Category Archives: networking

Writing Success Doesn’t Happen in the Vacuum of Space

 I joined RWA and the CT Chapter in 2007 when I realized I needed to reach out to people who knew how to do this writing thing. I was immediately aided by published authors, budding newbies like myself, and everyone in between. I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in an organization where I’ve been so readily accepted and supported, and for that I am forever grateful.

Then I joined YARWA (Young Adult chapter of RWA) last year,  and I felt like I had found my people. I couldn’t believe there were others who sat around thinking like a teenager and re-writing history.

 Being a part of a writing community has afforded me the ability to share my work with critique partners and open forums where I’ve had tremendous help in learning every aspect of the craft. Although I’ve gone through four critique groups and probably six or eight critique partners, I’ve left each relationship on good terms and it is accepted that as our writing style changes and grows, our need for different perspectives comes naturally. I value each person I’ve worked with and hopefully they feel the same about me.

Crit partners, Susannah, Casey and Katy Lee

Another highlight of being involved in RWA is that I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend conferences and workshops with some of the most talented writers and best teachers around. The CT Chapter has outdone themselves by bringing in the likes of Michael Hague, Margie Lawson, and our upcoming guest, Laurie Schnebly Campbell. At each of the four Fiction Fests and National Conferences I’ve attended, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people, (including my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon). I even got to fondle, covet, and admire Kristan Higgins’ RITA statue and once shared a room with Jessica Andersen. I considered myself lucky on all counts. The best part of all of it, has been the friends I’ve made along the way. 

Also, thanks to the RWA and its tireless volunteer members, I’ve had the privilege of entering numerous writing contests. The feedback and acknowledgement I’ve received has been inspiring, interesting, and enormously helpful. Contests serve many purposes, not the least of which is that it gets you in front of agents and editors and you can use feedback to judge your own readiness for publication. Contest finals and wins also look great on your writer’s resume. What I found over time and with persistence was that, as my writing evolved, my contest scores and placement improved. It was tangible evidence that I was gaining ground. The same can be said for the dreaded query process. As painful as it was, after thirty or forty rejections, you start noticing that comments get more personal, useful and encouraging. That’s when you know that publication is around the corner. As an indie-published author, I am ineligable for entering the RITA Awards, but I can still enter the Golden Heart. Odd but true, and so I’ve entered Heaven Is For Heroes. Wish me luck!

With the shifting sands of the publishing industry, my choice to independently publish my YA novels may seem either foolish or brave, depending on your perspective. Only time will tell if I am successful without the assistance of an agent and a publisher. But I can say without a doubt that I couldn’t do it without the assistance of the RWA, my CT Chapter, and my YARWA and WANA (We Are Not Alone) peeps. Without your support, none of it would be possible. Thanks everyone! I’m proud to be among you. 

If you could meet your favorite author and ask them one question, who would it be and what would you ask?

Has the Writing Industry joined the Farm-to-Table Revolution?

Happy World Food Day, Katy Lee here.  While I can’t consider myself to be a complete locavore, (a person interested in eating food that is produced exclusively local and not moved long distances to market) the idea of sinking my choppers into a tomato that went from the vine to my plate in less than twenty minutes is quite, mouthwateringly alluring.

This fall, I had a chance to stroll the grounds of The Golden Lamb Buttery, one of my favorite farm-to-table establishments in the rolling pastures of eastern Connecticut.  I passed countless rows of blooming bounty – fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs that would be harvested for the meals served right there on the property that evening.  It can take weeks though to get a reservation – and for good reason. 

The meals are delicious. As fresh as fresh can be. And totally worthwhile. Talk about your succulent tomato… The gardens at the Golden Lamb produce multiple varieties for the chef to choose from. From the long, green sausage tomatoes to the colorful, cultivated heirlooms. For anything to be considered an heirloom, you know, it possesses a precious value. And that’s especially true when one knows precisely where something came from.  I can see the vines right from my table!

These tomatoes are what got me thinking about how this food-to-table phenomenon and the growing popularity of farmers’ markets has swept across communities throughout the nation. People want something fresh. They want to know where their food comes from. They want variety. They like having local choices of what they feed their bodies. The whole organic movement has proven that. But organic is not just about food anymore. It is also becoming a new standard for how we do business.  I think this may be especailly true for writers.

Let’s take the not-so-simple-farmer. He or she is now a Farmer-turned-MBA grad-turned-web pro, demonstrating his role as producer and also as a keen marketer. Gone are the days when Farmer would simply harvest and ship his goods to some far away market. Now, Farmer and family stock their own retail outlet, or dairy bar, or farm-to-table eatery, with the freshest and latest product. A product he knows everything about, because he made it. He’s not the distributer or wholesaler- someone with no ties that bind. He’s the creator and these are his precious heirlooms.

Farmer also realizes that even though his product is special, people won’t know that unless he goes out to meet them where they are, to personally show them the value of his product. And as he is doing this, he is building personal customer relationships. The customer feels good about purchasing this very unique product, and because they know Farmer and where their food product comes from, they look forward to returning for more–even when that means waiting until the next growing season.

As writers we can learn a lot from the local farmer. We, too, have a product that offers variety and choices. So many choices, in fact, readers may not find us among the masses unless we are willing to go out into the new markets, to meet readers and show them they are valued customers and we have something special for them.

Now, I know there aren’t too many local book markets out there to pull our cars up to on a Saturday morning, but there are plenty of places to discuss our works and showcase our skills. Writers can build relationships through blogs and social media on the web, through the myriad of indie-publishing options, and genre-based interest groups.  Professionally we can be offering our skills by leading and teaching workshops, visits to local schools and libraries, or good ole fashioned county fairs.  We can also earn readers by writing articles for local newspapers or websites, or regional magazines and newsletters.   

The Unlocked Secret:   However we choose to reach out, we must remember to make the experience worthwhile for the customer. I am always anxiously awaiting my next reservation at The Golden Lamb Buttery because I know when I get there I will be welcomed back like family.   And at the end of a satisfying, expertly prepared meal, I’ll get to treat myself to their freshly-picked-berry cheesecake and feel oh, so good about the entire experience.

Question: What do you flock to your local farmers’ markets for? What seasonal item gets your taste buds watering?  Or what’s your favorite farm-to-table eatery?  Tell us about it…

From Wallflower to Life of the Party?

Happy Sunday, Katy Lee here. This past week my business-type husband announced he was going to send me to a media networking conference. For some reason he thought this was an exciting idea, but me? Not so much. It took all I had in me not to run for the hills. You see, I am an introvert; a solitary person by nature. Just for the record, though, being an introvert doesn’t mean I’m anti-sociable. It just means, please, for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t throw me into the middle of a crowded party and tell me to go mingle…or worse, go network.

Coming up with that opening line – that small-talk starter – is the biggest problem an introvert has. And what can make other people think we are anti-sociable.

But as a writer I’ve got pages and pages of witty dialogue to prove I know what sociable looks like. The clincher being, I’ve had hours to work on those scenes. And yes, I am one of those people who will come up with the perfect comeback or topic hours after the conversation is over… when it doesn’t matter anymore.

Now I’m not saying all writers fall into this personality trait. In fact, I have met many authors who are just as quick with their words in person as they are on the page, and I am unabashedly envious of you all, but I believe more writers than not would say they are quite content to barricade themselves into a room with nothing but their computer and their characters to talk to for days on end.

Sound familiar? You just might be an introvert.

Admitting it is the first step. The next is getting prepared to overcome it–because as much as you want to disappear into the shadows of the party, you can’t.

I attended a conference once where you had to write your name on your name tag along with one topic about yourself. Something that the other person could ask you about and you felt comfortable talking about. It was a great icebreaker, and it took the pressure off of me having to come up with something. They then could ask me about my topic, and conversations just bloomed from there. Before I knew it, I was mingling.  

Unfortunately, we don’t walk around every day with name tags with topics about ourselves on them. I do think the world would be a friendlier place if we did though. Just saying. So how can you keep yourself from being a wallflower?

First off, you don’t need to be the life of the party. It’s okay to find a table where a couple people, probably people just like you, are sitting. But if they are just like you, it could end up to be a pretty quiet table…unless, you come prepared.

Think of a few standard questions you could use when you find yourself in a social situation. I read once a mystery writer who was a self-professed introvert had a standard question she would use in social atmospheres. She would go up to a complete stranger, ask them about their career (a very standard icebreaker for strangers) and then, she would tell them she was a mystery writer and ask, “Why would someone want to murder a person in your profession?” She said it never failed to lead to great conversations and even business relationships. Obviously, though, make sure you’re in the right setting for a question like that, or you could end up being removed from the building.

The Unlocked Secret: Starting the conversation is only the first step.  It is critical that once you start it, you have an obligation to listen. When people realize you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they will be more apt to listen to what you have to say after. Before you know it, your conversations will be blooming, and you’ll be networking.  

Question: Do you have the perfect icebreaking question? How do you overcome the bothersome personality trait of being an introvert?