Archive | July 2008

Reading for a good cause…


2008 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing

The “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing has become one of the most popular events at RWA’s annual conference. Over 500 romance authors participate in this two-hour autographing event, and each year we raise thousands of dollars, which are donated to ProLiteracy Worldwide. Since 1991, RWA has donated over $600,000 to literacy charities.

The 2008 “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing takes place on Wednesday, July 30, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Marriott, Yerba Buena Ballroom. (This event is open to the public.)

Characters and Contests and Stories–oh, my

Been doing the contest reading thing, and have to say, people–writing skills are good, but story telling skills?  Bleh.  Are all the writing classes/workshops out there focused on technique, and not how to build a story (as in how to build solid characters)?

Two biggest mistakes I’m seeing on a regular basis is that folks seem to mistake backstory for characterization.  People, backstory is what happened to someone.  Characterization is how a person deals with, or has dealt, with those happenings–it’s their innate ticks that make them unique.  You can have two people both with the same event in their past–and you’ll get two different reactions.  But what I’m reading mostly just has characters shoved through a plot.  Not good.  And that brings up the other big mistake–plot needs to come from characters, folks.  If you make up events and throw them at your characters, the characters need to react ‘in character’.  If they don’t, plot comes across as ‘contrived’ — it feels made up.

And, yes, I know–fiction is made up.  But this is a magic act, people.  Story telling gives the illusion of real people. Fake people have to be more internally consistent, more structured, more real than real people ever are, or the illusion doesn’t work.

So–is this not being taught anywhere?  Are we producing people with writing skills, but no story telling skills?  I have to say, I’d much rather be bitching about untangling sentences, or making paragraphs make sense, or even adding tension to a scene, or how to punch dialogue–those are all common enough mistakes, but that’s craft you can learn.  Or is this the thing you really can’t teach?  Is this something you figure out on your own, the skill that isn’t a skill, but is a knack or a gift, or is something that you have or don’t?

Writers in SF

Next week is the RWA conference in San Francisco, and it’s a bit sad when that kind of event looks restful. It’s not, but it’s sure as hell a change of pace, and that’s sounding very, very good. But, honestly, it’s a bit silly that every year when I go to one of these, I spend good money to not listen to workshops–but the bar is worth the price of admission, and I at least get to listen to Susan Elizabeth Philips, who is as funny and charming and smart as she writes. That is no small thing. Writers are often not what they write. Actually, writers usually aren’t what they write. There are a few times when I’ve met someone and they’re so much like their books, it’s just silly. Usually, it’s a disappointment–I’ve learned to be very wary of meeting favorite authors (or even finding out much about them, since if the fiction is good, much else should be ignored). But the real fun of conference is often to be found in the bar, because that’s where you find someone who’ll talk about the craft.

And that’s what gets me jazzed.

A late night with too little sleep and just enough to drink that regular boundaries get a bit slurred, and that’s the kind of madness where you can dig a little deeper into questions about what does matter. My suspicion is that this is my frustrated desire to have been a member of The Algonquin Club–or at least a waiter at the hotel, someone who could eavesdrop shamelessly, and don’t tell me that Parker and Benchley and the like didn’t know they were playing to an audience.

Conference, however, always makes me wonder why a couple of thousand women in one room do start sounding like chickens in a coop. That’s just not fair. And why is it that the two things you never pack are the two things you need most, while the five things you were sure you needed remain unused? My other fantasy of convention travel is to show up with an Amex card in hand and nothing more and buy everything as needed–that’s not happening this year, but that’s one of those someday promises. (Along with getting out of the conference hotel more, and also finding the time to take a real vacation.)

And there will be books–not that I don’t have a stack of twenty to be read (and two I’m wandering my way through). But, lord help me, I can no more resist a book that looks interesting than I can stay out of a conversation about writing. So much easier to talk about, than to do. Back to doing more now….

Other Past Events

The Regency Academe, “Breaking in with A Regency” an online class on writing and research

Los Angeles Romance Authors Speaking “The Black Moment”

Monterey Bay RWA Chapter,  “From Unpublished to Multi-published in One Year.”

OCC Workshop,  “The Golden Heart–should you enter?”

Beau Monde Regency Conference, “Horse Sense for Your Regency Characters”

The Learning Tree University, Irvine CA – “Using the Internet for Research”;  “Technical Writing”

UCLA Extension – Computer Game Design

Digital Video Conference 1999, 1998, 1997 – “When to Use Digital Video”

IGDN Conference, October, 1998 – UCLA, CA – With Sam Palahnuk, “Creativity is Dead”

Computer Game Developer’s Conference, May, 1998 – Los Angeles, CA – With Sam Palahnuk, “Do You Have What it Takes to be a Game Designer?”

American Children’s Interactive Conference, 1996

National Writer’s Association, 1996

Workshops 2004

October 2004 – OCCRWA Online Workshop – The Selling Synopsis

October 2004 Los Angles County Library Romance Workshop – Speaking with Jill Marie Landis, Susan Squires, Jackie Diamond, Linda O. Johnston, Linda McLaughlin.

September 2004 Authors Talk – Barnes & Noble, Valenca

August 2004  Ask An Author OCCRWA Chapter Meeting

Workshops 2005

October 12 to November 8 2005 – OCCRWA Online Class – “The Selling Synopsis”

July 7 – September 7, 2005 – UCLA Online Extension Class – “Chick Lit and Her Sisters: Writing Marketable Romance Novels”

July 27, 2005 – Beau Monde Conference, Reno, Nevada – “Historical Characters in Fiction”

May 2 – 31, 2005 – “The Selling Synopsis” – Earthly Charms Workshop

May 2 – 31, 2005 – “Show and Tell”- Eastside Romance Writers

April 15 – 17, 2005 – Historical Novel Society Conference, Salt Lake, UT

January 11, 2005 – Eastside Romance Writers, “Plotting From Character”, Bellevue, WA