Sunday, April 25, 2010


Today, I met my soul-mate.

I know, it's an over-used concept, especially in the romance writing arena. But I'm not talking romance. After all, I write YA and literary. And, the truth is, I've known Clara since she was a baby. Watched her grow up. But today, this junior high girl and I realized we were really twins. Separated by a few years. (Maybe more than just a few).

I occasionally volunteer with my church's you group. For some reason, I decided to spend the day with them. We headed downstairs to the kitchen area. Normally the group meets in an attic loft, but today they had a luncheon planned for the youth and parents, so we headed downstairs to the kitchens to prepare. Clara, who has reached the age where she doesn't always attend church (we all know how that works) was down there sitting at a table. Her mother was in charge of the kitchen, and I bet she thought she'd have time alone. Dressed in pajama tops (a story in itself) she was bent over a notebook as our group trooped down. The youth group gathered around her, making noises about the pajamas. I looked over her notebook. Several handwritten pages covered with red marks easily identified as a teacher's attempts to show her where she'd gone wrong.

After the other kids left, I sat down and asked her about her writing. I only intended to be there for a few minutes, but I remained for the next hour. First I had to coax her to say anything about her writing, which she said wasn't very good. (Something I'd have said only a few years ago, and definitely sworn to at her age, before wandering off in embarrassment). Instead I talked her into reading it to me. Turned out to be a very creative story involving a murdered high school student, a cast of suspects, police detectives chasing the wrong people who lie on each other, and a hidden villain who literally gets away with murder.

My kind of writing.

She had been given a random topic, her teacher's attempt to have her write outside her comfort zone. And she was successful at taking the original idea and turning it into something different, attaching her own voice to it. And yes, I can see her VOICE already.

The teacher had problems with her spelling, and an occasional turn of grammar. She writes her drafts longhand, just as I do, so she has no spellcheck to help her in the early going. The teacher wants a maximum of eight pages, and refuses to read anything longer than that. Clara admits to going on and on and needs closer to twenty pages to do a story. Me, I never have understood or mastered the art of short story. Most of all, I loved the way she described the victim, her death, and the array of suspects. She and I ended by brainstorming different ways to let the audience know who the real killer was without having the police discover things. And when she told me she sometimes needed eight or nine drafts to get things just right, I knew I had found a writer just like myself.

Next thing I knew, we had signed on to be each other's critique partners. She's serious about her writing, and understands story structure and dramatic tension more than most students her age. We both agree that the mechanics of spelling and comma placement are minor details. Big difference between us - she has an eye for setting and the art of description that I envy. Me, I'm still the queen of dialog.

Absolutely a match made in heaven.

I've already arranged with her mother to cart her off to a writing conference next month. She's that serious about her writing. And just dying to meet published authors. Clara is an artist, and, if the school system doesn't cost her her art and enthusiasm, has a true future in writing.

The soul mate concept is more than just a cliche, it's alive and well.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Romance Slam Jam Conference - 2010

Today I'm back from my writer's conference. Okay, it was also a vacation, but for the benefit of the Tax Man I spent the last five days at the Romance Slam Jam 15th anniversary conference, and loved every minute. It just happened to be on a cruise ship - the Carnival Destiny, and we just happened to stop at Miami, Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. But it was all business, so help me God. Rochelle Alers keynote address was spectacular, as she covered the history of African-American Romance and Woman's Fiction writing. I was able to meet a number of author's I'd only heard about, A. C. Arthur, Crystal Rhodes, Monique Lamont, and Gwyneth Bolton, to name only a few. I was especially pleased to have a chance to talk with, and be encouraged by, Shirley Hailstock, a past president of Romance Writer's of America. Our group spent the last day of the cruise in a mass discussion session between the featured authors and the group of readers and aspiring authors present. It was encouraging, enlightening, and great fun. I've already put the 16th conference in Boston, 2011, on my calendar.

The vacation part wasn't bad either. While I had enough sense not to climb Dunn's River Falls, I had great fun watching those who did. (Then spent three days with my legs recovering just from climbing the staircase beside the falls.) I descended to over 100 feet below the ocean to view the coral and undersea life in the Atlantis Submarine (and I have a certificate to prove that I am now a true submariner). Then had an airboat ride through the Florida Everglades where I ended up holding an aligater.

Now, after the long trip home, I get to take that energy and feeling of togetherness and keep on writing.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Romance Slam Jam

This is it. Today I arrived in Miami, and had a whirlwind city tour. Tomorrow I board a cruise ship for five days in the Caribbean and the fifteenth anniversary conference for Romance Slam Jam, days of fun and comunion with loads of other talented writers and readers.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This is the year that is.

I'm back on my feet again. A month out of surgery, and the doctor is so pleased at the way my scar has healed (me, I think the thing is horribly ugly, but maybe I'm too critical). I'm off pain medication, and able to function again. It's great having your rational mind back again.

Hard to believe it's only April. So much has happened. I almost hope the rest of the year moves in a more normal pace. I'm a year older, but I refuse to give my birthday or age, you'll just have to guess. I have an agent, the wonderful Andrea Somberg, who truly LOVES Pull My String (Recently renamed Pull), and she's working incredibly hard to make editors love it as well. And, as I noted in a prior post, the child of my heart, Damaged Goods, is a 2010 Golden Heart® finalist. I'm told that makes me an honored guest at the RWA® convention come July. Not only do I pick up my prize for being a winner in the Finally A Bride contest - there's a ceremony at Nationals for that presentation - I also get to bite my nails as the Golden Heart winners are announced.

It's a whole new world. I'm aching to meet the other finalists.

I'm already beginning the publicity phase. My alumni newspaper didn't want to wait for the official press release about my finalist standing, they're already publishing a story about me. And the local edition of the Tribune is interested in doing a story as well.

Me, I'm trying to relax, and keep working on my next project. Thursday I board a plane for Miami, where I'll spend two days before boarding a cruise ship. I'm attending Romance Slam Jam's 15th anniversary conference, where I'll meet hosts of author's and people I've only heard about. And maybe, get a little inspiration for a tropical setting for a future novel.