Daily Archives: April 24, 2012

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If you haven’t read it yet, you should….

April 24, 2012 by in category Archives

I’ve just finished re-reading Deborah Tannen’s early work (1990), You Just Don’t Understand.  She’s a linguistic professor who has published some bestselling titles (That’s Not What I Meant, Talking 9-5).  I’d read it ages ago, when it first came out & found it both interesting and helpful.  Rereading it offered new insights.

If you’re a romance reader or writer, I expect you’ve heard the comment, “The whole story was just based on a misunderstanding! A five minute conversation would have cleared everything up on page two…!” 

Well, spending five minutes with YJDU will clarify that communication between the sexes is rife with misunderstanding.   That males and females—from the very beginning—bring quite different assumptions to conversations (both speaking and listening) and those assumptions can create significant misinterpretation, misunderstanding, frustration, anger, unhappiness, alienation and disappointment.  A better understanding of the underlying assumptions on both sides can really help realign expectations and diminish misinterpretation.  Additionally, the stories and research offer reassurance that you are not alone in your confusion, hurt, and frustration.

Before I became a romance editor and made my living on the differences between the sexes, I remember having a conversation with the father of a woman who had finally announced her engagement to her long-time partner.  The couple hadn’t gotten married because their respective families didn’t approve of the relationships due to their being from different races or religions (can’t recall the issue). 

The parent was earnestly explaining to me that he wasn’t racist (or whatever) but that building a successful marriage was so hard, and if the two parties came from totally different cultures, different upbringings, different experiences, that it would be that much harder to find the common ground needed to create a strong partnership.

As I listened, I sympathized—all his concerns were valid.  And then I looked him in the eye and said, you know, I have never heard such a compelling treatise on the benefits of homosexual marriage.  I mean with heterosexual relationships, you are asking people of the opposite sex to figure out a way to live together.  Not easy!  There’s a reason it’s called the opposite sex….

Yes, when you think about building a strong partnership between two people who are different sexes, have totally different bodies, bring different assumptions, expectations and world view, have different conversational styles (in some ways a different language), and were raised differently, it’s clear heterosexual marriage is not easy.  That challenge has fueled countless stories, poems, songs and is often one of the central challenges of our lives.

It’s not easy to understand the opposite sex, but YJDU does give some helpful insights.  Tannen opens with a perspective that had a lot of resonance for me: that all conversation has two diametrically opposed goals.

One is to connect, to reach out, to feel a bond with another, to feel part of the greater whole of humankind.

The other is the desire to maintain your sense of self, your autonomy, your uniqueness, your individuality and separateness.

Tannen indicates (my interpretation) that these simultaneous and opposite goals are present in every conversational interaction for both men and women.  But she notes that men often have a slight default to autonomy in that 180 degree spread.  And that women often have a slight default to connection.  And that slight difference can and often does create a significant communication gap between the sexes.

If you think about it, much of “politeness” (which can vary significantly in different cultures) has been created to enable people to communicate and connect in a non-threatening way.  To enable others to feel ‘safe’ in connecting, reassured that they are not being asked to lose their autonomy or sense of self.

Romances are all about the puzzle of how to be both an individual and be part of a team.  And many address the challenge of having the woman need to nurture her sense of self, validate her right to her own individuality and needs in order to balance her natural tendency to compromise for others.  And additionally presenting the flip side: of having the man appreciate that there are appropriate and necessary compromises that he must make to be part of a team, and to learn to appreciate the unique gifts that that connection will bring.

So if you haven’t read it yet, check it out.  And vive la différence!

Isabel Swift

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Loose Ends, Nuts & Bolts, Sticky Notes…and of course Love Actually!

April 24, 2012 by in category Archives
Jill Sorenson, Tessa Dare, DeAnna Cameron, & Dee J. Adams

Loose Ends, Nuts & Bolts, Sticky Notes…and of course Love Actually!
By Tari Lynn Jewett

The Festival of Books is a wonderful place for a writer to be, and a dangerous place for a book addict like me (no Dr. Seuss wasn’t there). Imagine the entire campus of USC, filled with publishers, stacks of books, and authors poised pen in hand…ready to sign. *sigh*

So anyway, my husband, Paul, chauffeured me to the Festival of Books, even missing Speed Merchants of Venice, the Shelby Cobra Mustang show, in Pomona to take me. I felt a little guilty that he missed his event, but just a little. It was fun walking around the college campus having him carry my books for me.

But what you really want to hear about is the writer’s right?

Saturday we started with a panel titled “Fiction: At Loose Ends”. I wasn’t sure where the discussion would lead, and apparently neither were the panel members, at first. It didn’t take them long to find a direction though, and they soon had me taking notes like a mad woman. Did I mention that I left my notebook at home, and ended up taking notes on the sticky pad that I keep in my purse??

The panel was an eclectic group of authors including author/moderator Rachel Resnick, and authors Eleanor Henderson, Seth Greenland, Josh Rolnick and Jervey Tervalon. The discussion was quick, witty, and intelligent, focusing on the idea that loose ends are what give us a story to tell. Clearly a plot must have loose ends that a character needs to tie together in order to resolve the issues in the story. The consensus was that if everything was ‘all neat and tidy’ it wouldn’t be worth reading.

We selected “Publishing: Nuts & Bolts” for our afternoon panel, new session, entirely different feel, and of course a different focus. We went from the craft of writing to the business of writing with moderator Patrick Brown of Good Reads, agent Betsy Amster, George Gibson, publishing director of Bloomsbury, John Tayman, founder and CEO of Byliner.com and Robert Weil executive editor of W. W. Norton. We all know how much turmoil there has been in the publishing industry the last few years, but the bottom line from these experts? Writer’s still need to write a good story, and to write a good story, we have to read.
No problem for me, as if I didn’t already have a pile of books on my desk and several downloaded onto my Kindle just waiting for me to turn to page one, I filled tote bags with…more books. Well, they kept giving me reusable bags, and I couldn’t leave them empty.

The highlight of the day for me was sitting in the beautiful Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus and listening to author Judy Blume talk about her life as a writer. Like so many women my age and younger. I read Blume’s, Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, when I was twelve years old. I hid it beside my bed and read late at night under the sheets with a flashlight because I knew my mother wouldn’t approve. Years later I read the Fudge books and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothingwith my boys. The auditorium was filled with adoring readers of all ages. When the lights came up for questions, fans flocked to the microphones placed in the aisles to tell Judy Blume how her books had motivated them to read, touched and even changed their lives. Now that’s inspiration!

Sunday, more tote bags, more books and more writers.

Once again we found ourselves seated in the lovely Bovard Auditorium, this time to hear Anne Rice speak about her writing career. It was fascinating to hear her speak after hearing Judy Blume. It’s fascinating to hear Anne Rice speak any day, but following Judy Blume was interesting. Both women began their writing careers in the 1970’s. Both women wrote stories that broke barriers and changed what made it to bookstore shelves and onto our bookshelves at home. Both women have multitudes of old fans lining up for their next story, new fans lining up for their backlist, all wanting their signature, all wanting to feel their magic. I was just one of many.

We attended only one panel Saturday, but it was, of course, the most important. The topic was “Fiction: Love Actually”. The panel members were author/moderator Dee J. Adams, authors Jill Sorenson, Tessa Dare and DeAnna Cameron. All RWA members, and Tessa and DeAnna are of course, OCCRWA members.  It was exciting to see these women that I know, real women…I hope they don’t mind me saying that…up on stage talking about the topic I love best. Writing romance. The ladies discussed their writing processes, unique research methods, first sales, and the changes in the industry. Although we were told we couldn’t take pictures, my hubby, Paul couldn’t resist sneaking a few pics of these talented ladies. He said they were ‘the best looking panel’ at the Festival. He was right, but they also gave a fabulous presentation.

So I left The Festival of Books with tote bags filled with reading material and a sticky pad filled with notes…yes, I forgot to grab my notebook Sunday as well. I also left with a renewed motivation and plenty of inspiration. I’ve already marked the date for the 2013 Festival of Books on my calendar….fourth weekend in April. Hope to see you there!!
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