Cathy Shuter - Talking To Children About Death And Dying

Many writers touch on ‘big themes’ in their fiction – life, death, loss, etc. – but it’s another thing entirely to write about them without characters to hide behind. Cathy Shuter has done just that with her latest book: 100 Free Ways To Happier Days! 'Talking To Children About Death And Dying.'I caught up with her in cyberspace to talk about her work.

Hi Cathy, thanks for joining me. I can see from your Amazon page that your latest book is part of a wider series. What prompted you to write specifically about death and dying for children?

I work with children and young people in my role as a Wellbeing Caseworker. Quite a number of them have experienced relatives and friends being very ill and dying. They find that their parents and carers avoid talking to them about what is happening and this often leads to them feeling anxious and afraid. 

Talking to parents and carers revealed that many know they really should talk to their children when their loved ones are seriously ill but they don’t know how to bring the subject up. They want to shield their children from being upset.

I thought that a book offering tips on how to tackle this subject would be useful. 

Did you approach writing this book in a similar way to your previous works?

Yes. My books offer 100 free or very inexpensive tips that people can use to help them tackle a variety of issues. Other themes my books have covered include: coping with anxiety, how to approach Menopause, how to feel happier working in schools, and how to deal with transition to college from school. 

Each book is designed to be quick and easy to read. People can try the tips that appeal to them and skip the ones that don’t. 

Were there any particular challenges in creating this book?

One challenge was making the tips relevant to all ages and stages of development. Children develop at different rates so I wanted to ensure that the tips would be helpful to all ages. 

What are your goals for 100 Free Ways To Happier Days! 'Talking To Children About Death And Dying'?

When I wrote the book, I wanted my writing to be accessible, quick to read and the ideas easy to apply. My goal has been to create a book that is helpful to as many parents and carers as possible. I have produced it as cheaply as I can so that cost is not a barrier. 

Were there any influences or defining experiences that made you want to become a writer?

I love reading personal development books and have learnt a lot from them so I wanted to share what I have learnt with others. I have an informal writing style that can appeal to people that don’t usually read personal development books. 

What have been your highs and lows in independent publishing?

For me, publishing my own books is thrilling. I love that a book can be created just from ideas that pop into my head. The thoughts and ideas get translated into sentences that I type using my laptop and the book is drafted. If someone buys my book it gets printed and sent out. My thoughts have become a thing!

The lows are connected with marketing. I am not very good at selling myself! 

Reading your Amazon page I get a sense of a spiritual core or impetus to your work. Could you shed any light on that?

Yes, I would consider myself to be a spiritual person. I believe we are all connected and on this planet to learn from and help one another. My books are based around that core belief. 

You’ve written two books that have a connection to Autism Spectrum Disorder. What would you most like people to understand about ASD?

I would like people to understand that no two people with ASD are the same. Each individual has their own unique challenges but they also have their own unique gifts to share with the world. 

How important is a connection to Nature for you as a person and as a writer?

I find being in Nature very grounding. When I walk the dogs in a wood, I feel incredibly peaceful. I like wild places such as The New Forest. I believe that we all benefit from visiting wild places. 

Many of my books touch upon the importance of using our senses, living in the moment and surrounding ourselves with Nature as often as possible. 

What book are you working on at the moment?

I am working on another ‘100 Free Ways To Happier Days’ type book. This one is intended to help children and young people to feel safe and benefit from being online.

Where can we find out more about you and your writing? 

My Trusty Life Coaching Facebook page features my writing and has some Facebook Live videos that talk about them:

I also have a page called ‘Reading And Writing About Life’ that features all things book related:

I have a blog that includes my Cloud Thoughts Blog. This has links to all my writing to date:

All my books can be found here:

What books and authors have inspired you?

The first personal development book I read inspired me so much. It was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I find Sonia Choquette’s books inspiring too. The Book Of Joy by the 14thDalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu stopped me in my tracks. It is simply beautiful. 

Reflections on Writing

Writers create stories but those stories also reflect something back - sometimes it's insight; sometimes it's the fading outline of an event that really happened (give or take a few details like names, people, places and chronology). And sometimes, if we're really lucky and keep our minds still for long enough, stories suggest possibilities for other stories.

I've rarely met a writer who sets off on a creative journey with a detailed plan for a series safely stored away, along with their compass and rations. I'm sure it must happen, statistically speaking, but the writers I am fortunate to know look forward to the unexpected - the character who talks back to the writer (it happens more than you might think), the unplanned plot twist that leaves an answered question (even after 'the end'), or a detail that comes to light and begs to be explored. What do you mean, he has a sister?

As it is on the page, so it is in life. The unanticipated is opportunity in disguise. Maybe not the one we wanted, or even deserved, but time and again we read about the tragedy or triumph that sintered someone to write their story (or someone else's!). Who hasn't;t read about the rejected novel that led - circuitously, perhaps - to the one that was accepted? No guarantees of course, other than that the surest way for a writer to block all opportunity is to stop writing.

I've tended to pigeonhole myself as a writer, either by genre or whether it was, strictly speaking, creative writing at all. For example, you can tie yourself in knots over the creative merit of copywriting and still come out none the wiser. I spent years (I was tempted to put that word in bold) on a fantasy novel that then became a magical fantasy novel, and then struggled to see outside its bounds. There were short stories, hidden away in old exercise books and never shared, angst-ridden poetry that - regrettably - was shared and morphed into angst-ridden lyrics (I still know the tunes; I caught myself singing one of the songs last week), and some notes for a future transatlantic novel about real life. That novel is a story I'd never told because, frankly, I didn't think anyone would believe it. I didn't believe it and I was there when it happened. And then came one of those opportunities - a novel writing summer school that showed me how to unlearn my approach and miraculously unlocked new voices with their own stories to tell. Five novels later I'm not convinced their stories are complete, but that, as they say, is another story entirely.

My new novel stalled for months, interrupted by life and death. Well, death mainly, but let's not dwell on that - other people's stories and all... My protagonists haven't learned to trust me yet. Who can blame them when they were neglected for so long. We are strangers in the same room, forced to make polite conversation until we either build up a rapport or at least one of us leaves. But the price of that is a life unlived and a story untold. 

Meanwhile, the characters in that other novel, loosely based upon the past, look out across the mists of time and patiently their turn. I've done my part; now it's up to an agent.

I hope the writing journey continues to surprise me - success, or failure, or all points in between. No one ever really knows where anything will lead and that's part of the attraction. As I often quote myself: "The price of adventure is uncertainty." 

The Armageddon Complex by Richard Godwin

Close to the Bone's latest thriller, "The Armageddon Complex" by Richard Godwin, will be released January 29th, 2019. 

The city is being taken over by an organisation so secretive that no one has heard of them. British secret services scramble for information and a biochemist protégé works on an antidote that will save Britain from the lethal pathogen that is sweeping its streets. I

In a post Brexit Britain, the UK is falling apart, and it takes one man to stop it – meet Mike Banks: MI6's top agent 

About the author

Visionary artist, multi genre novelist specialising in crime and noir, poet, playwright, narrator, and revolutionary thinker – Richard Godwin is the critically acclaimed author of over 20 books, and has stories published in numerous magazines and over 34 anthologies. 

Born in London and lectured in English and American literature at the University of London, Richard is the founder of The Horus Club. 

Books: Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour, One Lost Summer, Noir City, Meaningful Conversations, Confessions Of A Hit Man, Paranoia And The Destiny Programme, Wrong Crowd, Savage Highway, Ersatz World, The Pure And The Hated, Disembodied, Buffalo And Sour Mash, Locked In Cages, Portrait of An Assassin, Android Love Human Skin, Insincerity, Confessions of a Gigolo, Twisted Love, and The Armageddon Complex.

Travelling in the Dark by Emma Timpany

Emma Timpany is the author of Travelling in the Dark, a novella published by Fairlight Books. A local launch will be held at the Falmouth Bookseller, Church St, Falmouth on 23 October at 6pm. All welcome. Emma has previously published two short story collections and has recently co-edited Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing.
How did you start writing?
I started writing a regular diary from the age of eleven. It was in those pages that I began experimenting with words. I mainly wrote poetry, as it was my first love, as well as bits of prose. I attended my first creative writing class, a summer school, while I was a student at the University of Otago. After graduating, I continued going to evening classes in London and Cornwall and eventually my first short story was published in 2010. So from the beginning to my first publication was a slow process which gradually unfolded over almost thirty years.
Did you always want to be a writer? 
Yes, but for a long time I didn’t think that it was possible. There was so much I didn’t know and I had little time to put into it. When my children started school, I began to have regular time to write and joined a local writers’ group. All my life I’ve loved reading fiction; I feel it’s important for writers to be readers.
You have experience in editing other people’s work. Do you think this helps you in your own writing? 
It’s something I’ve only started doing relatively recently, working as an editor on Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing. I enjoyed it a great deal because it’s very collaborative. The writers I’ve worked with have been pleased to have close attention paid to their work and are happy to make changes they see as improvements. I feel the same way when my own work is sympathetically edited.
The general editing notes I make are always suggestions – there’s no onus on the writer to accept them if they don’t want to – and alongside these I pick up on any typos or unintended errors.
How is editing someone else’s work different from editing your own writing? 
It’s much easier to edit someone else’s work because the writing is new, fresh and unfamiliar to me. Even a relatively brief short story of my own of, say, 2,000 words, might go through as many as fifty drafts before it’s finished. By this time, when I read the work I will miss even obvious errors, seeing what I want or expect to be there rather than what actually is there. One challenge as an editor is trying to stay true to the writer’s unique voice and not to impose my own ideas and style too forcefully. I’d sum up my editorial approach as ‘a keen eye and a light touch’.
You’ve previously written short stories. How do short story and novella genres compare to you as a writer?
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately and, in fact, have started to feel as though they share a great deal in common.
It’s something to do with their succinctness – they are both intense, concentrated forms which gain power from withholding information and not spelling everything out, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps and absences themselves. In both short stories and novellas, everything is pared down to its essence and sometimes becomes more than the sum of its parts.
Another trait they share is that novellas and short stories can be read in one sitting and so it’s possible to hold them in your mind in their entirety.
If you could describe Travelling in the Dark in one word what would it be? 
What inspired you to write Travelling in the Dark?
The inspiration came after I travelled to New Zealand after an absence of seven years with my husband and two young children, a year after the devastating Christchurch earthquake of February 2011. As we went back to lots of places familiar to me, it occurred to me that – while I was flooded with memories of the past – my children had no idea what had happened in those places. So the journey we were making was happening on many different levels at the same time, in the visible present and the potent past.
It also struck me that whatever difficulties we go through as adults, parents of young children have no choice but to keep going and carry out many practical, repetitive and tedious tasks each day whether they feel like it or not. Some might consider this a terribly mundane and unimportant subject to write about, but in this story the love and care that Sarah can continue to give her child in the present day acts as a powerful antidote to both her present and past suffering. Some might even say it’s heroic.
The nature descriptions in Travelling in the Dark are breath-taking. Did you choose New Zealand as a setting for this reason?
My home landscapes of Otago, Southland and Fiordland in southern New Zealand have always been the main inspiration for my writing. It’s a wild, unique and beautiful place but also threatening and intimidating. The immense power of the natural world dominates and makes human life seem small in comparison.
The places mentioned in your novella are mostly fictional. Did you base the descriptions on any real places in New Zealand?
Yes, all the fictional places are based on real places but most have been changed in some way, some merged, along with the possible routes Sarah can take. I wanted to do this as I’m aware it’s easy for people to assume that fiction is actually thinly disguised ‘fact’ or ‘the truth.’ I wanted to signal very strongly that these are fictional characters and fictional events occurring in a fictional place.
You describe many different types of scenery in your novella (New Zealand, Greece, etc.) When you are writing these passages do you recall the places from your memory or does it help to have a picture of them in front of you?
Interesting question. I write from memory rather than from actual visual images. I feel as though I can ‘see’ these places just by thinking about them. It’s very important to me for not only memory but imagination to play its part in the creation of fiction and have free rein. Imagination and the creative process are powerfully transformative, changing what once had some basis in reality into new and interesting shapes and patterns. What I’m writing is not factual, and I find it fascinating to see the alterations and versions my imagination makes.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned through your writing? 
That writing is extremely hard work, but true freedom – which is incredibly rare in this world – is to be found there. In what other occupation can you become anyone or go anywhere?
The act of creation is powerful and addictive and, when it’s going well, can seem the best feeling in the world. The stakes feel very high to me between success and failure, what I want to achieve and the actual result. I spend most of my time rewriting, polishing, perfecting and cutting anything unnecessary out, whereas what I love best is writing new work.
When I am happy with what I’ve written or, on the rare occasion, a story is gifted into my mind and flows out, as if something other than me is speaking through me, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s like being able to fly. But when things aren’t going well, it can be very bad. Light and dark, yet again, something I always come back to – the brighter the light, the darker its opposite. I try to be patient and realise that silence, frustration and rejection are all part of a writer’s life, even after publication.
What has been the hardest part of Travelling in the Dark to write?
I started this book six years ago and the first draft arrived fluidly and quickly. Since then it’s gone through dozens of drafts and countless transformations. The final rewrite I did – with help from my mentor Clio Gray – was the hardest as it meant rearranging the book (yet again). But I believe these final changes also made it publishable.
In this final stage I had to discard some scenes I was very fond of, and yet some parts of the writing have remained exactly as they were in the first draft. Beneath the surface of this book, I see so many other drafts and variations, rather like the layers of an archaeological dig. In a way, this is rather fitting and similar to the layering of time and memory in the story itself.
Why did you choose Travelling in the Dark as the title of your story?
The title came to me very early on as I wrote the first draft, and never changed. It was inspired by something the New Zealand writer Robin Hyde wrote ‘…who travels with his dream travels with a dark torch.’
For me, this really summed up the strange compulsion writers have to find their way to a story or finished piece of work, even to find out what they feel and think, out of thin air. More literally, the story opens with Sarah and her child on an aeroplane flying through the night sky. Another crucial scene in the novel takes place in the darkness as well.
What do you hope people take away from reading Travelling in the Dark?
I hope that it gives people who have lived through challenging experiences a sense of not being alone with their difficulties. When I was growing up and trying to understand my own feelings, I was helped mostly by books because no one ever spoke about those things.
We are all imperfect and have faults and flaws; Sarah’s fight is to face up to her past difficulties and help a friend in need, and her challenge is not to repeat the patterns of the past in her relationship with her child.
Many of the recent tributes to Stephen Hawking described him as a hero. In Travelling in the Dark I was trying to show that everyday bravery and kindness in the face of numerous setbacks is kind of an achievement in itself and might even be thought of as a difficult, quiet kind of heroism.
What does writing mean to you? 
It’s been my support and pleasure for thirty-seven years, and I hope that it continues to be so for the rest of my life. Every human being and every life is unique and immensely complex – at its best, writing can capture some of the strangeness and wonder of life and express what it is to be human.
What inspires your writing? 
Landscape, memory, trying to pin down complex feelings and emotions.
Do you have a writing schedule? 
My writing time falls between 8am to 3pm on weekdays during term time but is often interrupted for various reasons. Time and good health are gifts which can be lost at any moment. I try to remember that the time I have is limited and precious and to make the most of these hours.
Where do you tend to write?
I write at an old oak desk that used to belong to Great Western Railways in the front room of my home in Cornwall. When I was younger and didn’t have a desk, I’d always sit on my bed in my tiny room in Macandrew Bay and write there, looking out the window at the ever-changing light on the hills of the Otago Peninsula and the water of the harbour.
Who your favourite author? 
Very difficult question to answer. I always come back to Katherine Mansfield’s long short story ‘At the Bay’ (which some might argue is actually a novella).
There are so many books and authors I enjoy and learn from, as the stacks of books dotted around every room of my house will testify. Works I’ve enjoyed recently include Rachel Cusk’s Outline, Gwendoline Riley’s First Love, Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, Kent Haruf’s Plainsong and Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. I love reading and rereading my favourite books, as I always find something new in them. I enjoy reading biography, memoir, poetry and creative non-fiction as well as fiction.
Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to writing? Something you notice yourself doing or something you pick-up in other’s writing.
I always feel that fictional deaths, especially those of children, must be absolutely necessary and hard earned. In far too many novels horrible things happen to children and young people, especially if they are female. 
My own children dying before I do is my greatest fear and so is something I never want to imagine for myself or for any of my characters. That said, far better writers than me have handled this subject with the utmost skill, grace and dignity – one example is found in James Baldwin’s brilliant work Sonny’s Blues, another in Kate Clanchy’s short story The Not-Dead and the Saved.
Do you have a writer’s habit that helps you ‘get in the zone’?
The quieter it is, the easier I find it to work. I get my best work done when it’s just me in the house and my cat is nearby asleep on the sofa.
Do you feel like you writing style has changed over the years?
I think my writing comes from the same place but I can see, looking at old work, how my writing has improved over the years simply from practice. I’ve learned a lot of techniques and got much better at editing my own work. But I still tend to say as little as possible, and to ‘write short’.
I thought I might be able to sustain longer narratives as I became more experienced. It still might happen. I learn most from reading the work of other writers and thinking hmmm…how did they manage to do that?
What’s a piece of advice you can give to aspiring authors?
It sounds very basic but read in your genre. If you want to write contemporary short stories then read every contemporary short story collection you can get your hands on. There will be plenty in your local library and short stories are broadcast on the radio most days. Try and think about why you like some of the stories more than others. A combination of reading and learning creative writing techniques will improve your work and, most importantly, help you understand when things go wrong. There are a huge number of resources available online now. Keep trying and practising. As with any skill, it takes time to get better, and practice (everyday, if possible) is at the heart of this.

Should Fiction Keep It Real?

I planned to write about the balance between a writer’s life and their inner world, but this piece on the BBC website caught my eye and, frankly, it seemed more interesting to explore than to write about what I know best (me).

It’s well worth reading in full, but in essence author and screenwriter Daisy Goodwin questions whether having lots of strong female roles in prime time series, such as The Bodyguard and Killing Eve, gives girls and young woman false expectations of life even as it inspires them. Daisy refers to ‘airbrushing reality’, which begs the question: What purpose does fiction best serve?

Unsurprisingly, I can see both sides here. In my Thomas Bladen novels, although the focus is primarily on Thomas and Karl at work, and Thomas and Miranda after hours, I have written in a number of what I hope are strong female roles. This isn’t tokenism. Throughout my working life, most of my managers have been women. In addition, I think that writing different characters from the author’s direct experience adds complexity and interest. Television though (and cinema) is more immediate, more visual, more in-your-face because the action all takes place in front of you, rather than inside your own head.

A glance through the news headlines will tell you that sexism and racism are still formidable barriers to greater social change (and classism / social mobility is as well). How accurately should they be portrayed? 

I think that fiction isn’t reportage – it can mirror reality or it can diverge from it. For me, that’s driven by the story. And yes, of course mystories are an expression of my experience, my projections and imagination (which again are inevitably informed by my experience). 

Another point worth considering is that drama in fiction, television and cinema is usually about exception. The tension or conflict comes from something out of the ordinary, whether that’s an event or a realisation (which is really an inner event), and the consequences that follow.

Pixar’s storytelling structure is well known and here’s a great description of it: 

In the end, even if it’s fiction for now, I want to see diversity in roles and characters. Whatever the present situation, the future is unwritten. And fiction can also inspire people to turn fiction into reality.

B is for Brainstorming

Over the years I've heard many writers talk about the difficulty in coming up with ideas. I even attended a writing workshop once, where, during the introductions, someone declared, "Someday I really want to write a book - I just don't have any ideas for it yet." And then I really wanted to murder a wannabe writer - only I had plenty of ideas of how to go about it. But enough about me...

Every waking minute of every day, we are bombarded by stimuli - much of it, but not exclusively, external. TV, radio, magazines, advertising, overheard conversations, things we see, things we thinkwe see - all these and more are constantly feeding the brain with information and interpretation. In parallel, our internal thought processes relate to the external stimuli based on what we have experienced before and our internal values or biases. Unless you're meditating, it doesn't stop. For a second. The only activity that keeps the noise down is focus.

Now, you could cut up some magazines and go arrange some pretty pictures. That's a start; it's true. But why not take the information you've collected and do something else creative with it? Pretend you're a comedy writer.

At first glance, comedy writing and other forms of creative writing are very different. Every genre has its rules and expectations, while comedy seems to be about one rule - being funny - right? Well, wrong actually. Comedy writing, in my experience, often relies on set formulae and techniques, and most of these can be applied to brainstorming.

These include:

·     Exaggeration - Making someone meaner, stronger more dishonest or needier. Or upping the stakes, so that the everyday consequences are magnified x10?

·     Misdirection - Sending the reader in one direction and then pulling out the rug from under them. 

·     Similarity between things / People that are different - the cop and the bad girl have the same attitude to the law and normal social conventions.

·     Difference between things that are similar - Two sisters grow up together (perhaps even twins), but their lives take very different paths.

Intermission - a few jokes to be going on with...

One of the first Disney artists has died in California. Doctors say the colour just drained out of him.

Originally, brides were married in blue. It was a sign of both purity and substandard washing powder.

Scientists have confirmed that pig organs are completely safe for human beings. If only as a breakfast after the transplant operation.

A survey has shown that men pay more attention when they have a woman in the car...telling them how to drive.

OK, where were we?

Brainstorming. So, it isn't just a slew of ideas that gets the brain changing up a gear, there also needs to be a context or a dynamic tension. What is it about two ideas / characters / subplots / ideologies that ignites our interest? I think it's the dynamic between them. Juxtapose two people with conflicting ideas, or strangers locked in a room, and you have the beginnings of something interesting.

Still stuck for ideas? Get out your dictionary (remember those?) and use the power of random. For example, the finger of fate has selected professorpuppetand sleep:

A professor who performs sleep deprivation experiments on his students.
A professor obsessed with an antique puppet that he has to possess.
A professor being manipulated by someone else in the faculty.
Teachng people good sleep habits.
A puppet that comes alive in people's dreams.
A puppeteer who calls herself The Professor, but who is she really?
The tale of a disassociated child, whose parents dress him up as a puppet.

Enjoy your brainstorming - observe, play, and juxtapose, and see where it takes you!


A is for Altruism for Authors

Sit down next to me.
I’m a great believer in supporting the writing community wherever possible and whenever practicable. Of course, there is competition for representation, for publication, and for funding, but most of that activity happens in the privacy of one’s outbox and those all-important decisions are beyond our control once we have pressed send.

How can novel writers support one another, I hear you ask? (Don’t worry; I have a very active imagination.)

Several ways come to mind for helping out your fellow authors:
1.   Sharing on social media. It’s not so much that you’re expected to wield great influence, more that you are likely to know people (and communities) that the other writer doesn’t know.
2.   Hosting a blog post. Often the author will provide something for you to host. If not, a simple Q&A format, with one or two quirky questions thrown in, helps the author talk about their work in a fresh way for a fresh audience.
3.   Reading and reviewing. This can be controversial because there may be expectations of a shining review for a less than shiny book. Alternatively, it may not be your genre, or your thing. Sometimes authors will agree to mutual reviews, which can take on the nature of a poker game! Honesty is always the best review policy. Amazon has some baffling rules – which it doesn’t share – about reviews so don’t be surprised if a review suddenly ups and disappears.
4.   Become a beta reader. You get to read the book first, sometimes as a work-in-progress, and other times it’s the pre-launch, basically good-to-go version. Here, the focus for feedback tends to be around grammar, formatting glitches, and consistency. You might even end up in the acknowledgements for services rendered.
5.   Making recommendations to your own readers’ list. And if you’re a published author and you don’t have one, you need to think seriously about creating your own list.

Why you ought to consider it
If the notion of good karma doesn’t light your inner flame, there are more tangible positives to author altruism: 
·     By participating in the community you are raising your profile, both to other authors (and possibly their agents / publishers) and to your own followers and readers.
·     Interacting with other authors can be an education in other people’s creative process, which in turn informs yours.
·     It is an opportunity to see how other authors market themselves and their work, and then consider what youdo.
·     More diverse authors and posts on your blog and social media streams.
·     Frankly, it takes you out of your own ‘magnum opus’ centred universe. Sometimes we need a little perspective and visiting someone else’s universe can be a great way to do just that. It normalises what you might think of as your unique struggles, when you realise everyone goes through the same old crap!
·     Maybe, just maybe, other authors will go the extra mile for you. Who knows, you could start a trend!

I know what you’re thinking (I did say my imagination was active): what about the downsides? Well, as long as you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and you have realistic expectations…oh, okay then, here goes:
·     Other authors might be doing much better than me! In the words of an old friend from Staten Island, “Deal with it!” There will always be more successful (and with a better reach) and less successful writers than you. That’ the nature of the beast. But the ones ahead of you may have a bigger community for you, while the ones behind you may appreciate you all the more for your kindness.
·     What if people don’t help me back? Well, like the rest of life, sometimes that happens. Altruism is not a payback scheme.
·     Surely I should spend my time on my own writing? Yes, when you need to be writing. Only you know what time you can spare, but why not spare some of it to make a difference to someone else’s book / chances / day?
·     Isn’t altruism unrealistic, nay, self-defeating, in a competitive environment like the arts? If you see supporting others (and let’s face it we’re talking about small ways, not making a sandwich board and marching up and down Oxford Street for hours) as a drain on energy you’d rather devote to your own book, then this is not for you. I think it comes down to personal values. I’m not convinced that 20 minutes spent sharing the load of another author will be the decider between my success and my failure. I’d rather feel good about helping someone than see it as a winner takes all, rat race with pens.  
·     I feel pressured / guilt tripped / manipulated to do something I really don’t want to do. Then it’s not for you. No sale; no drama! But maybe let the other writer know, so they’re not building up false expectations (or a grudge!).

Supporting your fellow authors may not advance your own agenda one iota; that’s not the point. It may, however, make you a more fulfilled human being, a more rounded author, and a much appreciated contributor to the writing community.