As a counselor, I'm always thrilled when someone publishes a book on a topic that's useful to kids, especially when it's written in an accessible style, and by someone whose work I admire. As an author, I'm downright depressed when that book is on the same topic as a book that I'm working on, and even worse, takes a similar approach. My stomach churns, my heart breaks. It's one of the very few times I feel competitive about writing.
I know that sounds strange - in an economy that exacerbates the "so many manuscripts, so few homes" world of publishing, how can an author feel anything but competitive?
But in my experience, writers are giving people, the very embodiment of the concept of paying it forward. If I succeed, I help you succeed, and that helps both of us to be successful.
But can that happen when non-fiction writers are tackling the same topic? When I picked up the book in question, I could practically hear doors slamming. The very book that hadn't existed when I proposed mine now not only existed, it was good. Did that mean mine was now extraneous, irrelevant?
I hope not. Time will tell. There are other publishers, other audiences, other possibilities.
And perhaps, other books.