Monday, May 4, 2009

Love of Writing... and Prizes!

I spent the weekend at the DFW Writer's Conference, and it was a good one. I can say that because, except for teaching classes and lending my shining, celebrity presence, I didn't have anything to do with organizing the thing. The conference committee worked extremely hard to pull off an excellent conference. Multiple tracks of programing from a wide range of authors and other professionals, six agents taking one-on-one pitches, two lunches with entertaining speakers, a wealth of information, smoothly run, despite inevitable hiccups... Kudos to those guys.

The next conference, by the way, is set for April 9-11, 2010. Mark your calendars.

I spoke on Writing for Teens (Even if you Aren't One). I joked on Twitter that this meant I had to pretend I know what I'm doing. As people have asked me to speak on this subject, I've had to retroactively figure out what it is that makes Prom Dates From Hell (et al.) a good *YA* book. Because I just wrote a book *I* wanted to read. So it's only the 'writing for teens' part that I feel like a bit of a fraud. But not really, beause I *have* done a lot of research into it. Just after the fact. I *do* know what I'm doing as far as writing a good book is concerned.

I hope Mom doesn't read that. There's a Dutch word for the curse you give yourself when you say that you're good at something. I really did grow up being told by my mother that I was brilliant and could do anything, but I should never compliment myself, or I would curse myself and lose whatever I'd just been bragging about. No wonder I'm so neurotic. Which is why I joke about these things. Because promotion is all about telling people how great you/your books are, and I guess I'm trying to dodge the curse by equaling things out!

Yes, promotion is hell for me. Though I'm not special. The keynote speaker at the conference was Bob Mayer, who mentioned in his speech that on the Myers-Briggs Personality test the "writer" type is the polar opposite from the "marketer" type. One more reason why writing is something of a masochistic profession.

Seriously. The other irony is that a lot of writers tend to be Type A control freaks. We like to write because on the page we have complete and utter control of the universe. It's like being God and Dungeon Master combined. But if course where the *business* is concerned, once you have turned in the best book possible... you really have zero control. You can do promo, and Twitter, and do blog tours and build buzz--which, don't get me wrong, does help--but ultimately, you have no control over whether Meg Cabot or Stephanie Meyer (or both) are going to release a book with your *same title* the week after your book comes out. :-)

Writers have to LOVE to write. Otherwise, it's not worth it. Very few of us get paid enough to make it worth all the stress, angst and hassle. But most of us would do it for our own pleasure even if we weren't getting paid. (Which is why I respect writers who write only for themselves or their friends.)

But of course, if you do want to be published professionally, there's a whole other level of stuff you've got to do. Join a critique and/or professional education group. Go to workshops and conferences. Read books about writing and selling your book. Pay attention to what's on the market, and how books are selling.

Though ultimately, it comes down to the craft. What you write. DO you write? Or do you just talk about writing and go to workshops and read books about writing.

Writers love to write. I guess that what *I* got out of the conference this weekend, being around such good energy from other writers is just that reminder. It's not just about being hungry to sell. It's about loving what we do.

So answer in the comments: What are YOU good at? It can be some part of the writing craft you do well, or some other hobby or sport. Go on. If someone asks, it's a curse loophole. I checked. Tell me something YOU do well.

I'll draw a name from the comments to win a copy of the latest book I loved: Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols.


  1. I love the unlimited creativity, being able to put on paper what's in my head. And it's cheaper and involves a lot less people than making a movie. ;)

  2. Ditto that! See: God and Game Master, all at once. :)

    Note: Heidi is answer my question "What do you love about writing" before I edited it to "tell me something you're good at." I know. The problem about blogs is they're not set in stone and I can tinker with them. That's what *I* love about writing. You can't rewrite real life.

  3. Aside from writing blog, which I love, I don't consider myself a writer.

    I am a librarian/student/teacher. A Librarian at a public library in the DFW area; a doctoral student at TWU and a teacher of an undergraduate children's lit class at TWU.

    As my fifth semester of teaching this class draws to an end, I know what I have always known: I love teaching. What I learned this past semester is: I am a good teacher. This past group of students really grew and changed as the semester progressed. I was able to reach them and show them something new. One student springs to mind. Elizabeth told me that being from Mexico, she was always a little embarrassed by her accent and by some of the cultural stereotypes she felt she represented. During our unit on Multicultural literature she found some authors she really loved and was able to identify with. It really brought the lesson home: that children need to see themselves in their literature. If she was that moved by these books, think of how important it is to children.

    My point is, I feel that I helped her find this genre, find these authors and maybe changed her life a little.

    And that is what teaching is all about, isn’t it?


  4. Real Life doesn't have saved games either. :P

    Ok, in answer to the NEW question: I love writing, especially dialog. Also crafts, since sometimes it's easier to work out a plot problem if I'm not staring at the screen and my hands are busy with something other than the keyboard.

  5. Well, now I'm nervous since you've informed me that the "writer" type and the "marketing" type are polar opposites. I'd like to become a published author some day, but I'm currently a Marketing major. lol

    What I like about writing is the stories flowing through my head. I'm unfortunately too easily distracted and spend far too much time online to get any real writing done. I really need to learn motivation and discipline. *sigh*

    I would also consider myself good and talking about and promoting books I enjoy - whether that be on my blog or at the bookstore I work for.

  6. Marianne-- That is a fantastic story. Seriously. I have the deepest admiration for teachers (and librarians, but especially teachers, because that's another job that you have to love, because the compensations are anything but monetary). (I may save that story for the next class I teach, because 'characters readers connect with' is one of the points I make--it's always important, but espeically vital with teens and young adults.)

    Heidi-- OMG, what I wouldn't give for a "save game" option! If you could go back to the point just before making some huge life changing decision...

    Heather-- Don't despair! Look at all of us who've done it. I doubt there is a single writer in the world who doesn't hate having to do the promo end of it, but we all do it. Or we don't, and the world doesn't end. In the end, what REALLY matters is writing a good book.

    Note that this question is in no way limited to writers (which is why I changed it!) Come on. Knitters, gamers, artists... brag on yourself!

  7. I am super creative. I am really good at coming up with grand or even small ideas. I have an extremely artistic brain, and I love it. While it may be a struggle to get the grand idea on to paper or into action, the best part, for me, in the conception of the idea. That's where I really shine.

    Also, I'm incredibly persuasive. :>
    AND I'm wicked good at shelving and a fast reader. Not a bad artist either, but I don't want to get too gloaty. :>

  8. I am very good at dreaming. I don't necessarily bring them to life in a crafty or artistic way, but when I wake up in the morning, I feel as though I'm walking out of a movie theater. My dreams are intense, vivid, and generally have a pretty engaging set of plot and character, too.

    In consensual reality, though, I believe I am good at my job (working for 4-H youth development) and at organizing information. I like having a map to my world.

  9. Right now I love the backwards freedom of fanfic - I do my own work, but I'm playing in the fields of LOST right now, and I ADORE how writing genfic for it pushes me to educate myself on wild and diverse topics.

    Even though only about 10% of anything I research ends up on the written page (A page that can only ever be purely free and speculative, which is the freedom part - it doesn't matter, I'm not on a deadline, I'm just playing like mad), I have a ball. Last week's writing covered everything from The Last Temptation of Christ, to geisslerlieder music, to how to dismantle a Glock .32. And all of it leads to more ideas, more things I can play with, more concepts I can practice with and eventually reuse and meld into something entirely new, something that's my own.

    It's like the world's best sandbox, before I go and hammer together my own.

    Of my own work, I adore dialogue. I love writing it, there is nothing like feeling it click, hearing the right voice clearly in your mind as you reread something you wrote. It's like crack, only not illegal, and just as likely to mess up your head.

  10. Dramedy-- My friend Candace is like you. She has the most amazing concepts for books. When she tells me about stuff, I'm like: Damn. I wish I'd thought of that. :)

    I've always wished I could draw, but that is NOT my talent. Well, stick figures, maybe.

    Jackelope--a map to your world. Best description of the joy of being organized I've ever heard.

    Maggie-- I love to do research. And it's not all procrastination, either! But you're absolutely right. Research is like an iceburg: Only about 10% of it ends up visible in the story. The rest is under the surface, lending depth and authority.

    And yeah, I love dialogue, too. For all the reasons you said. :-)

  11. Seems like I'm best at oneliners . . . .

  12. I love to write too. I love the spark of creation, those first moments of newness to the story. I love discovering my story, hearing the characters talk to me and the scene build without me knowing what happens next. I think I'm good at this, it's like meditation. I'm not good at waiting or forcing my brain to do what it doesn't want to do LOL.

  13. I don't write, but I love the escapism of stories. Especially fantasy ones. The larger-than-life conflicts you read in those stories are at the same time both more interesting and more understandable than the hardships I've gone through in my life.

    In the past year, I've gone off to college and been diagnosed with depression. Everyone told me that college would be the best time of my life. But it wasn't. I lived in a tunnel, where all I could see was ahead. All I could see was every day exactly like the one before. All I could see was being miserable forever.

    I've felt that way for a long time, but in high school, the context was different. I could spent my day escaping, being a part of my favorite stories, reading them over and over, imagining my life would one day be better. That it would one day be like that. Once college started, I didn't have time to do that anymore, and as my depression worsened, sometimes reading a book seemed too much to do.

    Yet I came through. I never despaired (although I came close) and I came to accept that my life will never be like the heroines in a fantasy book. The struggles in my life are not between Good and Evil. They're between joy and despair. And although that's not as epic a story as a battle with demons and monsters, I think the theme in the end is almost the same.

    I'm good at continuing to live. To love life, and to find joy in it. A year ago, I wouldn’t have known that. Now, I think it's the most important thing in the world.

  14. Aaaaand...the winner is:


    And not just for the cool iDalek icon, though I have much love for that one.

    Drop me a line at rosemary at readrosemary dot com and let me know where to send your book. I hope that you (or someone you know!) will like it.