A Slice of Orange


SANDRA PAUL: Making the most of Conference

July 7, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

How do you make the most of your conference experience? Well, I’ve attended five conferences in my stellar career (and even paid for at least two of them). And although the recent article in the July Orange Blossom and the editors blog on the subject covered a few of the basics, I also regret to say they missed a few. Stuff only “insiders” and “big wheelers and dealers” like me would know.

But since I love OCC, I’m willing to share. So here’s my own, personal “Seven Secrets to Making The Most of Your Conference Experience.”

1. Meet Editors

Whenever you go to conference, you should hang out with editors and only editors. (Okay, agents, too, if you’re really hard up.)

Now some people will urge you to try to meet your fellow writers, as well. Even (can you believe it?) unpublished writers. They claim by doing so you’ll have the chance to connect with others who understand what you are going through, and perhaps develop friendships that will support and last you throughout your writing career and beyond.

Well, who needs that?

What you need is to stay focused on yourself and make sure everyone else does, too. And hanging out with editors ensures people notice you. Believe me, whenever I’m with my editor Mary-Theresa Hussey of Silhouette (an executive editor, I’ll have you know!) and I wave and call out “Yoo-hoo! Hi, there!” to people passing, everyone notices me.

Now, I admit, finding editors to hang out with before you are published isn’t always easy. If you are a member of OCC, you might meet a few in the OCC suite during the Book Buyers Best Champagne and Chocolate party Wednesday night, or during the scheduled interviews with our OB editors and podcast producer. Unfortunately, during these events, members are discouraged from interrupting or promoting their own books simply because (can you believe it?) it’s rude.

So, a much better solution than going to the OCC suite or attending editor workshops is to latch on to editors in the hallways. Again, this is not always easy. They’ve obviously been taught not to make eye contact, and can become distressingly deaf when you shout out, “Hey, you! Editor! Slow down. Cuz I have the book of my heart here and–Wait! Please don’t run!”

That’s right. Editors can run really fast–and they don’t give up easily. I once had to chase my own editor down two halls and up three flights of stairs before I finally found her cowering in a crowded elevator. (Thank goodness her desperate jabs at the button stalled the thing!)

Which brings me to my second piece of expert advice:

2. Wear Appropriate Clothing

Specifically, running clothes. Forget the professional suits and dresses everyone else will be wearing. Pack sweat pants and baggy T-shirts. High-heels? Give me a break–literally. Nikes are the answer when you’re chasing an editor. Don’t argue. Just do it.

And when you catch one:

3. Be Polite

Tell her you’re sorry as you help her to her feet. Keep hold of her sleeve so she doesn’t try to run again, but let her catch her breath. After all, while she is gasping is the perfect time to tell her–line by line, detail by detail–about your 18,000 page, single-spaced manuscript. Don’t quit repeating how this book is “different, special, unlike any other” with everything marketing could want–the best “suspense, mystery, Western, Regency, inspirationally erotic, sports story with a touch of romance thrown in” she’ll ever see until she agrees to read it. While she’s at conference.

4. Be Persistent

Now, once you’ve thrust the manuscript in her arms, you might be tempted to release her. Don’t do it. Try to hang on until she offers you a meal.

You see, all editors have HUGE expense accounts they use to feed their writers. Even unpublished writers have benefited now and again. Some writers get taken out to expensive restaurants for dinner, others are invited to lunch, some to brunch, some to breakfast. My editor and I traditionally meet at a candy bar machine in the lobby on the last day right before she leaves for her plane.

And while I’m munching on my Reese’s Pieces I practice my next piece of advice:

5. Listen

Okay, editors talk a lot. We all know this. And just because they deal with hundreds of manuscripts a day, study editing and marketing for years–yada, yada, yada–they sometimes pick up a few tips about the publishing business. When they share these tidbits, you should listen–because if you don’t you won’t know when to jump in to talk about your book again.

And also, surprisingly, sometimes you might learn something. At the last conference, Mary-Theresa hosted several writers to lunch in the hotel. When I grabbed a chair to join them, I discovered Mary-Theresa was sharing with the group the questions she asks her editors to consider before they decide to buy a project.

Well, the other writers (showoffs!) were taking notes, so I decided to do so, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a pen, and the writer next to me (thanks a lot, Angie Ray!) was disinclined to let go when I tried to wrestle hers out of her hand. Which brings me to my next piece of advice:

6. Take a pen and paper.

Yep, this is the answer. Because napkins rip apart when written on, and lipstick blurs. In fact, when I got home and two months later decided to unpack, I could barely read what I had written.

So also don’t forget to:

7. Immediately write down after conference information you might want to use later.

Like, for example, Mary-Theresa’s number. Does anybody have that? (Angie, do you?) Because I’d kinda like to get those questions . . . . .

Sandra Paul aka Sandra Novy-Chvostal has written ten books for Silhouette and also serves as OCC Co-President with Mindy Neff. She promises to bring copies of Mary-Theresa’s lost list to the July meeting; anyone interested in receiving a copy can get one from Sandy or Mindy.

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How To Make the Most of Conference From Editors Mary-Theresa Hussey and Natashya Wilson

July 5, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

In the July Orange Blossom, OCC writers shared their conference tips. But editors go to conference, too, and also have advice to share. So here’s a couple tips from two conference verterans on “How to Make the Most of Your Conference Experience”:

Silhouette Associate Senior Editor Natashya Wilson emphasizes the basics. “I always print out my own daily schedule with hours in blocks and write/type in everything I need to do–appointments, my workshops, workshops I want to see, etc. I also make sure I contact everyone I specifically need to see ahead of time and set up a time to meet.”

Silhouette Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey says it’s important to allow yourself some down-time as well. “There’s tremendous pressure to do and see everything, but there’s no way you can get it all done. Accept that, and do what you can. And try to work out the one thing to see/do in the city that will leave you satisfied beyond the conference, so that you’ve got something else to look forward to.”

She adds, “Remember, too, that it’s the book you write that will make or break your career, not the clothes you wear, or pitch you do or contacts you think you have to make. Of course, outright rudeness may be remembered, but anxiety or shyness is understood. Complete the very best book possible and submit it.”

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MARIA DOLATKHAH: The Wedding Un-Dress

June 30, 2006 by in category Going to The Chapel tagged as

I breathed a sigh of relief as the pilot announced we were ready for our descent into the Atlanta area. I almost didn’t make it. Just my luck that the most important deposition in my legal career would end up on the same day as my wedding. Opposing counsel droned on and on without regard to my objections. He knew it was my wedding day and still refused to reschedule.

I had raced to the airport after the deposition with a small carry-on suitcase and my wedding dress in a plastic zip-up cover. After waiting in line to go through the metal detectors, they selected me to search and I panicked at the thought of missing my flight. I was landing at three and my wedding was at five.

The lights came on and I stood up to get my dress out of the overhead compartment. As I reached for my dress, a gentleman’s dry cleaned suit on a cheap hanger caught the zipper of my plastic cover. To my horror, my wedding dress tumbled onto the aisle. The owner of the suit apologized and bent down to help me get the dress, when a toddler with a juice box barreled down the aisle, tripped over the gentleman’s foot and splattered my dress with fruit punch. I let out a sound of the most horrific primal nature, and the toddler and I both began crying.

My dress was ruined. A flight attendant tried to use tonic water to get the stain out, but it was no use. In all this commotion over the dress, I was becoming in danger of being late. When I planned the wedding, they were so booked that I not only had to take a Friday but that another wedding was scheduled right after mine. I couldn’t afford to be late.

When I got off the plane, I hurried to the nearest bathroom to check the damage. As I feared, I had no more makeup. The brutal reality in the mirror replaced the $200 illusion so painstakingly applied this morning. With my carry-on in one hand and the stained dress in another, I stood outside the arrival terminal and searched for my brother’s truck. When I saw the old Ford, I realized that he ignored my request to leave his gum smacking spoiled brat of a girlfriend at home. I slid next to her in the cramped cabin.

“What happened to you?” she asked.

“Yeah, you look awful,” my brother said as he almost crashed into the bus in front us.

“Careful!” All I needed now was to get in an accident.

As I explained the sad story, little miss gum smacker giggled and said, “That sucks.” Resisting the urge to stuff the gum down her throat, I asked my brother to step on it. When we finally arrived, my mother was standing on the sidewalk waving her arms frantically.

She gasped when she got a good look at me. “Let’s get you to a dressing room.”

I croaked, “Mom,” and held up the stained dress. I couldn’t even talk. She told me not to panic, that someone must have a white dress and she ran into the chapel. I went back to the dressing room. I could hear mom arguing with the wedding director and the director complaining we were off schedule.

I felt a soft hand on my back. It was my ninety year old grandmother holding a wrapped gift. “This was supposed to be for tonight,” she said and handed me the box with a trembling hand. Inside was a long backless opaque white nightgown. “The dresses you girls wear today look like underwear anyway,” she said. “Try it on.”

I put on the nightgown and fixed my veil. My white satin sandals matched the silk and the gown draped nicely to the floor. My mother walked in rattling off all the people she called looking for a dress. She saw me and stopped. For once she was speechless.

“Not bad,” Grandma said.

Standing at the threshold of the door leading to the chapel, I looked at my guests with tears in their eyes and my fiancé’s adoring gaze. I noticed a tag sticking out from the gown prominently declaring “Victoria’s Secret $49.99.” I ripped off the tag, smoothed the dress over my thighs and took a deep breath. It’s not how I had envisioned going down the aisle, but it was beautiful none the less.

Maria Dolatkhah is a freelance writer, recovering attorney and regular contributor to OCPC Orange County Community Magazine.

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June 29, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

I’m not sure if most marriage ceremonies still say “..for better or for worse, in sickness and in health…” but in the 21-year marriage of Cindy and Chang Lee, the meaning of those words was certainly observed. After bearing two children, Cindy had back trouble that didn’t go away and left her unable to get around on her own. Chang, a physician, made sure that when he couldn’t look after Cindy himself, some good caregiver did.

Then the unthinkable happened. Chang got a brain tumor. He went through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and whatever other treatments could be given him, but after months of trying, everything failed. He was going to die soon.

That’s when he decided how he wanted to leave his family and his life. “I want to repeat our wedding,” he told Cindy, “with all the original bridesmaids and groomsmen and relatives who can attend. I want our two children to see how our marriage started. I want a reminder of how much I love you, and how much you love me. Then I may be able to say goodbye. For now.”

The wishes of those who are dying are like commands to those who love them. Arrangements were hastily made for a marriage ceremony in Maui, the air perfumed by plumeria and the whispering ocean as background music. They would have a luau and dancers and all the natural beauty of the Hawaiian island.

They will be flying over there by the end of June, along with people who care about them and wish them well, both of them in wheelchairs, both still in love, and both preparing to say goodbye.

But perhaps only for now.

Gail Kimberly Francis

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CHRIS DIAMOND: Got Wheaties?

June 28, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

Can I eat Wheaties forever? You know the old cliché that every guy tells another guy. “Why get married? You don’t want to eat Wheaties for the rest of you life do you?” It’s not like there’s Groom’s Magazine to answer these questions. Most of the time the men get overlooked when it comes to the wedding. It’s really considered “her day” anyway.

But I remember our wedding vividly.

For me I had butterflies right when I woke up that morning. It happened to be at 4 AM in the morning and I couldn’t go back to sleep, but we’ll consider that “morning” since it was 7AM East Coast Time. Not much to do at 4 AM except think about Wheaties.
Crazy thoughts start racing through your head like am I too young to get married, had I had enough “experiences”, should I travel the world before I get hitched?? Way too much deep stuff to think about at 4 AM, this, ladies, is why there is ESPN News and infomercials.

The day goes by just like any other day for the most part, you have the best man at your beck and call which is kind of cool because he’s like your slave for a day. They must do that because they realize it’s the last time you’ll be able to boss anyone around and not have a discussion about it. I also found out if you tell the girl at Supercut’s it’s your wedding day you get a free haircut!! Most of the time they are bad by your standards, but hey what do you expect for $15.00 plus tip!!

Now comes the big moment, I’m in the tux, everyone’s staring at me, Mom’s crying and the bride’s maids are in their places. The typical intro chimes in and suddenly the doors are not opening. Sheer panic starts to hit me. I’m going to be one of “those guys”. You know the one that you see in the movies where the cute Maid of Honor gives the groom the note and he sits on the altar steps in a crumbled heap of pathetic goo. Finally they swing open and there she is. All I remember thinking was WOW and then the sudden fear of feeling my eyes starting to blur. The last thing I wanted to do was bawl my eyes out. Now that would be real manly and impress my soon-to-be wife. So I take the deep breath, look at the ceiling, stare at a flower for a second and start to think of baseball stats. Yes, it works for crying just as well as you know what!!

The rest is history, the pictures, the first dance were all great, but what’s even better is waking up every morning next to my beautiful wife and thinking Wheaties are damn good.

Chris Diamond
For more on Chris visit: http://www.husbandsanonymous.blogspot.com/

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