Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Little Altrusim Never Hurt Anybody

So how do you like my friend, here? Gorgeous, isn't he? He's part of my computer's desktop, and I look forward to having his eyes meet mine every time I sign on.

I've been enamoured of wolves since the early 90s, when I researched them for a novel I was writing. Started collecting 'wolf stuff' back then...a plaque here, a statue over the years, I've accumulated more than 100 'wolf things'.

Quite by accident, I found a wolf sanctuary in Pennsylvania, about a two hour drive from my house. What a place! You can find similar organizations near you online. Doesn't hafta be wolves. Maybe your wildlife 'love' is tigers, or monkeys, or bald eagles. You'll be pleasantly surprised at how many individuals and organizations are out there, dedicated to the protection and preservation of many species.

You'll also find it satisfying and fulfilling, doing something positive that will help your chosen critter. Yes, I fully support every effort being made to improve the lives of The Wolves of Speedwell Forge. And yes, I've made a vow to dedicate a portion of my income every year to The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania. Of course, those magnificent animals benefit from my donations.

But I have to be honest: What my contributions do for my soul can't be bought with dollars and cents. If I could, I wouldn't just write checks, I'd buy a little house nearby, so I could see the results of my so-called good works.

If you aren't already involved with a similar project, try one on for size. I guarantee you'll love how it makes you feel. (And just imagine how your readers will react when you put those emotions into the stories you're crafting!)

Well, that's it for now. Until next time, take care, keep those keyboards clackin'!

All my best,

Monday, March 06, 2006

Should You Attend Conferences?

I received so many questions on this topic that, despite having posted today, I decided to post again.

Q: Loree, I've read so much about the benefits of attending writers' conferences, but even the local ones are expensive. How do I know which to spend my money on?

A: Start by asking your writer pals, those who are veteran conference-goers. Talk to writing instructors who routinely lead workshops at writers conferences. They'll direct you to the most popular listings...and the gatherings that provide the biggest bang for your buck.

At first, you'll be overwhelmed with the list that accumulates. Never fear; you can abbreviate it by sorting out the meetings that don't require air or train transportation, and reduce the list yet again by selecting gatherings whose advertisements promise to deliver what you're looking for:

Agent and editor appointments

If you have a partial or complete manuscript, you might be ready for a face-to-face meeting with an agent or editor. Most times, these pre-scheduled appointments are included with your registration fee. If you're asked to pay (and the fees vary) for this service, make sure to check out the credentials of the person you'll sign up to meet. (Does this person represent a recognized publishing house or literary agency? If s/he is a published author, getting paid to evaluate the salability of your work, what qualifications have been provided [# published books, teaching and/or editing experience, etc.].)

Networking is an invaluable thing. Writing, by its very nature, is a solitary profession. For the most part, authors work alone, so it's a wonderful thing, meeting with folks who have the same needs, ambitions, problems, and lifestyles. I can't say enough about the added potential of meeting people who can literally move your career to 'that next stage'. Writers are generous (sometimes to a fault), and will happily share learned the hard way lessons with you.

Workshops range in skill level, providing how-to information for a brand-new writer...or someone who's been in the business a long time. You can usually tell by workshop descriptions whether or not the material is tailored to meet your needs.
Whether you'll buy your own meals or the writing organization provides food as part of your registration fee, take advantage of every opportunity to commune with your peers. Laugh, share experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and leave with a full stomach, a satisfied soul, a happy heart, and a few new friends.

You'll decide well in advance of a conference if you'll submit your work as a contest entry. The prize could be monetary...and it might be the glorious experience of having your submission reviewed by a professional editor or author, and the feedback can be invaluable! (Most contests do require an entry fee, usually between $25 and $50.) If the contest judges are members of the writing organization, there's nothing wrong with asking that your entry be read by someone with experience...rather than 'just another member' who is no more qualification to know a salable piece of writing than you are!

One-on-one critiques, like meetings with editors and agents, can also be a very good thing...provided your critiquer has the experience and the qualifications to give a thorough assessment of your work. If it seems I'm repeating that theme a lot, it's because I am. Too many authors have been led far afield by "teachers" who fabricate or exaggerate their credentials. Consequently, the information they provide is faulty, at best. I know writers who have literally lost years trying to fix the mistakes that were the result of bad advice from faux instructors. DON'T BECOME ONE OF THEM!

How do you check out instructors' credentials? Demand proof they are who and what they claim to be! If they say they've been teaching for years, find out where, and then check it out! (Too many so-called teachers are running their own private programs--some out of their own homes!--and are not unaffilitated with an accredited college, organization, etc. Still others claim to be members of legitimate faculties, but because of lack of enrollment, they've never actually taught a course at that school! You owe it to yourself, your future writing career, and your wallet to investigate the validity of instructors' claims.

Conferences can be entertaining and educational, and well worth any expense associated with them. If you do your homework carefully and completely, you'll come away satisfied that you met some cool people and learned a few things...which means your money was well spent.

I've been invited to speak at several conferences this summer, starting with the PennWriters annual get-together near Harrisburg, PA in May, 2006. For all they're offering, attendees will surely get their dollars' worth. I've seen the speakers' list, and except for a name or two, the faculty passes even my rigorous muster. PennWriters is one of those 'not too small, not too large' conferences, great for a first-timer who might fear getting lost, with an anticipated attendance of about 150.

For a more intimate setting, try my mini-conference: The Leading Edge Writers' Studios. Maximum attendance is 40...perfect if you prefer a quiet, one-day event. (Visit for more information, and if you mention this Blog when you sign up, you'll get a discount!)
See you next time, when I'll go into more detail about what to do (and expect from) those important editor/agent meetings. Meanwhile, take care, and happy writing!

Writing Questions

If you've had a romance novel published, you've heard that question, at least once. Maybe at a party, a family gathering, at a work-sponsored event. You can't predict when, exactly, somebody will pop The Question. You won't know who will ask it, either, but sure as your novel is for sale on bookstore shelves, somebody will matter-of-factly want to know "So, when're ya gonna write a real book?"

Like most romance authors, I've given a lot of thought to appropriate responses. Y'know...pleasant, yet 'put-them-in-their-place things' like "Romance novels are real books!" or "Gee...cover, plus typed pages, plus price tag, equals real book, right?" Wouldn't it be great to say the things we're forced to bite back: "Do you always ask assinine questions, or did they put something weird in the onion dip?" and " don't look like a social misfit...."

So there we stand, blinking, thin-lipped smiles firmly in place as we rack our brains for ways to defend the genre. (That others put us in this position is, in and of itself, odd; I've never heard anyone ask a trash collector when he plans to get into a good clean line of work. or inquire of a gigalo when he plans to get a real job.)

It's especially tough when The Question comes from some vanity-press-published bum who considers it his duty to educate all breathing humans in areas of his expertise (and naturally, in his mind, he knows everything). Admit it, you've met him somewhere, sometime: "My stories are HIGH CONCEPT," he gloats, nose in the air, trying to bend that self-satisfied smirk into something akin to sympathatic proof how very sorry he feels for poor li'l Romance Writer you. He shrugs, because in his swollen mind, there's no hope for you. "I simply cannot," he adds on an exasperated sigh, "write LITTLE stories...."

You pray he won't notice as your eyes narrow and your face turns a shade redder. Maybe he won't associate your sudden lisp to the fat tongue you've developed, biting back what you'd like to tell him. Then again, what can you say to a boob like that?

So instead you stand there, considering your options:

List all the justifiable reasons you write romance novels?
Ignore the arrogant (unpublished haha!) gasbag?
Kick him in the shin, and when he bends to rub the sore spot, add a quick knee to his pointy, girly chin?

Fun (and tempting) as that last idea would be, here's what I plan to do next time some social clod asks The Question:

First, I'll summon a Jack Nicholson expression...eyebrows arched and eyes the 'look' he wore in the courtroom scene with Tom Cruise. "You can't handle 'a real book'!" I'll snarl.

Now I ask you, won't that be romantic!

Well, that's it for today's post. Tune in again soon, when I plan to hop on my soapbox to discuss contests, conferences, balancing a job and writing, what to do when your editor has a baby....

Visit ( and check out my brand new listing. If you register for a Leading Edge workshop (and mention that you read about it here on my Blog), you're eligible for a 10% discount!

See you again soon. Post your comments and questions. Vent, if you prefer! As always, take care...

...and treat yourself like Company today! Loree