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Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

Once again, it’s time for the monthly blog hop from the Insecure Writers Support Group. On the first Wednesday of each month, writers gather to commiserate, support each other, and laugh over shared foibles. Join the fun here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html or here: #IWSG. Thanks to Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and this month’s hosts: Julie Flanders, Shannon Lawrence, Fundy Blue, and Heather Gardner.

This month’s question: As you look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

The time portal glows–an eerie, pulsing green light that pierces the midnight mist. From within its swirling depths, a seductive voice croons, “Step through. You can undo it all, start again.”

An icy finger of hope and fear tickles the base of my spine. “How far back?” I whisper.

“January 2017.”

“Dang. I was hoping for pre-election—”

The voice cuts me off, harsher now. “January. Take it or leave it.”

I gulp a lungful of air, squeeze my eyes shut, and step through.

I’m holding a phone in my hand. The nice lady has offered me a job, one that involves a commute, not much pay, but the chance to use my skill set again—one that’s rare and in demand, unlike writing fiction. But now I know how much time and energy that job will drain, how my writing will languish, how I’ll writhe with frustration as I prepare yet another lesson plan.

“No, ma’am. Your offer is tempting, but I’ll have to pass.” While I’m at it, I resign from my other time-sucking, low-paying, part-time job and settle in to write full time. Okay, I’m not being paid yet, but I know I need to build up my stable of stories before I can generate an income stream from indie publishing. How lucky am I to have that opportunity!

I smile and turn to the pile of writing craft books before me. Now I know that Lisa Cron’s Story Genius will streamline my revision process and make my next manuscript sleeker, faster, a purring Ferrari rather than a breakdown-prone old Ford.

Now I know that I actually have a knack for writing romance, and that I’ll really enjoy the process. Who’da thunk it?

And then my timer dings, and I get my widening butt out of my desk chair and go for a twenty-minute walk before resuming my work. After all, the brain is an organ of the body.

When my manuscript is finished, I pop over to the UPS store and have the whole thing printed and spiral-bound, then tackle final edits with pencil, highlighters, and sticky notes—because now I know I’ll notice details on paper that I wouldn’t on a screen.

What a productive, satisfying year I’ve had, now that I’ve been gifted with hindsight. As 2017 draws to a close, I strap on my tool belt and return to the time portal to tinker with those controls. If only I can adjust the target to October of 2016…

Imaginary Homesickness

Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon

I’m nearing the end of a writing project, and already I miss Clara and Nick, the lovers whose story it is. I miss Book Nirvana, Clara’s imaginary bookshop–a place now so familiar that I could lead you down the aisles and help you find just the book you’re looking for. I miss Coffee Dreams, the café next door, and Arnie, its snarky barista. I miss Clara’s employees, white-haired, affable Harry and elfin, spike-haired Margot, both dispensers of wisdom as Clara struggles to keep her business and her heart open. I miss Lulu, the orange tabby whose fur carries that faint vanilla-like scent of old books. And I especially miss Jared, Clara’s late husband, who visits her in her dreams.

I miss Clara’s made-up neighborhood, and the slow green slide of the Willamette River through Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon—a city I’ve only visited via Google images. (I will visit soon, though, to make sure I haven’t painted a false picture of that city.) I miss the characters’ funny banter, Clara’s angst and guilt and budding hope. I miss her resilience, too. And I miss Nick’s velvety baritone, the amber flecks that glimmer in his espresso-brown eyes.

As this one’s a romance, its end means good-bye to characters I’ve been living with and a world I’ve been living in for several months. The hero and the heroine are about to be united in matrimony and, according to the rules of the genre, their adventure is done. And I’ll miss them.

Somehow, setting a book in my real-life hometown of Tacoma, Washington seems less—I dunno—romantic? Perhaps I’ll challenge myself to set a romance novel there. That would give me an excuse to delve into neighborhoods, shops, cafes, bars, searching for the perfect settings for a love story. Hmm—that also sounds like a recipe for procrastination.

Because mysteries tend to run in series, I can revisit Lola’s imaginary, hippie-dippy town on the Northern California coast, can spend more time with that cast of characters. I wonder how many writers choose to write series simply because they can’t bear to say good-bye to their imaginary worlds.

#MeToo

This is a long one. I try to keep my blog posts shorter, but this needed to be said.

I served in the U.S. Army from 1980 to 1984. Money was tight in our family, as it is in any family getting by on the salary of one public school teacher, and the GI Bill offered me the chance to pay for college. I’m grateful for that chance, and proud to have contribute to our nation’s defense.

Basic training was the hardest thing I’ve ever done—physically, at least. Over the course of three months, our two male drills sergeants—one young and hunky, one older and fatherly—turned a bunch of whiny teenaged girls into a tight-knit, disciplined platoon of soldiers. They were marvelous, honorable men. But one of the other male drill sergeants in our company had a list of girls he intended to sleep with. The list was found. My name was on it. He was not removed from his position; we were merely warned by our drill sergeants to keep away from him.

I was very fortunate: I enlisted at a time when we were not at war, except for the Cold War, of course. I remember our first “alert,” a drill in which we prepared to move out for field maneuvers in the middle of the night. We knew it was coming, of course, and so, when the notification came at three a.m., I ran up and down the hallway of our barracks, sounding the alarm. “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” I thought I was hilarious. My first sergeant thought otherwise.

It takes a lot of people to keep the armed forces running, and a lot of jobs. Mine was 71 Delta, legal clerk. My duty assignments were at the division JAG office, first in Frankfurt, Germany, then in Hanau, Germany, and finally at Fort Stewart, Georgia. I helped the lawyers with typing, phone calls, interviews, research, courts martial, as well as helping soldiers and their spouses prepare wills, powers of attorney, and file paperwork to be reimbursed for damages to their property during moves.

I’m very grateful for the experiences that serving afforded me. I got to travel in Europe, I got tuition assistance for the college classes I took after duty hours, and I met some very fine people from across our nation. Most of them were men. Most of those were good men.

But the constant rain of sexual harassment weighed me down. It’s funny—I remember it got really ugly around 1982, when there was a public service campaign against sexual harassment. It’s as if the male soldiers were pushing back against the idea that it wasn’t okay to yell abuse at passing females. (That’s what they called us, females–or other, uglier things.)

In Hanau, where I was stationed from ’81-’83, a favorite game among the soldiers was to pop their heads out of the top floors of the office or barracks buildings and yell charming things like, “Suck my dick, bitch,” or “You’re only good for one thing, bitch,” or “How much, Baby?”. I knew my rights. I’d march up to the front desk, fuming, and tell the NCO on duty what had just transpired, and what the perpetrator looked like. Sometimes I’d get as far as the commanding officer.

Not once did they do anything about it, except to laugh in my face. Not once.

And then there was the time my NCO organized a weekend run. A bunch of us from the base Legal Center were training for a 10K race. When I got there, it was just him and me, even though he’d led me to believe there’d be several people. Stupid young girl that I was, I left with him. We ran for an hour through the German countryside—the whole time, he tried to convince me to stop by his house “for a beer.” I laughed it off and kept running. Thank God, he didn’t push it; I doubt I could have outrun him.

Things got much worse at Fort Stewart, home of the 24th Infantry Division. The whole base vibrated with machismo. We had just adopted BDUs, the loose-fitting, camouflage uniforms soldiers still wear today. I was a scrawny little person, just over a hundred pounds, and they didn’t make uniforms small enough for me. I looked like a walking shrubbery—short hair, no make-up, cap smashed down over my eyes, my oversize uniform flapping around my skinny limbs. From my barracks, I had to bicycle to work on the other side of the base, a good five miles.

How they knew I was female, I’ll never know. But they knew, and they followed me, yelled at me from their cars—really ugly things. More than once, a car would pull up alongside me, and some guy would yell, “Get in.” I ignored them, of course, but that often made it worse. “What’s wrong, bitch? You think you too good for me? I’ll show you what you good for, bitch.”

Now, mind you, I had some marvelous male friends during this time, many of them gay but hiding it—this was before “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” And if this sort of nonsense happened in front of my guy friends, they’d stand up to the bullies, challenge their ugliness.

But every day, I slunk from building to building, head down, middle finger up. Man after man greeted me with smarmy, sleazy “compliments” and offers of sexual acts. To the few nice guys who only wanted to wish me a pleasant day, I’m sorry—but the abuse was so thick and so constant that I couldn’t, wouldn’t risk talking to any strange male.

Years later, I was talking about sexual harassment with my then father-in-law, a lovely man who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. He didn’t believe that the situation could actually be as dire as it was portrayed.

I saw red. I told him, mincing not one word, exactly what I endured for four years, exactly what those soldiers had said to me, done to me.

He was shocked.

Good. I’d had enough of protecting men I loved from the truth about that ugliness. No more pretending it’s really not so bad. It was. It is.

What feeds you?

The Japanese Garden in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park

My husband, a wise fellow, often uses a nutrition metaphor when talking about his work: he says teaching feeds him. I tried this metaphor last week when chatting up an interesting acquaintance. That boring old question came up: “What do you do?”–meaning, how do you earn money? This question only yields interesting results for privileged, prosperous people who’ve had lots of choices in life. Most folks are just working to pay the bills, not to feed their souls.

That’s the question I asked Fred: “What feeds your soul?” He answered without hesitation: music. Turns out he’s a guitarist who’s played professionally and recorded albums in another country. For this guy, music is a vital nutrient.

Taking this metaphor a little further, there are nutrients you can gobble with abandon–say, fiber, and those that are essential but become toxic in large doses, such as niacin. Writing is my main psychic nutrient, the work I find most rewarding and most essential. But a diet of only writing leaves me as malnourished as if I tried to live on, say, cheese.

And if I neglect certain soul-vitamins, I start to crave them. One nutrient that’s been missing from my diet lately is a change of scenery. I’m quite a homebody most of the time, content with long hours spent writing in my comfortable little office. But too much sameness makes my creative motor run down. (Uh-oh, metaphor overload)

Yesterday, wise Hubs and I went for a long walk in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, a local beauty spot. I returned energized, cheered, and smacking my head for having neglected these important nutrients:

  • fresh air
  • movement
  • natural beauty
  • new scenery

To that list of nutrients, I’d add social time with friends and family, ditto with interesting new people, time with other writers, reading fiction, music, dancing…

None of these feel like duty, like work, like bitter medicine. They’re all delicious nutrient for my psyche, and I just have to remember–to take my vitamins.

How about you? What feeds you?

Oh, and have you seen the studies that prove cheese is good for us?http://www.eatingwell.com/article/289455/5-reasons-cheese-is-actually-good-for-your-health/?did=181228&utm_campaign=ew_nourish_101617&utm_source=etg-newsletter&utm_medium=email&cid=181228&mid=9530003697

Hallelujah and pass the Parmesan!

IWSG: Sometimes It Is All about Me!

Is it IWSG time again? Oh my—tempus sure does fugit. The Insecure Writers’ Support Group is a safe haven for writers of all kinds, where you’ll find resources for every step of the writing and publishing journey. On the first Wednesday of each month, IWSG sponsors a blog-hop. Check them out here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

This month’s IWSG blog-hop question – Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

September was for yard renovation and family visits, not for blogging, alas.

I actually wrote on this month’s topic back in August twenty-third in Fashion and Vengeance: What I’ve Learned about Myself by Writing Fiction. Please scroll down and take a look if you’re interested.

But wait! If you order now, you also get for the low, low price of $9.99, plus shipping and handling…

Of course my stuff winds up in my characters! Is there a writer who doesn’t do this? Some resemblance shows up in surface details: though I’ve stopped dying my hair with henna (no longer flattering on my aging complexion), my female protagonists all have reddish hair, along with my green eyes and freckles. Hmm.

And then there are themes and motifs in my fiction that reveal lessons I should have learned in real life. For example, I’ve tended to jump right into romantic relationships like a kid making a cannonball dive—cowabunga! (This has not always worked out well.) But my protagonists are more cautious—they struggle with inner conflict over relationships that are moving uncomfortably fast. Hmm.

Another theme that echoes my own life is reinvention. I think it’s a universal human desire, especially in middle age, to re-evaluate the path we’re on and correct course. I lucked into the opportunity to start a new chapter, though years of hard work and saving for retirement certainly helped. My protags are also mature women who either can or must start anew.  And, like me, they believe in signs from lost loves or the Great Spirit or what have you—arrows that point us in the direction we’re meant to take. Hmm.

It looks like I need to stretch myself more as a writer and create protagonists who resemble me less—and I am, in my current WIP. Since romance novels are usually written in alternating male/female POV, I’m working on my first male protagonist. I was hesitant to do this, thinking it would be hard to create an authentic man. Any romance fan has read stories in which the male lead talks and acts and reacts like a very girly woman. Fortunately, the guys in my critique group are helpful for corralling that problem.

How about you? How closely do your protagonists resemble yourself?

 

Dancing with Jessica

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

D and I are enjoying our drive-about through the Western U.S.  So far, we’ve visited friends and family in Northern and Southern California, Las Vegas, and now Salt Lake City. Four of the five G brothers are converging here in the town where they grow up for a day of talk, food, drink and guitars. I’ll do my best to keep up with my little ukulele. I’m lucky to have married into such a musical family, and such a welcoming one.

The chance to travel like this is one of the prime blessings of retirement. Of course, a little just-us time between visits is an important component of a successful road trip. On our way through Nevada, D and I spent the night at the Virgin River Casino/”Resort” in Mesquite, on the Arizona border.

Everything you’d imagine, good and bad, about a budget casino-hotel was on offer. Lots of lumpy, sad-looking old folks with various infirmities, staring glumly at their slot machines. Chatty, cheerful waitresses who call you Hon as they bring your bargain plate of prime rib. A cloud of cigarette smoke that permeates everything and clings to your clothing. Squealing kids splashing in the pool. Passers-through staring in wonder at the blinking lights, ringing bells, electronic music, and weird, wonderful artwork on the gambling machines. Jaded-looking croupiers and dealers in polyester vests, awaiting the next bunch of suckers—er, gamblers. Cocktail waitresses squashed into tight mini-skirts, trudging through the rows to deliver cheap alcohol. Just watching them made my feet hurt in sympathy.

I must say, though, that the food was tasty, the hotel room clean, and the bed comfortable. At the bar, a very competent quartet played rock standards and country tunes from the 80s to the present. The dance floor was filled with white people in their sixties and seventies doing the same complicated line dance to every tune and clearly having a good time.
And behind them, doing her own funky thing, was Jessica. I learned her name during the band’s break, when she staggered out to shout greetings to the gamblers. Many called her by name, and someone said, “She’s gonna get her ass thrown out of here again.”

Probably fortyish, Jessica wore a red ribbed tank top but no bra. She was short and thick, and her mussed blond hair hung loose around her stocky shoulders. The length of her white pants suggested that she’d been wearing heels earlier but had discarded them somewhere along the way—perfectly understandable while dancing, though probably not the best idea while trailing across the casino floor.

On the one hand, I felt sorry for her. She was making a spectacle of herself and, judging from the way the waitresses rolled their eyes as she passed, this was not her first time doing so. She gyrated and spun and tottered across the dance floor, throwing her arms wide at the band, and then at the crowd, and then shooting leering grins at the few lone guys in the bar. Every few minutes she’d plop down onto the edge of the stage and strike a pose, probably to catch her breath. The line dancers ignored her, as did the band.

On the other hand, she seemed so joyful, so determined to wring every last drop of fun from the occasion. When the line dancers left, Jessica kept dancing. Her swirling, zig-zag path across the dance floor reminded me of a little girl dancing at a concert or wedding. Her infectious grin was adorable, and I so wanted someone to get up and dance with her. Or maybe take her home—which was probably what she was hoping for. Who knows?

D consented to one dance with me, and afterward I contented myself with wiggling in my chair. Of course, the movement caught Jessica’s eye, and she trotted over like a happy puppy and held out her hand.

And so we danced, Jessica and I. I twirled her across the dance floor, nearly dumping her on her behind—not deliberately, mind you. It’s just that she was pretty unsteady on her feet. But it was fun, and I was glad to share her energy for a few minutes.

There’s something to be said for exuberance, and a lot to be said for dancing. And I wonder—how big of a change in my circumstances would it take to make a Jessica of me? After all, I love to dance, and I like my wine. If I were all alone, could I resist drinking too much and tearing up the dance floor?

Here’s to Jessica. I hope she finds a dance partner.

On Minimalism, Adding Value, and Ten Thousand Steps

During this dark, drizzly, cold time of year,  walking at least 10 K steps per day can be a challenge. Picture, if you will, a middle-aged woman in gym clothes, pacing from front door to back door while listening to podcasts. That’s me. Just 1000 steps to go. Those recorded conversations really help pass the time while I walk.

Lately I’ve been gobbling podcasts about voluntary simplicity, “minimalism” being the more popular term these days. Of course I read Thoreau as an undergrad, and have been known to mutter “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity” while searching my overstuffed closet for something to wear to work. The book that really opened my eyes to the beauty and wisdom of simplicity was Elaine St. James’ 1994 volume Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter.

Trends run in 20-year cycles, don’t they? It seems voluntary simplicity is in again. So far, my favorite podcast so far on this subject is The Minimalists, in which Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, both thirty-five, discuss how they came to and maintain a simpler lifestyle. They also have a documentary out, and a website, http://www.theminimalists.com/, in which they explore and celebrate an alternative to our destructive, mindless consumerism.

A phrase these two young minimalists frequently use is “Adding value to your life.” What a great guiding question to keep in mind as I weed through superfluous belongings or contemplate a purchase. Does this object add value to my life? Does this pastime? This habit?

During these dark days of the year, here are a few things that are adding value to my life:

  • Blogs by writers, for writers
  • Upbeat novels with a much-needed HEA ending, like Ann Garvin’s I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around.
  • Remembering to turn on the music while I cook, clean, or bathe. It’s harder to gnaw on that worry bone while dancing.
  • Rose-scented perfume
  • Trevor Noah’s commentary on our crazy times
  • My favorite fuzzy sweaters
  • Playing my ukulele
  • Singing with children. I don’t sing all that well, but they don’t care.

What’s adding value to your life these days?

What’s on Your Thanksgiving Table?

thanksgiving

Thanks to Ronna Benjamin of the Better After 50 blog for this writing prompt. Visit her here: http://betterafter50.com/

In 2016, I bring to my Thanksgiving table:

  • Our decidedly un-Thanksgiving-ish Provençal tablecloth, which we bought in Spain, because why not? It’s mostly orange, and that feels like Thanksgiving to me.
  • Memories of the twenty-seven Thanksgivings I celebrated in in Europe, mostly in Germany. Frohes Fest, ihr lieben, und guten Appetit!
  • A relaxed attitude. I’m not trying any ambitious new recipes this year. I don’t have a bin full of November decorations—that’s just not my style, and that’s OK. Our home is welcoming, comfortable, and clean, and that’s good enough.
  • Stretchy pants. It has not been a good year for my waistline, but Thanksgiving is not the time to worry about that.
  • Joy at being able to spend Thanksgiving with my husband’s side of the family and Christmas with mine. No more melancholy Christmases for two, missing our loved ones across the ocean.
  • A spiny knot of worry about the state of our dear country, which I will try to soothe with pie and laughter.
  • A new song for our family guitar circle: John Lennon’s Imagine.
  • Gratitude for our good fortune, comfortable circumstances, and opportunities.
  • Freshly-sharpened determination to make new connections in my community, to do my part to hold back the wave of hate that threatens to drown our democracy. I only have my one little bucket to bail out the ship of state, but if we all bail together, we can stay afloat.

ISWG October: Slogging through the Jungle

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The first Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writers Support Group blog-hop day. According to their website, the purpose of ISWG is

To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Learn more about ISWG here: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

This month’s question: When do you know your story is ready?

There's a story in here somewhere.

There’s a story in here somewhere.

I actually suffer from premature story ejaculation. It’s an embarrassing condition. The heady excitement of typing “the end,” the tickle of positive feedback, it all gets me so excited that shoot my story out into query-land, only to have it sent back with a polite “No, thanks.” Or maybe silence.

Like many novices, I’ve thought my work was ready before it was. After running my WIP through a few self-edits and then a trip through my face-to-face critique group (only 40 pages per month!), the “finished” story was a funny, episodic ramble through a pivotal month in Lola’s life. Whee! My group liked it, especially the ending. Out went the queries. Back they came: “No, thanks.”

Two of those queries stood out. Both said they found my story premise and writing appealing. One said the story needed to focus on the main conflict. The other said it suffered from too many subplots and characters.

They were right. It hurt a little to admin that, but hey—I never expected novel-writing to be an instant win. The more I meet other writers, the more that point is hammered home: the path to publication is a long slog. And hearing that from (finally) published writers helps a lot.

Three craft classes later, I’m whittling the story down to a central conflict—well, two: one inner and one outer, but they’re closely connected. Just yesterday I realized I could slice away yet another subplot. You know what helped? On my running synopsis, I color-coded each of the conflicts using the highlight feature of Microsoft Word, and I realized I was running out of colors.

My online critique group from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association has also helped me to see the weeds in my plot’s garden. This time it’s 50 pages per month, but it’s worth it to get the feedback I need. I suspect this story will be ready for another round of queries in six months or so—but if it takes longer, that’s OK.

How do I know when it’s done? I’ll let you know when I get there.

 

 

 

 

Writer Heaven with Margaritas: The Women’s Fiction Writers Association Retreat 2016

Two days after returning from the WFWA retreat, my inner music track is still playing the Partridge Family’s “Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque.” Go ahead, children of the ’70s, give a listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swjLglCwflE

Wasn’t David Cassidy dreamy?

Albuquerque is where the WFWA held its second annual Writers’ Retreat last week. What a lovely town! We stayed in the Hotel Albuquerque, two short blocks from the historic city center.

Here I am in front the San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793, on the Old Town Plaza

Here I am in front the San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793, on the Old Town Plaza. 1793!

Adobe shops in Albuquerque's Old Town

Adobe shops in Albuquerque’s Old Town

Albuquerque’s Old Town is charming, as is the Hotel Albuquerque. There was ample room on the patio where writers hung out, spun tales, and sipped margaritas. I didn’t spend much time on the patio, though; I came for the workshops and discussions. Orly Konig Lopez, author of The Memory of Hoofbeats, and the rest of the WFWA board and helpers created a brain-busting, notebook filling learn-a-palooza for writers of women’s fiction, and then scheduled three group dinners where we blew off steam—did I mention the margaritas?

This was the largest writers’ workshop I’ve attended, and easily the most welcoming. I didn’t know a soul before my arrival, and am at heart a quivering introvert who requires a lot of psychic energy to approach strangers. The eighty women and one guy could not have been more welcoming. Many of the writers in attendance had already published novels, some independently, some traditionally, but an atmosphere of “we’re all in this together” pervaded the 3 ½ day event.

Margie-fied pages

Margie-fied pages

A highlight was Margie Lawson’s workshop on her Deep Editing techniques. I’ve read dozens of books on the craft of writing, but nothing has provided as much immediate practical benefit as this workshop, where we turned our printed chapters into rainbows of highlights, circles, underlines and margin notes. I’ll definitely continue exploring her courses as I polish up this and future manuscripts. And Margie’s long list of rhetorical devices, from alliteration to zeugma, put a grin on the face of this former English teacher. Here’s where you can learn more about Margie’s courses:

http://www.margielawson.com/

Another highlight was connecting with so many writers who “get it,” IT being the joys and frustrations of the writer’s journey to publication. There were sessions on diversity in fiction, queries, log lines, reaching out to readers, modalities of publishing, social media, agents and how/whether to find them, along with editors and publicists, how to stage a coming-out party for your debut book, and navigating the social media jungle.

I got to spend time with some fascinating women from across the US and Canada, along with one adorable guy, Scott Wilbanks, winner of the WFWA Star Award for The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster. I met businesswomen, professors, attorneys, stay-at-home mothers, yoginis, teachers, journalists–all of them passionate about spinning stories. And you’ve never heard such raving about each other’s books! I have a long reading list of women’s fiction to warm the cold winter months.

And while you’re stocking your bookshelves, check out The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes, WFWA Star Award Winner for Outstanding Debut.