Elizabeth: Writer Conferences

This summer, Romance Writers of America (RWA) will be holding their national conference in Orlando, Florida.  I had initially intended to skip this conference, planning instead to be in studying in Oxford at that time.  Regrettably however, the class I enrolled in was cancelled (gasp!) and my second choice – “Lovers and Libertines, Spinsters and Spendthrifts, Radicals and Reformers:  The Treatment of Love and Money in Selected 19th Century Novels” – was full.  Who’d have thought it?

Oxford’s loss was Orlando’s gain and I was able to register for the RWA conference and, amazingly, book a room at the conference hotel.  This week the preliminary list of conference workshops was released, so I’ve been going through them, deciding which ones I want to attend so I can make the most of my conference investment. Continue reading

Jilly: A Very Important Kiss

A Very Important KissDo you agree that in the right circumstances a single kiss could be an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending to the first book of a fantasy paranormal romance series?

No prizes for guessing which particular fantasy paranormal romance series I’m talking about 😉 .

This week, in between birthday and Christmas partying, I’ve been tweaking the first 50 pages of my WIP for entry into the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

This story is very different from anything I’ve written before, and I want to make sure I don’t trip myself up on the GH deal-breakers.

In addition to assigning an overall score, first-round GH judges are asked to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the following questions:

  • Does the entry contain a central love story?
  • Is the resolution of the romance emotionally satisfying and optimistic?

If three judges answer ‘no’ to either question, the entry is disqualified. Which would be hugely disappointing, to say the least. Continue reading

Jilly: Observations of a Contest Judge

Observations of a Contest JudgeI finally finished my last round of contest judging for this year. Not before time 🙂

I try to give all entries two or three reads and offer honest, constructive, actionable feedback. It’s time-consuming but from a purely selfish perspective it’s worth the effort. I learn something valuable every time. Last year I read a couple of outstanding entries. I posted about that recently (Storyteller v Smooth Writer).

This year I’ve read a lot of competent writing, grammatically correct, properly punctuated, with interesting characters and an intriguing premise. I don’t think I’ve read a single story that would tempt me to keep reading by the end of the pages, let alone a book that I’d shell out money for.

Continue reading

Nancy: Writing Is Our Superpower

The times, they are a-changin'.

The times, they are a-changin’.

Wow, what a week.

As I sat down to compose this post, it was hard to know where to begin, how to find my way into writing the true-life story I’ve lived this past week. Last Monday, at 6 AM, I was on a plane from Baltimore to Boston. Within hours, I’d met a stranger who became a fast friend who was willing to pick me up at Logan airport at 7:30 AM, had shared breakfast and lunch with more new friends I’d just met, and was passing my phone around a table so these wonderful people could put their phone numbers into my contacts so we could stay in touch during our week together. No, I had not joined a commune or entered some weird alternate reality where strangers are your new best friends. Well…maybe I had. I had entered the Writers Unboxed Un-Conference.

With my own personal favorite mentors like Lisa Cron and Donald Maass, and authors/teachers such as Cathy Yardley, Kathryn Craft, and Barbara O’Neal (just to name a few) presenting deep-dive, hands-on workshops, this was already on track to be a writing-changing experience. I thought the writing workshops would be the thing that rocked my world last week. Oh, innocent, optimistic, naïve Nancy of November 7, how I miss you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you as a card-carrying member of Pantsuit Nation, I wanted our country to make history in a very different way last Tuesday. When the exact opposite of my hopes happened, it triggered stages of grief – shock, anger, depression – on an endless loop. The majority (but not all!) of the conference attendees had a similar reaction. Perhaps it was because we’d self-selected to be part of a group of people whom we intuitively sensed were ‘on the same side’.  Perhaps it was because writers are empaths by nature; putting ourselves in the shoes of ‘the other’ is fundamental to our writing process, and there are many ‘others’ who have legitimate fears given the outcome of this election. This shared grief created a strange, bubble-wrapped enclave where we could rant, cry, and  – eventually – begin to heal.

“Community is a flashlight on a dark road. It keeps us pointed ahead.” – Risa Edwins, participant, WU Un-Conference 2016

Continue reading

Michille: The Courage to Write

the-courage-to-writeOne of the things that several of us 8L have said over the last months is that we won’t buy anymore craft books/take anymore craft classes until we have finished what we already have. In that vein, I did eeny-meeny on my craft bookshelf and chose The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, almost at random (because I have too many to choose from). The very first chapter is called Elements of Courage. It made me feel strong just reading that. There are some funny sections throughout the book like Page Fright, That Naked Feeling, Counterphobia, and Draft Dodgers. Continue reading

Jilly: Making the Most

Making the MostAre you doing anything special this week? Will you live in the moment, or do a little preparation to ensure you get the most from the experience?

All being well, by the time you read this post I’ll be in California. Whoo!

The excuse for main purpose of my trip is to attend the RWA National conference, but it’s a long and expensive journey from the UK, especially at current exchange rates 😦 and while I intend to enjoy every minute, I also want to feel that my investment in time and money has been worthwhile.

Time flies by so fast on these trips and a pinch of preparation saves a bucket of lost opportunity so I’ve been thinking about what I want to achieve before, during and after the conference. I’m feeling pretty bullish, and here’s why: Continue reading

Michille: Love Between the Covers

Love Between the CoversLove Between the Covers is a documentary film about the romance community. I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the film along with a Q&A with Laurie Kahn, the film’s director. For three years, the crew followed the lives of five published romance authors and one unpublished one and explored topics including the romance community, writing methods, publishing, industry change, and, of course, why the heck is it so popular, yet largely ignored. The big question of “How can a billion dollar industry by women, for women, about women, get so little respect?” was not answered, but was acknowledged and addressed by several of the interviewees. I can’t remember which author said something like, “we pay the bills for the whole fiction industry.” Continue reading