By Tina Ralph
In school, we all hated to see those bright red marks on our paper. You know the ones! Red marks that told the world weâ€™d made a mistake. Yet now, as a writer, we search for someone to do just that. Give us feedback. Tell us whatâ€™s not working. We want the perfect critique group or partner to help us write perfect prose and point out the errors in our plots.
There are some well-known authors, who say they donâ€™t do critiques and donâ€™t have critique partners. To them, I say, â€œOh, to have such confidence.â€ Most of us, however, do want constructive comments that will smooth off those rough edges before an editor finds a reason to place us in his/her rejection trap.
The hunt for red ink usually starts by asking a friend or family member. This is not a bad idea if the person is familiar with writing. If theyâ€™re not, their comments may be less than helpful. Painful remarks that kill our creative juices or overly glowing comments that are meant to keep from hurting our feelings. Either way, this isnâ€™t helpful.
No, weâ€™re writers. We go to the source. Notebooks in hand, we head for school. Yeah, it worked last time, didnâ€™t it? Teachers have a ready supply of red ink. They know what theyâ€™re talking about. Smart idea, but tricky. Make sure you know what type of class you need. Not every writing classes teaches you how to write commercial fiction. A class uniquely designed for your genre can generate the right type of feedback that will satisfy the red ink addiction.
This is where joining the right type of writing organization can help you. A few months back OCC offered an online romantic paranormal class. Some participants sent a call out for others in the group who might be looking for critique partners. Beating the bushes in this way, a few lucky hunters found what they were looking for.
Now, we have ammo to help us in our hunt — find someone who writes in the same genre; join an organization where other hunters gather, speak up and hunt out that unique individual or group that can offer you the help you need.
As a member of OCC, I found my current partner when she called me on the phone. Sheâ€™d found my name in the roster while looking for someone conveniently located, and called me. We live close and it has worked out beautifully for both of us.
Another suggestion is to try a one-time exchange. In this way, neither person is committed to a long-term relationship. Each of you can get an idea of the other personâ€™s critiquing style.
If none of these options have worked for you, try putting a request out on the Morning Juice alert. In this group, there are always people looking for critique partners. Beat the bushes, know what youâ€™re looking for, and make a lot of noise. Though sometime an allusive prey, you can track one down.
And donâ€™t forget to sign up for OCCâ€™s monthly free critique donated by a published author. This can give you the helpful hints you need to make your work shine.
OCC/RWA Membership Chairperson
Since my husband John got a temporary job on a film in Sydney, Australia, life has been far more interesting. â€œInterestingâ€ in this case means both good and hard. Iâ€™ve realized as Iâ€™ve gotten older that a hard life is not the same as a bad life, so Iâ€™m not going to classify anything here as bad. But there are hard parts.
Probably the worst is the cockroaches. Not the two or three a year you see in some apartments. Iâ€™m talking set a place â€˜cause theyâ€™re coming for dinner, try to kill them while shampooing, watch every shadow for movement quantities. A good day means I donâ€™t see any. A hard day is killing nine in the time it takes to get ready for church Sunday morning. (Swearing nine times before church isnâ€™t conducive to a worshipful attitude, but I find myself unable to keep my mouth shut when they come rushing out at me.)
John decided from the beginning of our adventure that we wouldnâ€™t complain about the hard parts. Weâ€™d say, â€œThatâ€™s okay, we live in Sydney, Australia!â€ We wanted an adventure and we got one. Weâ€™re both doing what weâ€™ve dreamed of for years â€“ heâ€™s a computer animator on a film, Iâ€™m a full-time novelist, and weâ€™re traveling the world. How can we complain?
And yet, thereâ€™s still the matter of those nasty roaches. So I named one of the villains in my superhero novel Cockroach. Heâ€™s small, agile, works mostly at night and has no regard for humanity. When I found a cockroach on my pillow last night, I decided my villain would leave something at his crime scenes, something foul and fear-inspiring, to let everyone know heâ€™d been there. Perhaps one of my superheroes will lose his grip and start seeing villains in every shadow the way I sometimes see imaginary cockroaches in the shadows of our apartment. A strange and lovely transformation usually occurs about then. I get so wrapped up in incorporating new ideas into the book that I forget the cockroaches!
Of course, that part of my brain sometimes stays active during inappropriate times as well. Like when I was enjoying some personal time with my husband and my necklace kept banging him in the chin. As I moved it behind my back, it occurred to me that a homing device or other signal could be put in a superheroes necklace to let her superhero husband know if she needed reinforcements. Or a communications device could be put into both of their wedding rings. Or maybeâ€¦
About this time, I realized I wasnâ€™t focused on the current activity. There was no way I could stop and ask for a pen and paper; I could only hope Iâ€™d remember later. But recently I got ticked off at myself because I thought of something really cool in the shower and by the time I dried off and found my notebook, the idea was gone. While I was muttering un-nice things about myself, the thought popped into my head, â€œThatâ€™s okay, Iâ€™m a writer.â€ In the space of a few heartbeats, all my frustrations and hopes and successes of the last three months coalesced into an â€œAha!â€ moment. What do I have to complain about? Iâ€™m a writer!
The distractions are as much a part of a writerâ€™s life as cockroaches are part of the life of a world traveler. Thatâ€™s okay. Iâ€™ll figure out creative ways to deal with them. The frustration that Iâ€™m no longer employed, yet I donâ€™t spend those extra forty hours writing, is normal. Itâ€™ll take time to build new habits to go with my new job just as it took time to learn new money and bus routes and vocabulary in a new land. The successes are too often ignored? Thatâ€™s okay. Writers are like that. Iâ€™ll find fun ways to celebrate â€“ and fun ways to remind myself to celebrate. If Iâ€™m creative enough to build a whole new superhero world out of my imagination, Iâ€™m creative enough to meet these challenges.
So after three months down under, Iâ€™m learning to be a lot more flexible and forgiving and creative as I adjust not only to a new country, but to my new life as a full-time novelist.
And thatâ€™s super-okay.
AUTHORâ€™S NOTE: Only one cockroach was killed in the writing of this article. For more on our adventures, go to http://johninaustralia.blogspot.com.
By Sandy Chvostal writing as Sandra Paul
Awhile back, there was a story going around about a woman who desperately wanted to win the lottery. Every day, sheâ€™d climb to the top of a hill and pray to The Powers That Be, â€œPlease, let me win the lottery. Just once. Please, let me win.â€ But day after day, lottery after lottery would go by and the poor woman would never win.
Finally the woman decided it just wasnâ€™t fair. She marched to the top of the hill. She shook her fist at The Powers That Be and yelled, â€œWhat is wrong with you? Time after time, day after day, you never let me win the lottery. Why? Why canâ€™t I win?â€
And The Powers That Be responded, â€œBecause you never buy a ticket!â€
Buy a ticket
Our OCCBoard is an diverse group, and to an outsider, our Board meetings might appear . . . well, a bit chaotic. At the last meeting held on a stormy Sunday, everyone crammed into my small living room and (since my heater is broken) huddled in their coats and scarves around the long wooden table Iâ€™d set up.
Only an hour later than planned, Mindy opened the meeting and started in on our very long agenda. Bobbie kept disappearing into the kitchen to warm up at my stove, and Geralyn snatched a quilt off a chair to wrap up in when she arrived late. We ate piles of cinnamon rolls and potato chips. We drank a lot of coffee. We made several trips to the bathroom.
If we didnâ€™t talk and laugh so much, these meetings might go faster. If we didnâ€™t get diverted by subjects such as Mindyâ€™s latest manicure, we might be more efficient. If we didnâ€™t argue so much, we wouldnâ€™t get all the sides of each issue. And if we all didnâ€™t care so much–about writing, about OCC, about our members, their careers, and our careers–we wouldnâ€™t bother being on the Board at all.
This Board doesnâ€™t always agree, but we all agree about one thing: Our ongoing goal is to provide opportunities for our members. And we want you to take advantage of these opportunities–to â€œbuy a ticketâ€ so to speak, so you donâ€™t get left out.
So how do you do that? Here are a few suggestions:
Be Ready for Success
Technology is moving faster than Superman on speed. Keeping up with promotional needs often feels overwhelming. Yet, sometimes all it takes to stay in the game–to have your picture featured in a newspaper or on the cover of a newsletter instead of someone elseâ€™s–isnâ€™t as difficult, or as expensive, as you might think.
Check out Michele Cweirtnyâ€™s article on page , to see if your headshot is â€œpicture perfectâ€ for success–or not. And learn how to get high quality pictures on a low quality budget.
To blog or not to blog–is that your question?
If so, check out the article on page by Louise Ahern. Also, check out OCCâ€™s blogs up on the website.
I especially hope you read the 25 Days of Romance Blogs put up in February. I hope even more that you wrote a story or anecdote for the project. Because this project–originally conceived to introduce our members to blogging–provided more personal and promotional benefits for the participants than we had anticipated.
The personal benefits included the opportunity to exercise craft by writing a quick, short piece under a deadline. A secondary benefit was the pleased reaction of the people mentioned in the stories (my husband included).
But it was the promotional aspects that pleased the Board. We had originally agreed to choose a winner from amongst the entries to be our first, featured podcast but we hadnâ€™t agreed on who would judge the contest.
Then Silhouette Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey came into town.
She kindly stopped by the OCC February general meeting and the volunteer/guest reception for speaker Editor Selina McLemore following. Mary-Theresa also kindly agreed to choose a blog winner and two runners up. (See who she chose in Look at Our Members.) Thus all the bloggers participating had the chance to have their piece looked at by an editor–and an Executive Editor at that! Thank you so much, Mary-Theresa!
Press Release Bonanza
But our blogging bonanza didnâ€™t end there. Serendipity, in the guise of Podcast Producer Jina Bacaar, blessed us once more. Jina entered a press release about the blog contest and OCC podcasting to a PRWeb www.prweb.com special promotion–and won a $200 placement on the site! The result? Over 36,000 hits on the release by the end of the first day. Cost to the chapter? Nothing–except Jinaâ€™s valuable time, of course. Thank you, Jina!
So donâ€™t miss the opportunity to feature your writing in a blog for OCCâ€™s A Slice of Orange. You never know what might happen.
Yes, having sold my first book via a contest, Iâ€™m a firm supporter in their value. And, according to Chairman Jennifer Crooks, thereâ€™s still room and time to enter OCCâ€™s Orange Rose Contest for unpublished authors.
Now in its 23rd year, the Orange Rose is an excellent opportunity for writers who are either unpublished, or havenâ€™t published in five years or more, to get feedback on their work. Not only will each entry will be judged by three published writers, but the top ten finalists will also be judged by editors. (Find more information on page 16, or www.occrwa.com.)
Buy Your Tickets Now!
Going to new places, meeting new people are wonderful ways to give your writing more depth. National Conference is coming up in July, and Michelle Thorne, OCC Conference Chairman, is making plans to ensure this one is the best yet for all OCC members attending. Weâ€™ve reserved a suite, are preparing invitations for our industry interviews and party, so get your plane tickets and conference reservations now.
And, of course, OCCâ€™s Autumn Affaire is well underway. The opportunity to learn about plotting using The Heroâ€™s Journey by Chris Vogler himself, is something no fiction writer should miss. Hurry and get your money in by the April meeting or through paypal to get the Early Bird Special rate of only $75 for OCC members.
Write. Write. Write.
Thatâ€™s right–write. It always comes first–even though Iâ€™ve listed it last here. After all, itâ€™s your vision, your dream, your book written clear to The End, that is your ultimate ticket to success.
Sandy Chvostal w/a Sandra Paul
By Tina Gayle
This may sound like a strange topic for a person over forty, but if you think about it, we all want to fit in one way or another.
Some of us go to a job outside our homes where we have to get along with a grumpy receptionist, or deal with a nit-picking boss. We shares our woes of our imperfect job with a friend, someone who makes us feel that weâ€™re not alone on those days when we feel out of sync with our co-workers.
In that respect, I donâ€™t have to worry. You see I write. Thereâ€™s no one around when I write. Itâ€™s a solitary endeavor, which would make one think Iâ€™m home free, in paradise, away from the annoying people of the outside world.
Wrong! I get lonely. I have this insatiable desire to talk, and talk, and talk some more. Itâ€™s a terrible habit I canâ€™t seem to break.
And what do I want to talk about?
Writing, itâ€™s kind of a passion for me.
Yeah? Well, what about your family? Theyâ€™re interested, right?
Not when you are a romance writer and a mother of two teenage boys. World of War Craft and video games, karate and fencing moves; these are the topics of choice in my house.
So where are my comrades, the people to whom I can connect?
Lost, I thought, in a world of their own design, stuck behind their desk, in their office, on a street far, far away in another galaxy.
So I prepared myself for the journey and scouted out my local library. A critique group was forming of local writers. I joined right in, ready to share my heart. My enthusiasm dimmed quickly when I discovered that the other writers didnâ€™t exactly share my passion for romantic novels.
Still I went; searching for other places my compatriots might be hiding. A local community class was an alternative I looked into. And it worked for a short time but again, with a wide range of interests and different genres, I didnâ€™t feel at home. But I was lucky enough to be given a name of a group that seemed to be what I wanted.
Romance Writers of America had a local chapter not far from my house, and they met once a month. They didnâ€™t require a secret handshake to join, but I must say when I walked into that first meeting, I was leery.
Would this be the right place for me? Would I be accepted?
The lady that took my money at the door, smiled at me, was even friendly. But then again, that was her job, she wanted my money. She suggested I attend the ask-an-author session being held across the hall.
The published author would answer any question I had, she said.
Right, I thought, like theyâ€™re going to talk to me, an unpublished nobody.
To my surprise, they did.
Then they walked into the RWA meeting with me, sat down in the same room with me, and treated me like an equal. To my happy surprise, no one called me out for being a wanna-be, a bad pretender, a no name author.
Well, as you can guess, I found my home. The ladies and men in the group welcomed me each time I attended a meeting. They didnâ€™t scoff at my stupid questions, but instead told me things I needed to know. They supported my passion with cheers of encouragement.
I made friends. I became involved.
Now, after two years, Iâ€™m the lady youâ€™ll see if you attend an Orange County Chapter meeting. Iâ€™m the Membership Director of a group that has given me more than I will ever be able to repay.
Theyâ€™re my friends, my colleagues, my family. And they even let me talk about my romance novel.
Finally, Iâ€™ve found a place were I fit in.
OCC/RWA Membership Director
By Gillian Doyle
As I am writing this blog, Iâ€™m listening to the wonderful voice of Jina Bacarr reading my written words on our OCC/RWA Podcast, still amazed and grateful for all that has happened since I sat down to write that blog for the Twenty-five Days of Romance.
First, the day the blog posted, I had my hair cut short and restyled. When my dear sweet husband came home from work, he had the biggest smile on his face. For a guy who loves long hair, I thought this was a great compliment of my short sassy cut. I kept catching him watching me with that big olâ€™ silly grin.
I finally said, â€œYou really like my hair, huh?â€
His grin grew bigger. â€œActually, I keep thinking of that blog. Brought back a lot of memories.â€
Gee, had I only known that my writing, not my haircut, could get such a reaction, I couldâ€™ve saved myself a wad of dough!!
Then my daughter emailed from another state, saying sheâ€™d never heard this story before and was wondering if it was true or just one of my great fiction pieces! I assured her it was true. Then I asked Don for his side. He told me heâ€™d dropped by the mail room to see me, not always to help Rubye.
I guess she knew that.
A few weeks later, between planes in the Seattle airport on Tuesday, March 7, I heard the surprising news over my cellphone from Co-President Mindy Neff that my blog had won! Call me a romantic, but I canâ€™t help thinking Rubye is up there somewhere, still working her fairy godmother magic. With her so much on my mind lately, I went in search of that packet of letters and photos stored in my antique humpback â€œTreasure Chest.â€ Nestled inside her daughterâ€™s letter was a forgotten newspaper clipping of her passing with her photo. As I read Don came into my office and looked over my shoulder.
I found names of her five children, including her daughter Virginia Sears, who lives in Spokane now. Wouldnâ€™t it be nice if she and her siblings could find their way to our OCC website, to know how their mother lives on in my family…and now with all of you?
Thanks to this real-life fairy tale, I have been motivated to enter the Orange Rose contest. It has been eight years since my last sale, and the contest is now open to writers who have not published in the last five years. (DEADLINE for entry is APRIL 8, for any of you who might be interested! (http://occrwa.com/contest.htm )
I was also asked for a PR photo, which prompted me to get on the ball and have a new one taken. I contacted our Orange Blossom co-editor Michele Cwiertny for advice on PR photos, and, serendipitously, she had just finished the April cover article on this exact topic. I was granted a sneak peak, and let me tell you right here and now that itâ€™s terrific! Great pointers! (Hint: Think THEME!) Then her wonderful husband Eric offered to help me out by taking some pix. Eric is a graphic artist by trade, and a photographer by hobby. Thanks to him, my new favorite word is â€œAaammmaaaazing!â€ He is a magician with photo shop. â€˜Nuff said. Or maybe itâ€™s just Rubye hovering over his shoulder?
Thanks to Marianne Donleyâ€™s recommendation, Iâ€™m taking a Web Building Class that is going to help me put those photos into a brand new website for GillianDoyle.com when Iâ€™m finished. If any of you are interested in this excellent class, http://www.ed2go.com/sce/index.html.
Although I have sent my note of appreciation to Silhouette Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey for taking the time to judge our Twenty-five Days of Romance Blog contest and for choosing â€œFairy Tales Do Come Trueâ€, I canâ€™t write the finale without expressing my thankfulness once more. Mary-Theresa, you are a gem among gems!
Finally, a special added thank-you to the publicity/marketing genius of Louise Ahern, our Orange Blossom Co-Editor, who brought up the idea of the Twenty-Five Days of Romance blogs and contest. Louise has brought a ton of fabulous ideas to the table for OCC to offer Opportunity, Creativity and Community to our members. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to write for the Slice of Orange blog. I hope more OCC members will grab this chance to stir your creative juices!
Is this the Finale? I donâ€™t know. It seems more like just the beginning!
What about you? Do you have a Fairy-Tale-Come-True story in you? If not, be your very own fairy godmother — wave your magic wand and make your writing dreams come true!
Author of Paranormal Suspense
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