Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer is in the Eye of the Beholder

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate – William Shakespeare

Hmm. I'm not quite sure the bard was a fan of summer considering that quote.

I was surprised when the subject of summer pursuits came up in my critique group the other day. Well, not surprised by the topic, since I brought it up, knowing I needed to write a “summer” themed blog soon. No, I was surprised by the range of emotions this particular season seemed to evoke amongst our members. So I thought I’d share some of those thoughts with you today.

For starters, Heather Boyd lives in Australia. So for her, summertime activities include drinking ginger beer and celebrating Christmas. I have to give her credit, that was not the sort of summer fun I was expecting to hear. But as realtors always say – Location, location, location. Her best summer memory is something I don’t imagine I’ll ever get the opportunity to see. Her parents were driving across Australia and she’d fallen asleep. Heather said, “I woke up at sunset to find kangaroos keeping pace with the car.” That just sounds magical to me.

Stateside, however, the excitement for the season was embraced by some, but not by all.

Julie Johnstone loves lazy swims in the ocean and searching for seashells on the beach. She said, “Summer is my favorite season because life slows down and I don’t feel rushed to do anything.”

The idea of lazy swims in the ocean gave me heart palpitations, however. For me there’s nothing lazy about swimming in the ocean, it’s more of a panicked rush back to the shore. I always think I’m fine and then an image of Spielberg’s Jaws flashes in my mind and I can’t get back to land soon enough before I hyperventilate.

Erin Kelly says she
lives for summer. “
We live on the lake, and every day we swim with the dogs, go wake boarding or wake surfing, putter around on the pontoon, or simply relax on the dock and tend to my container veggie garden.

I don’t know if I’m coordinated enough for the wake surfing, but she makes the rest of it sound nice. Then again, I can usually be talked into trying something once.

Melissa Dawn Harte loves the relaxing and lazy days of summer so much she never wants it to end. While drinking a large pink lemonade, she vowed, “Someday I plan to retire to the coast and buy a sailboat.” She is always the adventuress.

Still, I don't know if that's the life for me. I like the coast, don't get me wrong, but I think I when it's time for me to retire, I'll want to be pampered 24/7.

Contrarily, Catherine Gayle’s rant on the season had me in stitches. “I hate summer. I hate summer with a passion. I hate it because summer is miserably hot and humid in Texas, and all I want to do is go to Antarctica or North Pole, Alaska to cool off for a minute. I hate it because the sun comes up so much earlier than I want to get out of bed, but my cats have decided that sunrise also means it is time for them to be fed. I hate it because I have extremely fair skin that burns at the drop of a hat, and so I have to not only slather on SPF 1,000,000 sunscreen all the time, but stay covered up with as much clothing as I can bear--which isn't much, since it is hotter than Hades.” She also said her favorite summer pastime was standing in a walk-in refrigerator.

For a more traditional and perhaps more nostalgic sentiment, Jerrica Knight-Catania says she remembers “catching fireflies at dusk when I was little".

I am sure she has plans to share that activity with her little princess as soon as she’s old enough. I know I enjoyed doing so with my son when he was younger. What is it about fireflies that make them fun? As a rule, I hate bugs; but there's something magical about fireflies (or lightning bugs depending on where you live and what you call them.)

So, I’ll pose to you a question I asked my critique partners. What is your favorite summertime memory? Or if summer isn't your thing, how do you plan to escape it?

Originally posted at 6/27/2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Top Ten Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before My First Conference

Next month a couple thousand writers will diverge on Orlando for Romance Writers ofAmerica’s National Conference at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin. When they do, I will be included in their numbers. This 2010 conference will be my third RWA Nationals. Last year we were in Washington DC and the year before we were in my favorite city – San Francisco.

It’s that first conference I want to talk about here, because that very first conference can be daunting. I was fortunate that I am part of a local RWA chapter, so I knew a couple people as well as one of my online critique partners. There were four of us that year who were first time attendees and together we composed a “10 Things To Know Before Attending Conference For the First Time” list.

I am going to share these tips with you, but do keep in mind that this list reflects my personality and needs. Disclaimer – it may not be for everyone.

10. Know someone. A lot of writers are introverted and bit on the shy side. It can be intimidating to walk into a hotel and see the sheer number of people attending the same conference, especially when so many of them seem to know each other. Some people have an easy time meeting people, and if you’re one of those people, then ignore #10. Otherwise, know someone there. Make plans so you feel comfortable.

9. It’s OK to walk out of a session. There are many reasons why this is the case. 1 – Nature calls. 2 – Editor/Agent pitch appointments. 3 – Decided the session was not for you.

8. Sit in the back, close to the door. You never know when you need to leave a session. See #9

7. Stay in the conference hotel. You don’t have to do this, but I’ve stayed in the conference hotel and off property. It’s like two different worlds. In my experience, you get more out of conference if you’re where the action is.

6. Skip the “First Time” Orientation.

5. Go to Spotlights. And other sessions where you get to hear first hand from either agents or editors what they’re looking for. It also gives you a good feel for their personality and if you might “fit” with them.

4. It’s OK to sit in the bar. Even if you’re not drinking. Almost everyone goes through the bar and many important people can often be found there. (Including yours truly.)

3. Dress appropriately. If you’re serious about making writing a career, look the part. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum, someone way over dressed (and, yes, it is possible to be over dressed) and then those in cutoffs or jeans. You want to make a good impression. And while everyone wants to stand out, having your clothing do so in an overt way, is not how you want to be remembered.

2. Watch what you say in public. Never say anything bad about another author, agent, or publisher. You never know who is listening. It is a small world out there, all things considered, and you don’t want to say something you’ll regret in the future.

1. Don’t feel like you need to fill every minute of your schedule. Or if you are someone who HAS to fill every moment – schedule in some down time as well. Conference can be exhausting and if you don’t take care of yourself, it WILL catch up with you at the least appropriate time.

So are you going to conference this year? Will it be your first? Or, are you a veteran at these sorts of things? What are you most worried/excited about?

And most importantly - for all you conference veterans out there – what’s on your top ten list that I left off ? (No, really tell me – because a couple of these came from later conferences and I can’t find my original list.)