Category: Writing Life

It’s never too late to say thank you

This is the Israeli Air Force Hercules we flew home in from Mombasa, Kenya
This is the Israeli Air Force Hercules we flew home in from Mombasa, Kenya

Last week I had the privilege of meeting members of Israel’s Air Force at an event I was covering in Beverly Hills – a fundraiser for the Israel Air Force Center Foundation. You can read that story here

However, there was a very personal element to this event for me. It’s always wonderful to see the incredible men and women that defend the Jewish state every single day. These are the same people who fly into war and disaster zones all around the world – helping victims in tsunami’s and earthquakes, who bring the sick and injured from around the globe (and yes, even Palestinian territories and Syria for life saving operations).

There’s a reason these young men and women are revered and the fallen honored the day before Israel’s Independence Day. It’s because of these people that lives in Israel are protected. Most Israelis, however, don’t get to see the work they do up close. However, my connection to the IAF is deeply personal and very, very direct.

As most readers know, I survived an Al Qaeda suicide bombing in Kenya in 2002, while on assignment from Israel. You can read about that here. And you also know it was the Israeli Air Force that flew in on massive Hercules jets and rescued us. Rescued us from a country who had shut down its airports, where we were trapped and unable to return home. To see those men and women from the IAF waiting for us with open arms, coming to bring us home was a moment that will remain seared in my brain forever.

At the gala event in Beverly Hills thousands of miles and 14 years from that horrific day, Brigadier General Uri Oron stood up and gave an incredibly moving speech about his work in the IAF for the last 30 years and his role as head of military intelligence.

As he stepped off the podium and walked back to his table in a fancy ballroom with even fancier silverware I walked up to him and said, “I don’t know if you remember what happened in Mombasa in 2002…” And he said, “Of course I remember, I was part of the effort that coordinated the rescue.” I couldn’t keep the tears out of my eyes as I told him I was there and I would never, ever forget that rescue and what it meant to all of us to see the IAF bring us home.
It took me 14 years to say thank you but feeling the warmth of his hand, and seeing the smile on his face? It was totally worth the wait.

An Apple A Day…

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Actually that’s the Apple Store, and Apple Care and my Apple Macbook Pro. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I love my computer. As writers (unless you still do everything in longhand and good for you if you do), we need our trusty computers to actually do our jobs. My 13 inch mid 2014 retina display Macbook Pro is my super sleek, silver friend. At home it’s attached to a large monitor, but I love that I can pick it up and go anywhere with it when I need to.

Yes, I live in L.A. but no, I don’t generally like to write in coffee shops. I prefer to stay  home, free from distractions and endless cups of caffeine (and I only drink tea anyway, not coffee). But the other day, I was forced to shlep my laptop to a nearby coffee shop after the electric company turned off our power at 7:30 a.m. without warning (a telephone call to the company revealed it was “an emergency” and therefore there was no time to inform residents). I was also told it would be about 7 or 8 hours before it was turned back on, so it was off to the cafe with me.

However, when I arrived and plugged in my computer, I discovered the screen was cracked. How was that possible? Could a power outage cause this? I didn’t drop my computer, I didn’t spill anything on it – and I’d only bought it six months ago! (Tip: you can save a lot of money on a new computer if you buy the model that came out a little earlier. They work just as well).

Taking my computer to Apple, they informed me that my three year warranty didn’t cover the screen or “accidents,” and it was going to be close to $500 to fix it! Panic set in. But my Genius Bar attendant told me to call Apple Care and plead my case, which I did.

I don’t know if it was my non-American accent, being extremely polite, or that my Apple Care representative could hear the desperation in my voice, but he waived the fee. Relief! After hauling out my old Macbook (circa 2009) and backing up everything, I took my trusty Macbook Pro back to the store for its free repair, which I was informed would take 3 to 5 business days.

Within two hours of arriving home and trying to work on the creaky old Mac, the Apple Store called to say my computer was ready! Wow.

So now, as I sit here back working on my lovely Macbook Pro with it’s brand new retina screen, I just want to give a shoutout to Apple for being so wonderful when it came to fixing my computer – gratis. And so quickly. I am not a spokesperson for Apple, but until my poor computer had to have a date with the Emergency Room, I never really appreciated how much my life depends on my trusty companion.

So thank you, Apple – which I will now call the Obamacare of computers.

How much do YOU depend on your computer?

Truly Madly Deeply conflicted over Alan Rickman’s death

705120265483856_mainphotoLong before JK Rowling was scribbling the words that would become the juggernaut that is Harry Potter (or maybe while she was scribbling), and Severus Snape was immortalized on film by the pitch perfect Alan Rickman, I had fallen in love with him (and that great – yet underrated – British actress Juliet Stevenson) in Anthony Minghella’s stunning 1990  film, “Truly, Madly, Deeply.”

If you haven’t seen it, go find it and watch it. NOW. I’ll wait.

Okay. Have you seen it now?

Good.

And now tell me how it was impossible to not fall in love with Jamie – Alan Rickman’s character. Jamie. Who died. Jamie. Who played the cello, so hauntingly, so beautifully, and who spoke in that wonderful, mellifluous tone that is – now was – Rickman’s trademark voice? How could you not weep, openly, as Juliet Stevenson, a woman shattered by grief, wished so hard for her lover (Rickman) to return – that he did. In ghost form. And turned up the heat (because apparently it’s bloody freezing in the afterlife or wherever Alan Rickman-cello playing ghosts go) and played the cello, and sneezed a lot and brought his ghost friends round and stayed up ALL NIGHT watching movies. And sang “Sun ain’t gonna shine anymore,” with Stevenson.

This movie. This is where I fell in love with Rickman. Such beauty, such power, such love, such a voice! Such emotional depth. Such physical expression. There is nothing – by Hollywood standards – about Rickman’s features that made him sexy. But he was. With that voice and that emotional depth and talent by the bucketload. He was a great stage actor long before Hollywood discovered him. But “Truly Madly Deeply” is and was to this day both one of my favourite films of all time and Rickman remained one of my favourite actors. Pre-Harry Potter. Even Pre-Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet.

Rickman was one of those guys that you’d pay to read the bloody phone book. That I would have paid good money to see on stage, but never got the chance. So, in case it’s not clear, Rickman was one of my favourite actors of all time and it’s heartbreaking to hear that that talent has been snuffed out. That he’s gone. That we’ll never hear that voice  – at least live – again. Not unless he does a “Jamie” and shows up to haunt various people.

However, I’m not just sad that his talents are gone. I’msad that he left this Earth without ever giving up on his anti-Israel stance.  When I heard that he had co-written and produced the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” in 2005 about American student protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home, who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while acting as a human shield,  I could no longer respect the man.

I wish Rickman – who died today – January 14 at the age of 69 from cancer –  had lived long enough to open his eyes to what is really going on in Israel. I wish he’d lived long enough to use his intelligence and compassion and take a long, hard look at the fact that there are two sides to a conflict; that he’d come to know and love Israel. Heck, I wish he’d taken the time to visit Israel!

Either way, the world has lost a great talent. And I will continue to remain truly, madly, deeply in love with Jamie and his cello. Even if I can’t remain in love with the man who played him.

Retreating in order to advance

 

 

Sixty Five women (and one man) at the Women's Fiction Writers Association retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Sixty Five women (and one man) at the Women’s Fiction Writers Association retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico

 

Sometimes you just have to.

Retreat, that is.

In order to advance.

So that’s what I did last week. Went on my first ever writing retreat. Four days. The Women’s Fiction Writers Association writing retreat to be specific. WFWA has been two years in the making and this was our first ever retreat to Albuquerque, New Mexico. (I swear, one day I’ll learn to spell this correctly on the first go round – Albuquerque, not New Mexico).

It was a magical, enervating experience, not just to finally meet some of the people we’ve all been friends with for the past two years online, but to simply soak up the joy, camaraderie, support, sharing and gabbing that comes when you meet with others whose goals align with yours.

This was my first retreat: hopefully it won’t be the last. It is SOOO different to a conference, and for me, at least, just what the doctor ordered. And so, without further ado, here is my list of eight reasons why retreating is a way to advance your writing goals.

  1. It’s a chance to unwind, relax, and make no apologies for focusing on your writing. That’s why so many of the 65 of us on the retreat could be found at all hours of the day and night (and really ungodly morning hours), with gallons of caffeine busily tapping away on our laptops or scribbling in our notebooks on our latest works. A silent reverie where mind melding wasn’t even necessary. The communal writing spirit was powering us forward.
  2. The six a.m. writing club! Me, Jess Bylander, Laura Drake, Christine Orchanian Adler
    The six a.m. writing club! Me, Jess Bylander, Laura Drake, Christine Orchanian Adler
    Darynda Jones with the 6 a.m. writing club!
    Darynda Jones with the 6 a.m. writing club!
    Hard at work. Nameless faces writing future bestsellers.
    Hard at work. Nameless faces writing future bestsellers.

     

    2. It’s an opportunity to not sit in “talks” or “lectures” but in actual circles – yep – and talk as a group about that hour’s particular discussion group. Hearing how others dealt with rejection, their writing process, their editing techniques and more, makes you feel less alone. You can share tips, reveal low and high points, glean incredible insight and bond with other writers who have plumbed the same depths as you and danced for joy at similar highs throughout the creative process.

  3. Not your average workshop. The brilliant Barbara Claypole White shares her writing process. (Yes, we're all a bit crazy).
    Not your average workshop. The brilliant Barbara Claypole White shares her writing process. (Yes, we’re all a bit crazy).

     

    3. It’s an opportunity to meet with unpublished writers, debut authors, published authors and New York bestselling authors on an equal footing and NOT be intimidated. You get to schmooze over margaritas (there are lots of them in Albuquerque), chow down over jalapeno-spiced meals (this is New Mexico after all), and talk about everything from writing to whether our pets miss us.  (I think my dog missed me).

    Squee number 1: Me with author Barbara Claypole White!
    Squee number 1: Me with author Barbara Claypole White!
    Squee number 2: Me with author Darynda Jones!
    Squee number 2: Me with author Darynda Jones!
    Squee number 3: Me with author Kathryn Craft!
    Squee number 3: Me with author Kathryn Craft!

     

  4. It’s a reminder that your work MATTERS. That it’s not only permissible but ESSENTIAL to take time out to retreat and focus on your passion: where you can wander the halls or sit on the patio or lounge by the pool and listen to people chat about conflict, protagonists, black moments, publishing deals, agents, editors and all those wonderful buzz words that make you want to jump up and down and proclaim “THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!”
    Margaritas!
    Margaritas!
    More margaritas!
    More margaritas!

     

  5. It’s a way to tap back into your creativity, to discover that your inner four-year-old needs a time out to remind you what matters; where your passions lie and how to harness them and imbue your writing with them. Oodles of thanks to the charming, adorable and brilliant Kimberly Brock for her Tinderbox workshop and making us dance, sing, tell ghost stories and pull out crayons, glitter, stickers, glue and chop up magazine pictures to remind us where our stories came from in the first place and how to keep finding more.
    Discovering our inner four year olds in Kimberly Brock's workshop
    Discovering our inner four year olds in Kimberly Brock’s workshop

     

  6. It’s a way to learn a harsh lesson that it is NOT selfish to spend your time writing. Thank you a billion times over Darynda Jones for your impromptu, impassioned speech about how writing is preparing you for your future career. “You wouldn’t say going to college is selfish, would you?” Darynda demanded of us. And when a New York Times bestselling author tells you you’re not being selfish, you damn well better listen!
  7. It’s a way to make new writing friends and cement bonds with those you have met online. They are the gift that keep on giving. You now know what their real voices sound like when you go back to your life with them online and they critique your pages, cheer you from the sidelines, bolster you when you hit a wall, and repost your silly Facebook memes.
  8. It’s a testament to a few determined souls who believe that there’s a niche in the writing market that has yet to be filled and if you build it people will indeed come. Two years ago a group of determined women including  Orly Konig Lopez, Laura Drake, and Kerry Hall Lonsdale said, “We need a place for women’s fiction writers.” They thought they’d be lucky if WFWA got 100 members. We’re now at 700 plus thanks to the vision of a few hardy souls. Hats off to all the founders for their foresight, insight, passion and dedication. Without you there would be no WFWA, no retreat and no way for me to advance.Onwards!

     

I’ll show you my writing space, will you show me yours?

virginia woolf
miss_rogue / Foter / CC BY-SA

AKA: A Room of One’s Own. Thank you Virginia Woolf.

I recently moved.  Moving day itself was fairly painless. It was the six weeks of packing and shlepping and organising that were utterly brutal. But we’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. And we’ve all (I hope) lived to tell the tale.

It’s not like I don’t know how to move. I’ve moved homes, cities, streets, heck, even countries more times than I care to remember. As kids, our parents would come into our bedrooms with two large tea chests and say: “Whatever fits, goes. Whatever doesn’t, stays.” This meant (and means to this day), I am not a hoarder, or a pack rat and I can move swiftly and fairly painlessly. I think as we get older it just gets harder. Add to the fact that I’d lived in my old place for almost 10.5 years and I think that’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. Accumulating junk was easy.

Still, it was great to purge (not being a hoarder this wasn’t difficult – just labor intensive and time consuming). There were endless trips to Goodwill, selling things on Craigslist, giving stuff away on freecycle and a yard sale that honestly, in hindsight wasn’t worth the effort. But we live and learn.

Still, Bronte and I are excited to be in our new home. And the BEST part about it? My dedicated office off the garden (formerly known as the junk room but technically a sun room). And I LOVE it. I love working in here, writing in here, having fellow writers pop round and work alongside me on the sofa (Yes, I have a sofa in my office! And a coffee table!).

Bronte enjoying our room
Bronte enjoying our room

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Right now it’s still a work in progress. I still need to buy a white board and we haven’t yet put my mezuzah up on the door (that’s a project this weekend and important to me!). But I love, love, love my new space. I’m surrounded by greenery (but as a good writer and thanks to advice from Stephen King’s “On Writing” book,  I always make sure my desk faces a wall). However, this place has a great vibe. I love stepping out of the house each morning and into my “office” – I feel like I’m leaving the house and going to a place of work even if it’s only a few steps out the back door into the garden.

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What about you? What’s your office space like? Do you love it? What would you do to change it? Post your pictures or send me a link to your space. I love being inspired by people’s rooms.

Finally meeting a fellow author… in person!

Fellow WFWA writer Scott Wilbanks signs my copy of his book - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster - at Book Soup here in Los Angeles.
Fellow WFWA writer Scott Wilbanks signs my copy of his book – The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster – at Book Soup here in Los Angeles.

As you know, I’ve waxed lyrical, poetical and every other “al” you can think of about the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and I can’t wait for our retreat in New Mexico at the end of September. But one of the greatest things about our little (well now over 600 strong member) group – and we’re barely two years old – is that we’re an online entity and the retreat is going to be a wonderful opportunity to meet everyone IN PERSON.

If you’re a writer, you understand how important this is. Some of my greatest supporters, cheerleaders and now friends have been made over the Internet via WFWA and our workshops and chatty Facebook page discussions.  If it weren’t for WFWA I’d never have met (online) the wonderful Barbara Claypole White, chatted to her over the telephone and received my first acknowledgement in her latest book The Perfect Son.  I wouldn’t have met the best critique partner ever – Brenda Linskey – were it not for WFWA’s find a critique partner programme. And I wouldn’t have met my roommate for the upcoming retreat – Beth Havey. And of course, I wouldn’t have found the perfect planner to keep track of my writing progress if it weren’t for WFWA’s Jamie Raintree. 

However, last week I actually got to meet – in person – three fellow authors, thanks to Scott Wilbanks. Scott – one of the few men in WFWA lives in New Zealand, but thanks to a great Donald Maass online workshop through WFWA, I fell in love with Scott’s writing.

Scott speaking about his debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.
Scott speaking about his debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.

Last week, Scott flew back to the US for his debut book tour thanks to his publisher, Sourcebooks. His debut novel? The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster. It’s as delicious and quirky and funny and wonderful as it sounds. It’s women’s fiction! It’s magical realism, it’s time travel, it’s adorable. I read it in a weekend. And then I got to meet its magical, quirky, plane travelling creator (and his Kiwi husband) at a reading at the wonderful indie bookstore Book Soup here in Los Angeles.

Along with Scott, two other WFWA members showed up – Michele Montgomery and Kelly Byrne (another writer by the name of Kelly who ALSO owns a Golden Retriever. Clearly we are kindred spirits).

Yes, my eyes are closed. Phooey. With Scott Wilbanks, Michele Montgomery, and Kelly Byrne (with the book) at Book Soup). Meeting WFWA members is amazing!
Yes, my eyes are closed. Phooey. With Scott Wilbanks, Michele Montgomery, and Kelly Byrne (with the book) at Book Soup). Meeting WFWA members is amazing!

 

What a wonderful evening and how fantastic to meet my fellow writers. To show you just how fantastic it was here’s some photos (no idea why my bloody eyes are shut) and two wonderful videos. One is of Scott reading from his book and the other is of Scott sharing an email exchange with WFWA’s President Orly Konig-Lopez, which shows you why WFWA is such a cool organization.

On my “For Writers” page on my website, I talk a lot about writing being solitary and how it can be lonely and the importance of finding writing buddies either in person or online. This post shows how wonderful that can be!

Scott reading from "The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster"
Scott reading from “The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster”

Why you should buy Scott’s book. Listen to him reading from it….

Never Give Up (aka the rejection letter that made me cry tears of joy)

OHI0122-PitchQueryTo blog or not to blog? That isn’t the question.

Honestly, I haven’t blogged in so long because a) I didn’t feel I had anything inspiring to say and b) I made a decision to spend more time writing, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve reworked and rehoned (I know not a real word but I’ve decided to employ it anyway), my first novel and am deep into writing my second.

But I digress.

I’m now about to discuss the title of this blog post (tsk tsk I’m a journalist and I just buried the lede). So back at RWA 2014 Nationals in San Antonio I pitched my book to several agents and editors. There was one in particular who was genuinely excited about my book. I felt a rapport with her. You know that feeling, right? You sit down in the 10-minute merry go round that is pitching appointments and hope your tongue doesn’t swell and you don’t break out in hives as you pitch your darling, your baby, your brilliant story you’ve slaved over to the people who can launch your career.

And this particular agent was wonderful. She not only asked for my partial manuscript she asked me what else I was working on. When I told her she said she was excited about the concept. She said she’d never seen a book about the issue I was writing about. I felt good.

When I got home I sent my partial off two weeks later. And waited… And waited… And waited… You know the drill. Four months went by. Nothing. Not a blip. I was too wimpy to send a follow up. I figured if she hadn’t responded by this point it was probably a “no” anyway. I figured the book gods were laughing at me for wishing she was the one who I most wanted to want my story. Oh well.

As the months dragged on  I was deep into my second novel and also reworking the first one after taking lots more workshops, classes, working with critique partners and continuing to learn. All hail the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and my RWA Chapter LARA, and the Women’s Fiction chapter of RWA and the Pro Org of RWA. I have learned and gleaned and honed and battled and slaved over a hot keyboard with input from amazing minds from Donald Maas, Margie Lawson and the brilliant blog Writers in the Storm and Writer Unboxed  to following the ups and downs of colleagues on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. I am inspired byLiana LeFey’s work ethic, Laura Drake’s sense of humour, Barbara Claypole White’s gin-infused, Doc Martin wearing, garden tending tales, Kathryn Craft’s emotional bravery, Amy Sue Nathan’s generosity, Maggie Marr’s prolific output, Lynne Marshall’s world domination of medical romances, Robena Grant’s determination to carve her own path and her dry Aussie wit, Robin Bielman’s joie de vivre, Betty Bolte’s sumptuous descriptions, Sarah Vance Tompkins and Christine Ashworth’s can-do attitude, Pamela Dumond’s quirky tales (and even quirkier neighbours), Dee J Adams‘ take no prisoners attitude, Claire McEwen – whose success story is my daily inspiration –   and countless other writers who help me sit down and bash out (sometimes awful) words on a page every day.

So when month five rolled around I saw someone had “followed” me on Twitter and said they were working at an (undisclosed ) big agency and I could pitch my story in 140 characters to them. I tweeted. He tweeted back. He was an assistant at the agency of – you guessed it – the person I had now been waiting five months to hear from. He requested a partial. I told him my submission was in fact still with one of his agents and I hadn’t heard back yet. He said he’d look into it and get back to me. He told me he reminded the agent and she said she’d get back to me.

Another month rolled by and I heard nothing. Until today. Firstly, she apologised profusely for taking so long to get back to me. Apparently my submission landed on her desk just days before she gave birth (timing has never been my strong suit) and it’s taken her a while to get back on track.

And then she wrote this:

I jumped eagerly into [title of book], it’s a unique premise and you have a very entertaining voice. Unfortunately I didn’t connect with this story the way I had hoped I would. While there were elements I loved, i.e. the dog, the clean writing, the relatable heroine, in the end I just  didn’t love the execution. This is an entirely subjective opinion. As I’m sure you know this is a business based on personal tastes, and this is purely indicative of that fact. I wish you the best in finding a better suited match for this project.

As I mentioned I think you are quite talented and do hope you’ll keep me in mind for future projects. Please feel free to query me directly in the future should the opportunity present itself.

The first thing I did after reading this was cry. Tears of joy, because it was such a beautiful rejection letter. Weird, I know. But it was so specific and encouraging and everything that many of us wish a rejection letter would be.  And she’d said she would be happy to look at anything else I wrote. So I sent her an email back thanking her for her kind words. I told her I was halfway through my second book and it was the one she had expressed interest in at our meeting when I pitched the first one, and that I would definitely send it to her when it was ready. I also mentioned that in the six months that had passed since I had first submitted to her, I’d done some extensive rewrites on the first book and that as a result I hoped to find a home for it soon.

She emailed me back and said she was thrilled to hear I’d made progress, asked what changes I’d made and that she would be more than happy to have me resubmit it to her.

So there you have it. A wonderful rejection and  an opportunity to reread the new, improved, updated version of my manuscript.  Six months later, the connection I felt with this agent back in San Antonio was still there in these email exchanges. I have no idea whether she’ll take me on when I submit my revamped manuscript. But whatever happens, it’s all part of the journey. I feel I’m one step closer to representation. In the meantime I’ll keep working on my craft and pushing myself to be a better writer.

I know that there are paths to publication that don’t require agents; that there are publishers out there that will take you on without one; that there are a myriad of self-publishing opportunities; that there are lesser known agents at smaller agencies all of whom are hungry and eager to take on first time novelists. I love that there are so many paths and that we have so many choices. Right now, though, for whatever reasons that make me me, I’m still pursuing an agent and the traditional publishing channels.

Hold on to your publishing dreams, whatever form they may take and whatever roads they take you down. But have a solid writing community to back you up whether you’re crying tears of joy or frustration at yet another rejection letter. And keep learning, keep taking classes, keep putting your words on the page and never give up.

25 Memorable Moments from RWA National Conference. #RWA14.

In what has now become an annual tradition – if I did it last year and I’m now doing it this year – that makes it a tradition? No? Well, then I’m compiling once again my top 25 memorable moments from RWA14, in San Antonio, Texas.

 

  1. Two hotels means 2000 exhausted writers trying to remember if their sessions are in the Rivercenter or the Riverwalk hotel.
  2. Two hotels divided by a crosswalk with the disembodied voice of a particularly stern man declaring, “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT, ad infinitum until the walk sign turns green. I wasn’t about to try and cross without his say so. Visions of a SWAT team accosting me and throwing me to the ground if I even dipped a toe in the road kept my feet firmly planted on the pavement.
  3. Nora Roberts’ three pieces of advice for writers: Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write. Stop making excuses and write.BtjtMIeCUAAFRAr.png-large
  4. Two agent and two editor requests for my manuscript.
  5. An additional agent request at the San Antonio airport in the departure lounge!
  6. Great agent story: Agent in #5 requested my manuscript after we spent four days bumping into each other in the elevator. We were on the same floor and seemed to be constantly running into each other to the point that we both declared we weren’t sure we could get on the elevator if the other wasn’t around. During those four days we chatted – especially about one of her clients whom I know. We both gushed about what an amazing writer she is. And so, at the airport she asked me who I had pitched to and who had requested my work. Then she said, “Why haven’t you pitched me?” I told her I was shy and wasn’t prepared to bombard agents in an elevator even though I had my “elevator pitch” prepared. Not my style. So she said well given that I knew not one but two of her clients and that we’d spent four days sharing an elevator, I should pitch her right there, in the departure lounge. So I did!
  7. Laura Drake winning the RITA for best new book. She’s the poster child for perseverance. It took her 15 years and 400 rejections to get published. How fast can you say her award was SO well deserved!

    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!
    Me and Laura Drake. RITA winner!
  8. Laura Drake working in a session on my tagline line for pitching that helped me land the above five manuscript requests. Where can I get my I LOVE LAURA DRAKE T-shirt. Please?
  9. LARA members Robin Bielman, Samanthe Beck and Jennifer Haymore nominated for RITAS!

    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck - RITA nominees!
    Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck – RITA nominees!
  10. Their awesome RITA outfits and their fantabulous shoes that went with said outfits.
  11. Meeting the incredible Claire McEwen on the plane to San Antonio. Her publication success story – having a manuscript requested after entering a contest that she neither won nor placed in – is the stuff dreams are made of. She’s an inspiration. And an absolute sweetheart, too.
  12. Making friends with LARA members I didn’t know that well at all: Tonya Plank, Chandra Years and Cami Brite. Funny you have to go all the way to Texas to meet your neighbours.
  13. Gwendolynn Thomas. WHAT an inspiration! If you didn’t meet her, well, seek her out on Twitter. Now! @GwendolynTweets

    Gwendolynn.
    Gwendolynn.
  14. Having a major celebrity meeting freak out running into Scrivener For Dummies author and fantabulous author Gwen Hernandez.
  15. LARA’s cool headed Maggie Marr talking me off a ledge after going into a panic over a weird request from an editor.
  16. Chilling with LARA-ite Robena Grant. Definition of extreme grace and generosity. Classy too. And a fellow antipodean.
  17. LARA-ite Sarah Vance-Tompkins WINNING the Imajinn writing contest and now getting work with the incomparable Brenda Chin. Sarah, remember I knew you when… And LARA-ite Christine Ashworth placing fourth in the same contest.
  18. The new RWA breakfast policy. LOVE IT. Please keep it for next year. Thank you.
  19. Catching up with the Austin gals from last year.
  20. Hanging with Liana LeFey – the hardest working author I know. 11 books and proposals ALL of which were requested at pitches this year. When do you sleep, Liana?
  21. The entire crew who all met on the roommate seeking board earlier this year and went out for dinner and took a Riverwalk cruise together. That was oodles of fun.
  22. Author Laura Florand crammed in the elevator on a luggage cart.

    Laura Forland trapped on a luggage cart.
    Laura Florand trapped on a luggage cart.
  23. Crying at all the speakers’ speeches that reminded us why we write: to touch lives. And telling us to quell our inner voices that say we’re crap and to never give up.
  24. Coping with the 99 degree heat and 99 percent humidity outdoors while rugging up in a shawl in the air conditioned hotels indoors.
  25. Counting the days and the pennies in the hopes of attending RWA National Conference in 2015 in New York City!

Hug a writer today

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I absolutely adore my RWA writer’s group. I don’t think there’s a better bunch out there than the LARA gals and guys. (Well, actually I fell in love with the Austin chapter people in Atlanta at the National convention last year… so I’m sure there are other great chapters too, but today it’s all about LARA love).

Firstly, and I know I’m a little late in announcing this, but I’m SOOO excited for LARA’s wonderful Robin Bielman and Samanthe Beck  – both of whom have been nominated for RITA Awards for their debut novels. For those that don’t know, the RITA’s are the romance writing equivalent of the Oscars, so at this year’s National convention in San Antonio in July, they’ll be dressed in their posh frocks waiting nervously to see if they won. They’ll probably be slinging back more alcohol than those of us cheering them on. LARA-ITE Jennifer Haymore has also been nominated for her editing of a novella. Such exciting news. Do click on their names and check out their websites. They are all amazing women that deserve to be celebrated.

LARA-ites are such huge supporters of each other. I confess my inbox is inundated with emails from members at all hours of the day and night and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m also really, really, excited that as part of the LARA mentor programme where seasoned vets share their knowledge and expertise, they take on grateful little people like me. And so, I was delighted to discover that the brilliant Maggie Marr has been designated as my mentor. I did indeed hit the “send” button today and my first 50 pages are wending their way to her where I hope she will forcefully (but kindly) rip my pages to pieces so I can build them back up and make a dent in making my novel worthy of publication. Do please check out her website too, so you can learn about all things Maggie. 

I’m also excitedly awaiting a rerouted USPS screw up, from the wonderful Barbara Claypole White, who is sending me one of her novels from North Carolina. Barbara and I touched base over at the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association, where I read an excerpt of her work in progress and left a comment noting how I picked up on a major character trait of one of her characters (due to my personal experience with said trait). She was thrilled that I cottoned on to it and called me to pick my brain about my knowledge on the issue to help her flesh out her character. What a great conversation. Can’t wait for her book to arrive. 

I love that writers (at least the ones I associate with) are such a supportive, collaborative bunch – it can get lonely behind your computer screen churning out thousands of words a day (or avoiding churning them out). Cheerleaders, nurses, doctors, best friends – these are all the roles (and more) that we take on to support our fellow scribblers. And we tweet their book releases, and promote their Facebook pages. I’m feeling warm and fuzzy inside thanks to the world of writing interwebs. So do yourself a favour: hug a writer today.