Notes from RWA Nationals

August 4 2010

Battling the Sink Hole, Donald Maas, Twelve Steps to Intimacy and The Amazing Nora.Battling the Sink Hole, Donald Maas, Twelve Steps to Intimacy and The Amazing Nora.

I returned from the Romance Writers of America’s Thirtieth Annual Conference with a pocketful of business cards, a bag full of free books, a stomach full of chocolate, a notebook full of tips and quotes, a suitcase full of damp clothes and a page full of opening hooks.

Oh, and a heart full of hope that I can make my next story fast-paced, tight, exciting, funny, romantic and even more successful than my first published novel.

After I unloaded the suitcase and filled the washing machine, I sat down at my computer and was swallowed up by a sink hole.

Inside the muck surrounding me was a tiny voice. “You didn’t notice 2000 other people sitting in that giant ballroom listening to Nora Roberts?” the voice said. “You didn’t hear all those VERY CLEVER opening lines other people wrote in Leslie Wainger’s terrific presentation on great beginnings? You didn’t see ALL the REALLY TALENTED people marching in ranks to their Editor/Agent appointments?

“Do you actually imagine that you can write a better book than any of them?” Exercise beats back the voice. Rereading my reviews boosts the ego. Reading my notes from the conference helps too, along with sharing some of them on this blog.

Master of Craft

Every time I hear Donald Maas speak, I have at least one ‘AHA!’ moment. It happened again at the first workshop I attended. On the topic of using our own experiences to build a good story with realistic characters, Maas asked “What great injustice makes you furious? Use that. What does your character really, really want? Give her the opposite. Name six things that only your heroine notices.” I began making notes about the heroine in my new manuscript and missed the rest of that session.

Twelve Steps that Have Nothing to Do with AA

Because I heard Linda Howard speak last year, I was determined not to miss her this year. I am still chuckling at the tale of her brother and sister-in-law who each had to have surgery on a vital appendage (a leg, hip or foot) and got the idea they should travel around the neighborhood via a tractor pulling a wagon. Their neighborhood is hilly, very hilly. Linda’s description of the consequences of that outing made me laugh so hard I cried.

Though sprinkled with humor, Linda’s lecture on the Twelve Steps of Intimacy proved to be more academic. Linda outlined the role of sex in the development of a “pair bond.” She began by explaining the evolution of human anatomy and the importance to our species of protecting the helpless human infant. She went on to detail the actual steps (beginning with that “old feeling”) that bring one man and one woman together.

It was fascinating. I will definitely use the information when I introduce my two protagonists. And maybe in real life too.

The Amazing Nora

The prolific and talented Nora Roberts joined RWA thirty years ago, the year the organization was born. Since then she has published 147 books. That is not a misprint. One hundred and forty-seven books.

She’s also very good at giving inspirational speeches. I can’t include some of her quotes in my G-rated blog, but I can tell this story: when Nora arrived to speak at a nursing home, one of the male residents was quite upset. It turned out he was expecting Oral Roberts, not Norah Roberts.

According to Ms. Roberts, now and then a few would-be authors tell her that it’s much harder to get published today than it was when she started--not exactly the sort of comment a woman like Norah would ignore. On her fingers she counted the hassles of carbon paper, typewriters and white-out, and, of course, snail mail—pre-computer-age factors that made a writer’s job a challenge.

“It’s always been hard to write good books,” Nora concluded. “Hard is what makes it special. Fighting through hard is what makes it fulfilling. Your book was rejected? Write another one. Nobody can put the words on the paper the way you can!” Sink hole whisperer, did you hear that?

PS This morning I finished one of the free books from the conference, The Perfect Poison, by Amanda Quick, also known as Jayne Ann Krentz and Jayne Castle. (BTW, Ms. Quick-Krentz-Castle gave a wonderful, inspirational and entertaining speech at the Awards Luncheon.)

I didn’t think I liked historical paranormals, but I was wrong! Oh, so wrong!