Tag Archives: creativity

Conference Season is Upon Us

Good Day, Scribe Followers,

PJ Sharon here. March is an exciting month for authors. Springtime is around the corner and this year’s conference circuit begins. Since I’ve been at this a few years, now…eight to be precise, I’ve come to learn the value of attending at least a few hands-on workshops and major conferences every year. There are so many great opportunities out there, how does one know which conference is worth the time, effort, and money?  I’ve narrowed down my favorite, and most productive conference experiences. I’d love to share my take on a few of them.

I’ll start with the CTRWA sponsored events. I may be biased since this is my home chapter, but the events planners for CTRWA manage to consistently offer fantastic programming at very reasonable prices. With a smaller, more intimate gathering of authors, you can enjoy getting to know other writers, networking, and learning from such greats as Michael Hague and Kristan Higgins. Michael Hague’s teaching on story structure and the heroes’ journey revolutionized my writing. I can’t wait to hear him speak again this coming weekend! CTRWA also puts on an incredible Fiction Fest conference in the fall. These two events are on my MUST attend list.

This will be the first year I’m attending the New England Conference April 24-26, so I’ll be anxious to see how that one is. I’ve heard good things, and I’m looking forward to presenting, as well as seeing some of my CTRWA pals giving workshops as well. If expenses are tight–which is the case for most of us writers–presenting workshops can be a great way to attend conferences at a discount and also get your name in front of a a good number of people.This will be my first time presenting to a crowd this size, but with a workshop on Ergonomics and Self Care for Writers (Subtitled: Is your writing killing you?), how can I go wrong?

One of the funnest parts of attending conferences is that you never know who you’re going to meet. I rode an elevator with Nora Roberts three times before realizing who she was…my bad. I also got some amazing and very sound advice from Bella Andre at the 2013 National conference. She was open, warm, and honest–just like her books.

RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

Me and Bella Andre at the 2013 National RWA conference, where she rightly told me to set aside the third book in my Lily Carmichael trilogy and go home and finish another contemporary YA romance. I did as she suggested and produced PIECES of LOVE last summer before finishing HEALING WATERS which released in December. In doing so, I was able to keep my contemporary readers happy, add a box set and novella to my bookshelf, and still finish up the trilogy before the end of 2014. I don’t think I would have written and recorded my PIECES of LOVE theme song if I hadn’t been pushed to write that book at that time. I needed that time away from writing the last book in the trilogy to regroup and get organized again before bringing the series to a close. Writing something totally different and using my music in a new way gave me the creative boost I needed and offered my contemporary readers new content.

I’ll always value the opinions of others who have done it before me and done it well. Conferences are rife with good advice from the pros!

When it came to deciding between RT Booklovers and the National RWA conference this year, it was a no brainer for me. I’ve been to RT twice, and both times found it to be a bit disorganized and chaotic. There were some good workshops and the schmoozing is always fun, but overall, I get much more bang for my buck at Nationals. One caveat, is that RT is a great place to meet readers.

R Fan pic- Marissa pic (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)

The YARWA folks do an amazing job putting together a Day of YA, where hundreds of young readers show up to meet and chat with authors. I might have to go back again for just that event! I took this pic of me and one of my YA readers who actually recognized my name and had read my books! One of those perfect moments I’ll never forget.

Meeting awesome people and rooming with others is one of the greatest parts of conferences for me. I’ve had the best roomies and it saves me a bunch of money! That’s me and my Scribe’s pal Katy Lee at the 2013 National conference below. I’ve had the great pleasure of bunking with some top notch ladies who are always up for an impromptu brainstorming session or a late night cocktail. The hotel bar is a hot spot for agents and editors, so be ready with those elevator pitches and always be professional.

 Me and Katy Lee

Since my focus has shifted a bit this year toward creating visibility, opening myself up to educational opportunities, and writing my non-fiction book, I figured offering my workshop at the National RWA conference in July would be an excellent way to spread the word about my first passion–health and wellness. How much fun will it be for me to share my best life balance and self care tips with hundreds of authors–all of whom are suffering from the sedentary lifestyle syndrome that is sweeping the globe? (My story about how this idea came to be and my celebration of 10 years as an entrepreneur is up at my website, along with my three best exercises for improving posture.)

For those of you who spend hours a day at your desk or in your car, or find yourself imprisoned by your computers and perpetually attached to your cell phones, i-pads and e-readers, you know the pitfalls of the sedentary and chair-bound lifestyle all too well. Do you suffer neck and back pain, poor posture, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, or even significant weight gain from all the sitting you do? With today’s fast paced, digitized world, we’re all finding ourselves in this predicament and there seems to be no end in sight to the perils of techno-overload and the inevitable decline of our health as a result. Having the experience and knowledge to help others navigate their way back into a health body is a privilege and I take the responsibility seriously. The more people I can reach with positive messages about proper ergonomics and self care, the better.

We won’t even talk about all those gorgeous (and non-ergonomic) shoes we’ll all be wearing! Conferences are a mecca for fashion and glitz…an opportunity to feel like a princess a few times a year.shoe pic

The last conference I’ll attend will be CT Fiction Fest in September. That should round out my year nicely with an affordable way to advance my writing, meet some new people, and hang out with my pals for another fun-filled weekend of replenishing the creative well. I had to skip all the conferences last year in lieu of finishing two books and a novella in 2014. This year, I’ll be making up for it!

Which conferences or workshops are on your MUST list? Any tips you’d like to share about making the most of your conference experience?

Books are Like Babies

Welcome friends. Casey here.

MysticStorm2_850First off, can you believe it’s already August? Where has the summer gone? There’s something about this time of year (and around Thanksgiving) where I feel like I’m on time’s roller coaster ride.

One minute it’s May and then suddenly August is here and I feel like the whole summer has flown by. I suspect the school calendar plays a part in this phenomenon because younger son would always start whining about having to go back to school (the infamous countdown would begin).

Well, not this year. Steady readers of this blog, may recall he graduated in June (my baby, my baby!). This year he and his older brother will be attending college together. So while they are still going to school, there is no complaining involved (well, except for the ridiculous cost of college texts).

All this thinking about time, combined with the recent birth of the royal baby (HRH Prince George) got me to thinking about how books are born in my brain. While pursuing two books at once (Mystic Hero is pulling to the lead, so by the time you read this, it might be the only book I’m writing), I’ve noticed that the story is often born while I’m writing it.

What?!? But what about all that talk of plotting and planning?

Oh, those things still happen. But like any story, I leave room for new ideas to hatch. I also rely on the characters to dictate how they react to the barriers I toss out. There is no way I can script every waking moment of the story. I decide on the big events and letUndeadSpaceInitiative_200 the rest fill itself in.

So like a baby, sometimes a book can take forever (Mystic Storm – almost ten months) and others are done in less time (Misfortune Cookie – two months). The Undead Space Initiative poured out of my brain like there was a big hole in it and I could barely keep up!  (Note: this is writing time. Not the time it took for me to plot and plan.)

And like babies, nature can’t be rushed. Some characters, like Zephyr, in Mystic Storm, gave me nothing but trouble. I think it may be because of the whole “cursed to be a woman by day” thing (which I am not apologizing for!).

Not to be too graphic, but any woman who has gone through labor knows that babies don’t just come out in one easy push. And neither does my writing. I can have a week of super productivity and then another week where I have to flog myself to sit down and write. However, I will add a caveat. I did have younger son in my bathroom (in under a half hour of going into labor). He was apparently so eager to enter the world, he couldn’t wait!

Just goes to show –  you never know!!

Has anyone else had this experience? Do you have some books that just take forever to come out of your head?

Me and my baby!
Me and my baby!

The Untranquility of Three by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning, Scribblers.  Vivienne Lynge here.  Does this every happen to you?  You wake at five minutes before the sun crests the horizon because your son, Minx, is poking you with a finger to find him dry jammies?  Then 30 seconds after you fall back to sleep, Jester comes along and needs the same thing.  Then at the unGodly Saturday morning hour of 6:00am, you wake to Princess Second Grader screaming that she wished Minx and Jester were never born…

Ahhhh, parenting.  Good times.  Why oh why would anyone willingly have three children?  It seems to be a horrible idea.  I think children should just arrive in even numbers.  I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but when I have two children (if one is at the coveted G-Mom’s house) things are much quieter.  Of course, it’s usually Princess Second Grader who goes to G-Mom’s, and she’s a girl.  Quite loud.  And a bit bossy.  napoleonI sometimes call her Napoleon.  To her face, even.  She hasn’t studied enough history to realize the implication…yet.  I look forward to that day in high school or whenever when she comes home and says, “Dude – that Napoleon guy wasn’t very nice.  Why do you call me that.”   Is it wrong for me to dream about that moment?

Lest we forget, Jester and Minx are boys.  Even though we are a rabidly anti-gun household (I won’t even allow squirt guns – it’s not the water I object to, it’s the distribution device.  They can dump all water and stuff on each other all they want – just no gun!) these little fellows make a gun out of everything!  Sticks, pencils, train tracks.  Sometimes they add extra train tracks to make some kind of riffle thingy.  And then site down the barrel.  How do they even know about that?  They have seen exactly two movies with guns in them, The Incredibles and Wall-E.  Ok, and Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back – hey it was 100 degrees here last summer and I needed to imprison them…I mean keep them…in the basement where it was cool.  The VCR is in the basement and the VHS selection is very thin these days.  I couldn’t face Thomas the Train again.  If you’re a mom, you’ve been there.

So they’ve seen 4 movies with guns but honestly, they were making things into guns long before they ever saw those.  How do I stop it?  All the old guard moms in my family (my mom, my aunts etc) say not to worry about it – their kids all played with guns (cap guns and air rifles mostly) and turned out fine.  Then there’s the other side of things where two kids were suspended from elementary school for playing soldier with each other when one’s father was a US Marine!  They weren’t threatening anyone – they were PLAYING!

Lordy-be…Princess Second Grader is bugging me again…something about Minx not feeding blueberries to a plastic snake, only to the actual children.  These kids have a lot of rules…no wonder they’re always fighting.  Where was I?  Oh yes…Society today has so many conflicting expectations…let children play and be children…but not too creatively lest we have to punish them for role playing.  Ahhh, what’s a mom to do?  Immerse herself in romance, of course.  When I can find the time.

Today’s secret: if at all possible, don’t have 3 children.  Have 4 or 2 or 6.  Not 3…I gotta go…Minx seems to have thrown a cardboard brick at PSG and she’s expecting some kind of consequence.  I’d better get in there before she takes matters into her own hands.  She might find an actual brick and throw it back…

The Saga of Mr. Fern

DSCF0661Mr. Fern, who by then was raggedy, although he still had green fronds, sat discarded outside the teachers’ room door at the school where my husband teaches, and rather than let him be consigned to the garbage, John brought him home. For years, Mr. Fern sat by the sliders to the deck in the winter, and on the deck, summers, and regenerated and bloomed, and — I truly believe — begat a whole family of ferns that return every year, shooting up like alien pods, in my pachysandra patch.

So it was with great sorrow that two or three years ago, we watched as Mr. Fern deteriorated to the point where he had no new growth, his leaves shriveled, browned, became dessicated, and he died.
We put him in the back yard nevertheless, loath to leave him in the detritus that would be cleared away in the bi-annual garden clean-up. And there he sat for a summer, a winter, another summer, forlorn, dried up, leafless, lifeless …

And then one summer day, I saw a sliver of green poking out from the midst of the jungle of brown. One fully formed fern frond, child-size, fresh green, fresh life, a little miracle stretching out from the dirt and decay. No stopping him then. I began watering him. He pushed out more long stringy fingers which turned into an explosion of brand new fronds.

Mr. Fern is back. Why, how, from that mass of crinkly dead leaves, I’ll never understand. I thought he was truly gone, and then, suddenly, there he was. And now he sits in my cluttered dining room by the sliding doors, growing and flourishing every day.

It’s a lesson to all of us. Sometimes we feel hopeless, helpless, dry, dessicated, chewed up, beaten down
— like we couldn’t produce another word, even if it was the word “I” — and we just bury ourselves and let it all go.

Don’t let go. We’re writers. There’s always life in there, even if at times it seems like still life with no possibilities. All it needs is a little poke and prod. A book, a word, an overheard conversation, something in the news — and we green up, poke our way out of the dessication, and get going.

Because we have to. Because there are stories to tell and we can tell them. Because there are fictional lives to explore, and we can do justice to them. Because when you’re a writer, you’re never not writing, even if you think you’re not.

And, because we can.

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance. She’s pleased to announce that five of her early books, Reckless Desire, Ecstasy’s Hostage, Relentless Passion, Montana Mistress and Angel Eyes are now available in Kindle editions.

Do Not Disturb – Daydreaming in Progress

Happy Friday everyone! Casey Wyatt here.

Shh… hold on a moment. I’m staring out my window. Aren’t my squirrels cute? I know I should be writing but I’m vegging.


I’m not thinking about anything writing related right now either. And that’s okay.I’m remembering a recent trip to Ikea with my buddies, Katy, Suze and J. We had a lot of fun with those owl puppets.


I’m letting my mind wander while I look at this. . . . this is such a divine tree.


I’m a true believer in daydreaming/vegging out/being lazy. I can’t think of a single idea that originated from me sitting down and saying, “I will now generate story ideas.” That totally doesn’t work for me.

Here’s where my past ideas came from:

  • Mystic Ink – baby name book while I was researching a totally different story.
  • The Undead Space Initiative – driving my car.
  • Misfortune Cookie – while daydreaming during my day job. Let me clarify – I was working on something repitive and my mind went into some other dimension.
  • Ascension – during a car ride.
  • Unnamed projects in the works – various places like sitting around being a couch potato, waiting in line at the grocery store, watching the news, and driving in the car (that seems to be my biggest idea generator).

The best ideas always sneak up on me when I least expect them! Kind of like those gremlins in the dryer that steal socks – no one sees them, yet the results are the same – two go in – one comes out. And don’t tell me I’m the only one with them! Either that, or I have a pocket dimension in my basement.

I have to thank Jamie for her post Monday – I don’t wanna. It reminded me that it’s normal to not do anything once in a while. In fact, I would argue that if you don’t stop and stare out the window regularly, you will never, ever have any fresh ideas again.

What does everyone else think? Can you command your mind to be creative? Or do you have to trick it like I do?