Friday, July 26, 2013

Sick Leave

Taking a bit of a break from blogging until my shoulder is more functional. I tore something prior to the conference and it's been getting worse everyday. I'm dealing with insurance about approvals for stuff and it seems like an exercise in futility. Trying to talk my husband into stabbing me in the arm and then going to emergency room with knife sticking out. They'd have to do something about it then, right?

RWA was great, btw. More on that later.

Anyway, back to my pain killers, ice packs, and heating pad.

Peace out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Schmoozing, But Not Boozing

Some of you know this already, some don’t, but two years ago (as of July 1st) I decided to no longer drink alcohol. I do not think booze is bad, but it is bad for me. Drink away, I’m fine with it. I’m not judging you or drooling after your martini. Seriously. Yes, sometimes I miss having wine with dinner or I wonder what the new cider by Sam Adams tastes like, but none of that is worth breaking the seal on my sobriety. I can rationalize anything if I try hard enough, but in this subject there is no grey area.

Different people have had different reactions to this information. Some get all, "Hallelujah! Alcohol is from Satan!" Others think of their own drinking habits, get uncomfortable with the idea that they may have a problem, and try to rationalize with me to help me realize I should join them for a drink. Some people tell me how proud they are of me or try to be sensitive and not order a beer in my presence. All of these reactions make me uncomfortable. Am I overly sensitive? Probably.

In an ideal situation, I’d be with friends or acquaintances at a bar or restaurant. They’d order their drinks, I’d order my iced tea, and that would be that. OR maybe one friend wants to buy me a drink and I say, “No thanks,” and the conversation ends there with a smile. The thing is that people like to drink with other people. If someone in the group is NOT drinking, unless they’re pregnant or Mormon, well meaning friends will want them to join in the drunken fun. Peer pressure didn’t end with high school.

I suppose I could fake being either Mormon or pregnant (or both), but I don’t. And I hate simply saying that I don’t drink, because people tend to assume I’m some sanctimonious jerk judging them. So then I have to explain why to complete strangers and then the reactions listed in paragraph 2 begin. Besides, it’s really personal.

The fact that so much networking occurs after hours at the hotel bar makes my skin crawl, not because I’m afraid I’ll be tempted, but because I know all this mess will come up. Based on observations last year in Anaheim, the stereotype that authors drink a lot is not false. Since I want to be social and I want to network within my peer group and industry professionals I’ll be at the bar too.

Last night I had a dream that I was at a club and someone bought me a drink. In my dream I decided it would be polite to just drink it. What harm could it do? Even in my no-real-life-consequences dream, I still ended up spilling it “accidentally.” It sucks that such a farce seems necessary in order not to offend. In fact, in real life, I frequently order tonic and lime so people assume I’m drinking and don’t give me a hard time.

This year at RWA in Atlanta I absolutely intend to hang out at the bar with my pretend booze. I will have a great time meeting great people without any liquid courage. I have a feeling that I won’t be the only writer there in a similar situation. Even so, the thought makes me more nervous than the idea of pitch sessions.

In mainstream American cultural, drinking is the socially accepted norm, at the conference even more so. Chances are good they’re already uncomfortable and may feel like an outsider. I write this with a simple request -- while schmoozing at the bar, live and let live. If someone chooses not to drink, please make it a non-issue.

See you in Atlanta!
Click above for a Fauxhito recipe.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Real Life Leading Up To RWA13

In my last “this house is disgusting” episode followed by frantic cleaning, I actually made use of the laundry hamper in my bathroom. Usually I sort loads out on the floor near the hamper, but very rarely put laundry in it and close the lid. I know. The idea is that I’ll wash those loads if they’re in my face. Obviously, it doesn’t always happen in a timely matter. I’m sure you have opinions about this. So does my husband.

The end result was a clean room and laundry that was out of sight, out of mind. Life went on, but without my
comfortable, functional underwear. For two weeks of I’ve been wearing and laundering the impractical, special occasion items that do not do well on muggy days or at the gym.

Today, after I cleared away the shoe boxes that somehow ended up stacked on top of the closed laundry hamper, I discovered a hidden stash of clothes. Happy Underwear Christmas! It was with a sense of relief that I closed the door on my washer and turned it on.  Tonight I will wear cotton! Thank God.

I’m in the home stretch of laundry, dry cleaning, and shopping in preparation for Romance Writers of America 2013 conference in Atlanta. The conference clothes are occupying a different section of my closet than my every day wear and, now that I see everything together, I realize I have more than I need. Even so, chances are good I may buy a grey blazer tomorrow. I have my travel size items and my packing cubes just arrived today. Very exciting. Thank you, Erin Knightley.

Amidst all of this hoopla I’m still writing forward in Touching the Past and applying beta reader edits to Possessing Karma. Last year I approached the conference with a desperate optimism. This year, upon last year’s lack of results, I’m a little more relaxed about the process and I hope that translates into real confidence rather than forced exuberance (“I know my writing’s good” vs. “LIKE ME!”).

We shall see. As for now I’m looking forward to underwear.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Preparing for a Writing Conference

I've been making a lot of jokes, and will continue to do so, about being prepared for the Romance Writers of America conference with my Spanx. The truth is that last year in Anaheim, I ended up taking them off within the first hour. I decided comfort mattered more than less visible lumps. This year I have the ones with shoulder straps.

Last year I researched blogs and articles, determined to present myself as respectably as possible. In all, I did fine, but this year I have a better understanding of conference norms. Let me state here that I am in no way an expert. This is merely a collection of lessons learned in no particular order.

1. I learned it is worth it stay at the conference hotel. We stayed down the street, but the price difference didn't make up for the inconvenience of not being able to pop up to your room with fifty pounds of  books. More importantly, the hotel bar and lobby was a serious hot spot for networking after hours (and during).

2. I didn't need full printed copies of my manuscript. They just took up bag space and even though my pitching went well, all I handed out were my one sheets. I came prepared with full proposals with bios and my first three chapters. Even the agents who asked for my first three wanted them via email, so it was a waste of paper, toner, and shoulder pain.

3. I didn't need to have my laptop with me during workshops at all. I was busy staying on task during the workshop and mingling after. Having my head buried in the computer would have wasted valuable face to face opportunities.

4. I had head shots done prior to the conference and included my picture on almost everything. I'd read that it was a good idea and I absolutely agree. It puts the name to the face, helps created a visual memory cue. I tend to make an impression (one way or another) and may as well work that. As much as I hate having my picture taken, it was worth it.

5. The idea of an 'elevator pitch' is not what I originally thought. I'd stressed over how to summarize 85k words in a single sentence. One of the first workshops was led by Angie Fox who explained that if she led with the summary of the story it would seem like it had been done before (because everything has). Instead she led with something different, something that captured attention. She sold her story with a pitch about geriatric biker witches.

6. Business cards. I'd read that they were something I needed, but dismissed it. I'm not established as an author. Who would want my business card? Hotel bar after hours mingling with fellow writers yielded many business cards, all of which I saved then made a point to follow their blogs, buy their books, whathaveyou, to maintain that conference connection. This year I have business cards (with my head shot). I ordered mine from 123Print. I found them easy to work with and my order arrived just days after I placed it. RWA has a deal with Moo Cards.

7. Back to the Spanx. It was hugely important to be comfortable AND professionally respectable. I did well in all, and I partly owe that to breaking my foot and being forced to wear sensible shoes. Now I love shoes. Love them. There were many fabulous shoes at the conference and I was jealous, begrudging my Sketcher Mary Janes. That said, I could walk at the end of each day and I can't say the same for many other attendees. Unless you wear shoes like that everyday (and if you write, chances are you're barefoot right now or in slippers) it's not worth it.

8. The definition of professional attire differs from state to state. This conference is on the East Coast where things are a little more polished than in casual California. Industry professionals are dominantly from New York. Suits are not out of place. Even in Anaheim I saw many tailored, elegant, expensive looking suits -- a huge contrast to the handful of people in sweats and flip flops. Don't stand out for being too casual. Last year Mary Wine, in a Oriental silk shantung tailored coat told me you have to look a million bucks to make a million bucks. With her hair in a braided coronet and her stunning outfit, she looked expensive, professional, and still had personal style.

9. Know your writing. Who is your audience? Where would it be on a book shelf? What established authors have a similar style AND how are you different? I do better expressing myself in the written word than verbally. I had to constantly remind myself to calm down, slow down, and answer the question. People don't ask about your book unless they actually want to know, so don't be afraid to share. This is not a time for self deprecation. It's okay to be excited and proud of your work.

10. It is not okay to be catty and judgmental about other authors. Last year I heard someone criticizing a well known author who was at the conference. If I overheard this conversation, who else did? You never know if that author's editor is next to you at the bar. Don't be a jerk. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it.

See you in Georgia!

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