OWFI Conference . . . I’m There!

Okay, it’s been way, way too long since I’ve been to a writing conference. (I’m in Norman at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference.) I’m having SO! MUCH! FUN!!!

I feel like a dog who can’t wag her tail fast enough. “Oh!” pant “Hi!” Wagging tail. “It’s so nice to meet you!” Pant, pant. Tail wagging faster. “This is so cool! Isn’t it?” Panting as fast as tail is wagging. “Don’t you love this?” Pant, wag, pant, wag. “Isn’t this the best speaker/breakfast/group/whatever?!?” Passes out from hyperventilation and tail exhaustion.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad, but do tend to run out of exclamation points when I talk! (lol)

I know you won’t believe this, but sometimes I don’t get to talk. (Yeah, they lucked out.) Writers love to tell stories, so they kind of pile up on each other. I have a whole scorpion story I didn’t get to tell last night.

Funny how much there is to learn at one of these places.  And how many people there are to meet.

I’ve gone to workshops I didn’t think I’d particularly like and been bowled over. So far, my favorite speaker has been Jane Friedman. Not that I didn’t love the others, but she was fantastic! And the fact that I had lunch with her (along with the other Smart Women who’re here) and we got to chat a while had nothing to do with it. 🙂

And I’ve met lots of nice, nice people, such as my very first editor, Rhonda Penders, who just happens to own my publishing company, WILD ROSE PRESS! She was so nice and had so many great stories to share. (And she has three sons, kinda like moi, so she’s good people!)

Jodi Thomas is also here. (I have a lunch-time workshop with her today.) While she was talking to Wild Rose Rhonda, Jodi told her, “Wild Rose isn’t a small press anymore.” And she’s right. (I think Rhonda is going to have a pillow made with that on it . . . or maybe T-Shirts.)

The only bad part? Days are kind of long at these things. (Giving us our money’s worth, though!) Workshops started yesterday at 9:00 a.m. and the Buzz Session I was in last night didn’t finish until after 11:00 pm. There was a lot of information flying around. I just hope I caught the part I needed. 😉

Everything is going so smoothly, it looks as if the conference runs itself. But having been in charge of a few conferences, I know how much head-banging work it is. (Thank you to whoever did this. Wow! Great, great job!!!)

How about you? Do you enjoy going to conferences?

What’s your favorite part?

(Mine? Meeting people! wag, wag)

Tell Me Why . . .

My science fiction shelf

Terminally Curious here after a long hiatus. 😛 Here’s what I’m wondering–

W-H-Y????

Three little letters but a great big word–a constant in a writer’s life. Plotting. Scene and sequence. Make up stories.

  • WHY does your character do what s/he does?
  • WHY does this or that happen just when it should/shouldn’t?
  • WHY does this turning point take place as/when it does?
  • WHY are you writing this particular story?

There are lots of rules. Your story can’t sound contrived or make no sense. And there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Everything must connect to everything else, kind of like the way a chain works. Everything interlocking, but changing, building, without giant leaps in logic. (Yep, I’m writing about my writing here.)

But the most import thing, the WHY I’ve heard since the very first conference I attended . . .

  • WHY do you write?

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a ploy to whittle down my competition. I’m convinced that if I write a book that’s good enough, a publisher will make a place for it.

I just think it’s a wise woman who knows what she does and WHY she does it. And a wiser woman who knows when it’s time to stop doing what she doesn’t enjoy or finds something she likes more.

So . . .  WHY do you write?

Here are a few of the answers I’ve heard.

  • For the big bucks. (Not many people can say that, but some can.)
  • To turn the world into the place you want it to be.
  • Because you can’t not write. (I’m not sure what that means. Hope someone can explain it.)

So how about it? Writers . . . ?

WHY DO YOU WRITE? 

 

 

♪♫ All You Really Need is Heart! ♪♫

I talked my man into going to an arts and crafts fair this weekend.  It’s a huge show with way more stuff to see than I can take in. I love it!

Some years when I go, I see so many things I love I’m looking for a way to ship some of it home. Other years . . . meh. This year, one thing really caught me and wouldn’t let go. It was a line of handmade dolls. The business is called,  “Polka Dot Pig.”

The first thing that caught my eye was the woman’s booth. It wasn’t just a table or a couple of shelves. It was an elaborate set of antique shelves and crates and what looked like it might have been part of an old post office at one time. But what made me come back at the end of the day was the merchandise. These sweet babies.

Now, I’ve never been a doll lover. Didn’t like them when I was little, don’t care a lot for them now, because most of them are just lifeless blanks. Think about Barbie. Or even Raggedy Ann. They’re all the exact same.

To be honest, these aren’t all that different. I saw very similar dolls in a couple of other booths at the fair as I looked around. But those left me cold. Why? I wondered. What was it about this woman’s dolls that made me have to go back?

So this morning when I couldn’t sleep, I got to wondering why. It was more than just being handmade. It wasn’t just the antiques used to display them. And it wasn’t that each doll had something extra with it.

Finally, I got it. In her booth, every doll had a story to tell. One of the mammy dolls had a pair of antique scissors around her neck, hanging on an old piece of twine. The mama doll in the picture above has, “Mammy loves fried chicken” embroidered on her apron and an old cup in her hand.

One of my favorites was “keeper of broken dolls” angel. She had a Betsy-Wetsy doll in her arms. And the B-W doll was obviously broken.

 This is the queen of the flamingos. Besides holding a darling flamingo, she has old buttons edging her crown.

Of all the dolls and pretties in the show, I had to have one of these dolls. (I really wanted to buy several, but I restrained myself.) The woman who makes these dolls goes the extra mile. Each doll has a story, and I have to think of it as “heart”.

What’s that have to do with writing?

In the same way there are lots of dolls looking for a home in the world, there are millions of writers trying to sell. When an editor is looking for a new book to publish, how will she choose?

If I were an editor, I’d look for a manuscript with heart.

It’s easy with dolls, right? Just add an antique or embroider her skirt or give the doll a doll. But how do you give a story heart?

I’m not an editor, but I am a reader who won’t finish a boring book so in a sense, I am an editor.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from reading great authors. The way to give your story heart is to go the extra mile. Make your settings real. Find out what the place smells like in the morning. What your characters hear when they can’t sleep in the night. What does the light look like when the sun goes down before it gets dark. And how dark does it really get?

Make your characters real. Vulnerable. Imperfect. Give them scars and warts.

Give them true emotions, then let them experience conflict. And let your reader feel her gut wrench as she lives through your character. (Just don’t make it melodramatic.)

I’m rereading one of Marilyn Pappano’s books right now. Just a few moments ago, I (when I read, I’m the POV character.) wrapped my hands around a steaming cup of chai tea. I closed my eyes and enjoyed breathing in the cinnamon and clove scented steam wafting off of it, and finally took a long sip.

I really think my sinuses warmed a little when I read that paragraph. Her description is something a lot of writers would skip over or they’d quickly skim through it. Instead, Marilyn let us enjoy drinking that tea with the character. The character was comforted by it and, to be honest, so was I. 🙂

How do you make your book stand out in a world of kajillions of books? Make your characters come alive. And to do that–

♪♫ All you really need is heart. ♪♫

The HEA Kind

As KT mentioned, we’re away this weekend. And, as she thought, we’re having crazy fun.

This is a fantastic group of women.

We’re not all the same age. (We range from 18 to MYOB.)

We’re not all the same religion.

We’re don’t all have the same hair color. (Some of us don’t even remember the original color. Others don’t want to.)

What we have in common is that we’re all writers. Romance writers. (IMO the best kind is the HEA kind.) We love a great story. And very few of us can tell you our names in less than a page-and-a-half.

Last night, we had a delicious meal and came back to the suite to just chat, and ended up talking about our writing histories. Roughly half of us are published. Some of us have confessed for money.

The unpubbed women were so much fun to listen to as they talked about their WIPs. (Works In Progress.)

The one thing these women have in common, besides being writers?

They’re all so very passionate–

  • about telling a great story.
  • about learning whenever and whatever they can.
  • about supporting each other.

From the woman just beginning to our master, Rita winner (80 books and counting) we’re a lift each other up, cheer each other on, lend a hand when we can and cry with you if we can’t crew.

And just to be very honest, we never retreat.

We ATTACK!

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Is There a Writer I Can Talk With, II

I love being part of the writing community. Well, the romance writing community, anyway. 🙂 (I’m not sure if all writers are as sharing as romance writers.)

In her blog on Wednesday, Jackie Kramer mentioned that a writer needs another writer to commiserate and/or celebrate with. And she’s right. Only somebody who’s been through the fire knows how hot it really is.

But I’ve learned over the years that I need to talk to another writer for more reasons.

  • Only another writer can teach you how to write for publication.

English teachers know grammar and punctuation, etc., but an author will tell you that each house has its own style. (Serial commas, one or two spaces after a period, and that kind of thing.) No matter how educated you are, you aren’t going to teach a publisher how to publish.

  • Writers know EVERYTHING.

They really do. Some of them are very humble about their knowledge, and they make it easy to learn from them.

*Thanks, Marilyn, for all the things you’ve taught us (me especially) over the years!!! We appreciate you!*

  • Writers really do know EVERYTHING.

Sounds as if I’m repeating myself, but on a little different note, if you need to know something, there’s a writer out there somewhere who knows it. Or she knows somebody who knows it. Or she can help you research it.

Several years ago, a friend of mine wrote something that referred to glaciers during the ice age having been in the area which is now Oklahoma. I offered to check with my Dad (a geologist) about it.

I didn’t have to, though. Both my husband and my son knew for a fact glaciers had never graced Oklahoma. (Okay, I don’t know a lot, but I know people . . . )

Just yesterday, writer friend Jackie Kramer, who’s also a nurse, answered my call. My great niece is in the hospital, where she works, with RSV. She calmed my fears and educated me on the sticky virus.

  • Writers cheer you up if you get down.

I promise you, if you do something silly or just plain stupid, there’s another writer out there whose done it, too. And someone has done it bigger. And they survived to tell the tale. (And they’ll probably share it with you.)

  • Writers understand.

We look for insight–the underlying reasons behind other people’s actions and emotions. We have to be able to make sense of the people in our lives. It’s what we do.

Because we just might want to write about it some day. 🙂

Do You Love It?

Susan Shay here.

I have a theory. It’s not scientific and probably leaks like a sieve, but my insides tell me I’m right. Here it is:

From what I’ve observed in life, a person who really wants to do something will find the time to do it with all her heart.

Take my dad, for instance. He loves being a geologist and, at eighty-one years old, still has a great time at his work. He comes to the office nearly every day (if he’s not out in the field) goes to trade shows, keeps up on the latest technologies and takes work home with him because that’s what he loves.

How abut writers who deep down really love to write? They not only get those stories down (No duhs out there, you guys. You’d be shocked at how many people join writing groups who don’t write.) they belong to groups, go to conferences and retreats, enter contests, Nanowrimo, critique, volunteer to help others, study and grow their craft.

Yesterday I met a writer, trying to sell her books at a function I’d been given a ticket to. One book had a purple cover, and the other was gray and had a paranormal-type picture on the front.  

I asked what she wrote. She flipped her long hair behind her shoulders, raised one eyebrow and gave a haughty smile. “Fiction.”

I nearly guffawed, but I held it to a chuckle. Of course, she wrote fiction. Non-fiction doesn’t have a cover like that. “What genre?” I asked, oh, so sweetly. 😉

Turns out she wrote romance, but didn’t belong to RWA. (Gasp!) “I know a lot of writers, but I don’t belong to any groups.”

Feeling sorry for her (just a tad) I invited her to visit RWI.

She all but sneered. “With what I make, self-publishing my books, I don’t have time.”

Oy.

Her words made me thrilled to be a member of RWI. One of the rules of membershp is to volunteer for a duty. Some only perform that one duty, but several volunteer to do several things.

Those who volunteer to do several things are often the ones who come to meetings, make it to our retreats, go to conferences, take online classes, join functions such as this blog, Nanowrimo and final in contests.

In my experience, writers who love to write, who want to grow their craft, keep on learning and selling and learning, do more.

They not only attend meetings, they present the program when asked. They enter contests for themselves and to support the group. In other words, they find the time to do what they love. (Most of us do.)

As Miss Marilyn has said more than once, we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day to do what we please. How we choose to use those hours is up to us.

So what do you think? Should a writer keep her bottom in her chair and write, write, write or is there more to being a successful author than sitting at a computer?