Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Reading, Writing

The Natural-Born Writer (and other myths)

Saw this via a post on Patrick Ross’s blog: Want to be a writer? Have a literary parent – Science – News – The Independent. Apparently some researchers in Britain have unearthed, through a complicated study, evidence of a “writing gene.” And they support their theory by noting the existence of “writing families” — the Bronte sisters, for example.

I think I agree with Stephen King. Yes, writers have a gift. If you don’t have it to begin with, no amount of training or education can give it to you. In that sense, writers are born, not made. But a gift for writing is not a particularly unusual gift. Lots of people have the knack. So what turns a possible-writer into a writer?

The indispensable trait in a writer is that you begin as a reader — a voracious reader. I have a strong suspicion that “writing families” are, in fact, reading families. Clearly, if there are writers in the family — and especially if the writers happen to be your parents — you are going to grow up in a household where books are revered, reading is taken for granted as a primary source of information and entertainment, and any writing you attempt is both encouraged and intelligently critiqued. The “writing seed” will fall on fertile soil.

I did not discover until several decades into my life that there are people — indeed, entire families — who frown on reading as a waste of time, call magazines and catalogs “books” (evidently discerning no difference between TV Guide and War and Peace), and equate a love of literature with snobbery. These people have a point — although it took me years to see it. I have spent a large portion of my life oblivious to my surroundings, for example. Would my childhood have been better spent in the “real” world – doing chores and riding bicycles, for example, instead of sitting motionless with my nose in the Chronicles of Narnia or Girl of the Limberlost? Because it wasn’t all great literature that kept me from my chores, you know. Sometimes it was Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. When you come from a family where reading is sacrosanct, whatever you are reading is, ipso facto, more important than fresh air, exercise or an uncluttered closet.

I’m guessing that Charlotte Bronte was excused from embroidery and piano lessons when she was writing or reading. I bet the Waughs lived in a dusty house and ate a lot of sandwiches. Mark my words, that “creativity gene” theory is going to be debunked. It ain’t nature — at least, not the lion’s share of it. It’s nurture!

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Posted in Other Stuff, Writing

Lazy Days in Kihei

Last week I experienced the Polynesian Paradox: A complete inability to work, or even to think about working, coupled with an absolute conviction that if I could only remain in that oceanfront condo for a month … or two, or three … I would be so inspired, so filled with creativity, so utterly open to the muse, that I would whip out a novel in record time.

And wouldn’t I just love to test that theory. :sigh:

Image

Posted in Books, Publishing, rwa, Writing

More than Shoes

I wanted so badly to come back from RWA and confirm for you that yes, it was all about the shoes.

But no. Incredibly, it was about far more than shoes. And if I show you some of the shoes I’m talking about, you will understand how awesome this conference truly must have been:

publisher party pumps

Pretty freaking awesome.

I am still reeling from sensory overload, so forgive me if I’m a bit incoherent. I learned so much that I’m still struggling to process it all. Two of the biggest takeaways: (1) Publishing is changing – radically, and rapidly. (2) Storytelling is not.

It’s a great time to be a writer. It’s not such a great time to be a publisher. Nobody wants publishers to die, but they are thrashing and gasping like fish in a basket. It’s gruesome to behold. Kinda tugs at the old heartstrings, too. They are still the best at what they do, and everybody loves what they do. But they are no longer essential. They are “extra.” They are the frosting on your career’s cake, but they are no longer the cake.

So while we are all chewing on that mouthful, let me tell you what else I learned.

Blogging: I’m doing it wrong. Very few people care what happened at the Romance Writers of America 2012 National Conference. Those who care, care intensely, but never mind that. I simply must stop jabbering on and on about writerly stuff. :gasp!: :sob!: This is going to be a hard habit to break, so only time will tell how far I get with this one-!

Facebook: I’m doing it wrong. Okay, this really hurts. I thought I knew Facebook. But my knowledge extends only to being a person, not being a page. I gotta tackle that page from a new angle. (In my spare time.) This could get ugly. I bet it takes me a while to hit my stride, because I have no clue how to accomplish this — but it sounds like a really good idea: “Make your page a fun place to hang out.” Ohhhh-kaaaay.

I learned a lot of other stuff too, but it’s all writerly stuff. So I can feel my workshop leaders tugging on my sleeve and whispering, “Wrap it up! Quick!”

I’d better take their advice. Wouldn’t want to spend all that time & money at RWA for nothing.

One last thought: Every time I plan to go to this conference, I fret about the expense. I think, “Do I really want to go?? How badly do I want to go? Is it really worth all that @#^%$!! money?”

So far, when I have decided to go, I have never regretted it. Never. It’s just SO much more than shoes.

Posted in Other Stuff, rwa, Writing

Okay, Now I’m Nervous

Apparently it’s not possible to sail into RWA’s national conference without a care in the world. I keep trying to tell myself I’m really in the “sweet spot” this year, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s all good, it’s going to be a blast, et cetera. No good. I’m nervous.

Perhaps the nerves are contagious. I’ve been following the #RWA12 hashtag on Twitter and all the chatter about shoes may be getting to me. I am reflexively worrying about shoes now. Weighing the risks and rewards of fashion vs. comfort.  Poring over hotel maps and mentally calculating the probable distance between point A and point B. Is the comfortable pair too shabby? Does the “nice” pair have insufficient arch support? Must I rush to the shoe store and replace every pair presently nestled in my suitcase?

This is nuts. I have no one to impress this year – and if I did, would footwear be the best way to go? (“Wow, look at those strappy sandals and perfect pedicure. I bet that woman can really write.”)

I think I need to get off Twitter and get a grip.

Seriously, this is going to be a GREAT conference. I am thrilled by the workshop offerings, the setting, the weather forecast, and the fact that for the first time ever, I am going to be in a room of my own. (I may go back to the utter-strangers-as-roommates situation for future conferences, however — maybe the summer camp/slumber party vibe is part of the conference’s charm. I may be missing out, rolling in solitary luxury. Or not.)

I’ll be posting pictures and videos over on my Facebook page, probably starting Wednesday night. So if you like to live vicariously — or if you’re just curious — stop on by!

Posted in Other Stuff, Publishing, rwa, Writing

How to Jinx a Writers’ Conference

I am really looking forward to the Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim. I mean, I am REALLY looking forward to it. Is that a Bad Sign? Should I temper my excitement by reminding myself of, say, that Mexican Riviera cruise — which I was confident would be a dream vacation … until Day Two, when the Norovirus hit?

Maybe there’s no such thing as a jinx, but I am typing this with my fingers crossed. Just in case. Because if I manage not to jinx it, this RWA conference is going to be fantastic. FANTASTIC! There; I’ve said it.

I’ve attended quite a few, over the years, and they have all been great. But I’ve never been in quite this position before: making money from my books without being beholden to a publisher. I have no editor. I have no agent. I am not up for any awards. In other words, I am feeling no performance anxiety of any kind. I have no meetings set up. No conversations to anticipate, fret about, and mentally rehearse. No acceptance speech to write. No “graceful loser” smile to practice. No tricky etiquette questions to mull (“Which of us is supposed to pay for this lunch? After all, she invited me – but I chose the restaurant. And she’s my editor/agent/reviewer/chapter president …so does that tip the balance? And if so, in which direction?”). For the first time in my career, I will be free as the proverbial bird.

And, as if my enviable position above the fray weren’t blissful enough, I also have a book contract with NAL (or Signet, or Intermix, or whatever it is calling itself these days) — a bona fide subsidiary of Penguin Putnam. An actual “Big Six” New York publisher. Ha! Yes, I am hugging myself. Forgive me. It’s just too, too perfect. Because the contract is just for an e-release of one of my old titles — so it’s really no big deal, right? But a contract is a contract is a contract — so I am officially a Contracted Author. With a book coming out in August. Which means that, unlike most of the other self-pubbing authors, I get to attend the Signet/Berkley/NAL party on Friday night.

If you’ve never been to an RWA conference, you are going to have to trust me on this. Friday night is the night when all the publishing houses host parties for their authors. And you do not want to be left in the lobby with the wannabes, pressing your nose against the glass and watching as all the published authors are swept off in limos to glamorous destinations that you can only dream of. (Okay, there aren’t always limos and it’s not usually that thrilling of a destination — in fact, often the parties are just receptions held on the conference hotel premises — but that doesn’t matter; being in with the in crowd feels great, and being left out hurts. That’s just human.)

So. I go to the conference needing nothing from anyone, expecting nothing, able to enjoy every minute to the full without the usual high-adrenaline plague of nerves. And yet I get to attend the party. How perfect is this?!

Too perfect. Excuse me while I go throw some salt over my left shoulder.

Posted in Writing

“So, What’s Your Book About?”

Am I the only author whose tongue sticks to the roof of her mouth when someone asks this perfectly reasonable question?

This happened to me only last night. Someone who had read Wicked Cool wanted to know what happens in the sequel I am writing.

Um. Uh.

My mind flooded with so many images that I was paralyzed.

“Stuff,” I muttered finally. “Stuff happens. In the book. A bunch of stuff.”

Since the person asking had already read the first book in the series, I couldn’t even rely on the old standby opener, “It’s about a guy/girl who.” They know who it’s about. They want to know what happens.

Um. A bunch of stuff.

So I woke up this morning terrified that my work-in-progress is a mess, an inchoate, gelatinous glob of unrelated incidents, a narrative disaster — all because I couldn’t distinguish the important from the unimportant and verbalize at the drop of a handkerchief what this book is ABOUT.

Ask me later. After it’s done. Right now, there’s no such thing as a secondary character. There’s no such thing as a trivial detail. I don’t know what it’s about; I’m only the author! During the throes of creation whatever sentence I am writing is the most important sentence in the book.

So … what’s it about? “Well, the wind is blowing and his eyes are green.” Right now, to me, writing this particular bit, that’s what the book is about.

Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Reading

Kindle Heaven

Santa brought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. He got one for my husband, too, so I don’t even have to share it. Amazon automatically christened it for me: “Diane’s 3rd Kindle.” Which is a little embarrassing. I mean, really, how many Kindles does one pair of eyes need?

What’s even more embarrassing is, I am lusting after yet another Kindle — one I don’t have. The Kindle Touch.

Oooh. Aaah. I got one for my sister-in-law so I can live vicariously.

I have SUCH a crush on Amazon.

The Kindle Fire, if you happen to be wondering, is a different animal from your garden-variety Kindle. It’s Kindle-like, but it’s also iPad-like, and sort of phone-like as well. There’s a bit of a learning curve while you figure out how to navigate to where you want to go and how hard to touch the screen. Too vigorous, and your book jackets go flying by in a blur. Too dainty, and your commands are ignored. You feel like Goldilocks at first, struggling to find the place that’s juuuuust right. But, oh my, the things it can do!

I sat up in bed beside my sleeping husband with headphones on and watched three hours of Downton Abbey — the most exciting bout of insomnia I’ve ever suffered. I subscribed to Newsweek and the New York Times, which are now downloaded to the palm of my hand, essentially, in full-color glory. I updated my Facebook status while waiting for a plane at the Los Angeles airport. I played Angry Birds while in line at the cafeteria at work. There is, basically, no earthly reason why I should ever be bored again.

Aren’t you glad you lived long enough to experience 2012? I am.

Posted in Other Stuff

Happy New Year

Okay, I may be the worst, most inconsistent blogger of all time, but the very least I can do is wish you all a Happy New Year.

There. That didn’t take long. And it was sincere!