One thing I advocate is helping out students who are interested in writing whenever possible. The more openly we communicate with the next generation of writers, the better off the profession will be in the future. It's the best form of paying it forward.
A few days ago Jess asked me in comments if I'd answer a survey for a university project, and I liked her questions about communicating through fiction so much I asked her if she'd let me post them here and tempt some other published authors to respond:
1. Writing is often considered a solitary profession. Do you agree with that statement? How does that notion reconcile itself with the (somewhat ironic) fact that what you write is intended for an audience?
2. In what ways do you feel you are a communicator through your work? Do you try to communicate what you perceive as truth (for your characters, or universal)? If so, how?
3. How mindful are you of your audience? If you build a world with a particular flavor to it, ie Italian, are you careful not to be offensive to those who would notice the influence? Or, since fiction is often marketed to a particular audience or in a particular way, does the opposite hold true, wherein you feel free to use jargon and ideas from a particular culture in your work because it should be thus understood?
4. Similar to question two: How important is the idea of a fiction writer as a real communicator, or do you feel that with fiction writing, the author is more likely merely a story-teller out to entertain? What is your perception of fiction and writing in general as a communicative tool?
5. Do you have anything else to add, that I may not have covered in a question, about the idea of communicating through fiction?
Authors, if you'd also like to answer these, please send your responses (and note one of your published titles in the e-mail so she can cite it) to Jess at email@example.com. She needs them by Tuesday, March 28th to make her assignment deadline. Also, feel free to post your answers here in comments if you'd like to share them with us.