books, memorized their words, and they never had any idea. Even now, in the networking age, we will only ever see a small portion of reader response to our books and to the things we say online.
Our job is to keep putting out words that say something, that mean something, and hope they find their home.