President’s Message

September 1, 2008 by in category Blogs tagged as with 1 and 0
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President’s Message

Years ago I covered my office walls with quotes by published authors, many of whom are friends through OCC. Little by little, I have gradually surrounded myself by inspirational messages that keep me going. One of my favorites:

“It’s easier and safer never to risk rejection, but if we don’t, our characters will remain forever locked behind the doors of our fears, and our dreams finally die.” – Jimmie Morel

In 1987, long-distance OCC member Jimmie Morel flew from her home in Illinois to attend our October Birthday meeting where she won first place in our chapter’s contest for Unpublished Writers (before it was renamed the Orange Rose). Like so many of us,s he’d worked hard at her writing for along time without any results. Discouraged, she had decided to enter one last contest before calling it quits. Winning the contest kept her dream alive. A year later, she sold to Silhouette. Writing as Lindsay Longford, she has had four RITA finalists and one book that won the coveted statuette. Jimmie inspired me that October afternoon when she won our OCC contest. I sold my first book five months later.

Since then, I have accumulated my fair share of rejections because I don’t play it safe, as my writing-friends will tell you. When I find myself asking if it’s worth the risks, I look at my wall and read Jimmie’s words with an image in my mind of her encouraging smile.

On the topic of rejection, our September Morning Workshop is called “Damn the Rejections, and Full Speed Ahead,” by another inspiring writer – Maralys Wills. Many of our published authors, myself included, had been her writing students at Orange Coast College before our first sales. Some of us also remember her as our 1985 Co-president. She has published romances, a technothriller and non-fiction books, including her latest one on writing.

In the afternoon workshop, we’ll be hearing Kelly Morgan talk about THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron, a book that has been an integral part of my life since it’s publication in 1992. Six of us from OCC formed a study group that helped me to get back the joy of writing and publish again after a seven-year dry spell. Julia has the highest accolades for Kelly who conducts AW workshops in the Los Angeles area. I can hardly wait!

One last thing (I promise!) – It has been a year of changes, particularly with the new bylaws approved in May. The elections came upon us faster than we had expected, so I ask for your patience and understanding as we go through this process. In this issue, you will find photos and bios of the slate of nominees, which will be announced at the September meeting. At that time, nominations can be presented from the floor with prior approval of the person being nominated. We are still in need of a Media/PR Director. Ballots will be available online at our website. The election will take place at the October meeting.

– Sue Phillips

The following message is also in the June Orange Blossom which is available on our website,

June is the month for graduations and weddings. Here at OCC, it’s the start of the election process now that the new term of office begins November 1. The board will be appointing an Election Committee that consists of a current board member as Chair and two general members, one of whom shall be a past-president.

I would like to thank Treasurer Mindy Neff for volunteering to chair the committee, which will be approved by vote of the members at the June meeting. Nominations will then be open. Please see the bylaws on our website regarding descriptions of the board positions and the qualifications for nomination. If you are interested in serving on the OCC board, please contact Mindy at .

In August, the slate of nominees will be presented to the members at the general meeting. Voting will take place at the September meeting.

I am happy to announce that Barb DeLong as our new PRO Liaison to the OCC Board. If you are unpublished and want to know more about PRO, please visit the members’ side of our website. Go to “Groups” for the drop-down menu, and click on “Pro.”

– Sue Phillips
OCC/RWA President

Update: Special thanks to past presidents Marianne Donley and Jennifer Apodaca for accepting the invitation to be on the Election Committee with Mindy, who is also a past president. The OCC Board of Directors have approved this committee. OCC members will be voting on the confirmation of these appointments at the June meeting.

For the March 2008 President’s Message, please click here

Thank you,
Sue Phillips
OCCRWA President

by Sue Phillips

How many volunteers does it take to run a chapter? A dozen? Two dozen? Not OCC. At the January meeting, over fifty (50!) volunteers were invited to the front of the room to be recognized by a round of applause and an appreciation gift! Every one of these volunteers is an integral part of the success of our chapter. Some of them work at our meetings. Others do their work at home, juggling time with jobs and family.

Our OCC motto is “One hand reaching forward, and one hand reaching back, in a continuing chain.” I might add that we also have many hands reaching out to lift a box, make a cup of coffee, run a committee, coordinate a contest, stuff an envelope, and donate a raffle basket or a critique. Together, they share the enormous workload of one of the largest chapters in our industry.

While it was a difficult task to limit the list to only eight, the OCC board presents the nominees for the 2007 Chrystal Cashero Award for Volunteer of the Year:

Jina Bacarr (Podcasts)

Kitty Bucholtz (Online class coordinator/moderator)

Jen (Crooks) Bullington (Orange Rose Contest Coordinator)

Helene Esteves (Used Books Sales)

Peggy Mansur (Used Books Sales)

Lori Pyne (Book Buyers’ Best Contest Coordinator, Online Class Moderator & Guest Reception Coordinator)

Charlene Sands (Ask-An-Author Coordinator)

Lisa Valdez (1st Chapter Critique Coordinator)

Congratulations to all of our nominees. Voting by the general members will take place at the February meeting. The recipient will be announced at the March meeting.

Since joining OCC in 1985, I have been asked why I continue to volunteer. As corny as it may sound, I have always answered that I like the idea that, in my own small way, I have helped a fellow writer reach for and hopefully attain her/his dream to be published. Every time I hear of an OCC member who has finaled in a contest, had a manuscript requested by an agent or editor, or got “THE call”, I am so happy for them. I like to believe that this chapter has helped, has made a difference. My contribution – no matter how big or how small – is about helping this chapter to continue to support writers, to give them a place to share their personal stories of joy and heartache. Some will publish, some won’t. There is no guarantee anyone will sell a book. But whether or not it happens, our chapter is here for them, encouraging them to keep writing, keep trying. And I’m proud to be a part of it.

Are you a volunteer? If so, what is it in you that raises your hand and offers to help?

by Sandy Novy Chvostal

A newspaper reporter contacted me awhile back to get some information on OCC. “What makes your Chapter so successful?” she asked me. “Everyone I’ve talked to says OCC is one of the leading RWA chapters in the nation.”

The answer (like so many answers unfortunately) is complicated. Obviously, our success involves a variety of factors including our location in such a highly populated area, the bylaws that we operate under, the advantages provided by having a large membership and the variety and quality of the programs we support. But in my opinion, OCC’s greatest strength is our ability to evolve–to take advantage of the generosity and expertise of our volunteers to stay ahead.

In the upcoming months, OCC will be evolving once again as we focus on improving our website, and we want to thank all the members who are lending their expertise to this project. Goals and plans for a total redesign include a Members Only section that will include an email roster and allow members to update their own information; published members’ bookcovers featured on the home page in a revolving fashion that changes every time the page is pulled up; a booksellers’ page to feature covers and also facilitate communication between authors and booksellers; and a page for trailers. A MySpace page is also being created for OCC, which will be linked to; and our yahoo groups are being updated for better ease of use.

In conjunction with these changes—and because our fabulous editors are stepping down—our printed newsletter will be phased out. Published authors are requested to notify co-president Sue Phillips at about any book releases to be put on the Bookseller/bookshelf page and items for “Look at Our Members” should be sent to Sue as well.

Questions? Concerns? Suggestions? Copy me with those at


In the coming months, members will be hearing a lot about bylaws. National RWA has set forth new Chapter Bylaws Standards, some of which will be mandatory, some only recommendations. Chapters are required to revise their own bylaws into the standardized format, and submit a “Restatement of Bylaws” by May 1, 2008.

OCC had already implemented some of the required changes in our last revision of bylaws four years ago. Since we will be going through the steps for changes set forth by National–including a printed and mailed version of proposals, and vote of approval by membership — this is an excellent opportunity to review the entire document to suit our current methods of operation.

One area to address is leadership. For 22 years, OCC has had two co-presidents sharing the workload so both can continue writing. (In theory, anyway. ) In the last six years, this dual position has evolved into a two-year commitment with one co-president running for a second term with a new co-president who spends her first year learning the job. Unofficially, these two leaders serve as senior and junior co-prez, which allows a smooth transition year-to-year.

While I have always been strongly in favor of the shared position of co-presidency, I now realize that our leadership is already basically functioning as a president and president-elect. And it is working beautifully. The current board of directors agrees that it is time to formally change the terminology used from “co-presidents” to “president and president elect.” Why? Because we need to publicly set in place a president-in-training who will eventually step into the role of president after a year “interning” in the position. The way it stands now, both co-presidents can step down at the end of their term, and anyone can run for the office even if he/she has no board experience whatsoever.

Having served as a co-president in 1989 before the immediacy of the internet, and comparing it to my term as co-president this year, I am acutely aware of the changes that have occurred with this position, and the need to assure our membership of consistently strong leadership for such a large and complex writing organization.

Another proposed change will be altering our election year to coincide with National RWA’s, which begins November 1. Currently, OCC’s new board takes over at the peak of our annual membership drive in January—grueling for our membership director and treasurer, especially if they are new to the positions. Our February Valentine’s Meeting is one of our two biggest celebrations in the year, but is often a rush-job for the new board if things aren’t already in place. Finally, coinciding with National’s election year will make it simpler for an OCC board member to run for national office when they step down from the local chapter board. As it stands now, they have to resign mid-year from the OCC board if they run for National, or wait several months to run for the next term.

So changes are definitely on the horizon. Be on the look out for more news in the coming months.


Twenty-six years ago, Rita Clay Estrada flew from Texas to Southern California and met with a group of writers who were interested in creating a West Coast chapter of the newly formed Romance Writers of America. They met in a doctor’s office that day. Over the years, meetings were held in a member’s home, in a bowling alley, a Sizzler Steak House, the Fullerton Main Library, The Days Inn, and now at the Brea Community Center.

Our numbers grew as word spread about the all-day meetings that became known more as “mini-conferences” with morning and afternoon speakers, booksignings, and now even pre-meeting sessions of “Ask an Author.”

We have enjoyed a wide variety of speakers at our meetings and our special events – Dean Koontz, Jackie Collins, Jayne Anne Krentz, Diana Gabaldon, Karen Robards, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Stephen J. Cannell, Christopher Vogler. And even the forensic crew from LAPD for “Crime Day”!

OCC has prided itself in the diverse topics that our speakers bring to us each month. Romance is still in our name, but Romantic Suspense is hotter than ever, so we enjoy hearing from mystery writers, police officers, FBI agents and a handwriting analyst.

So for our Big Birthday Bash this month, I am absolutely thrilled to have as our very special guest speaker in the morning — Robert Crais, author of the best-selling Elvis Cole novels and other stand-alone novels such as HOSTAGE, which was made into a movie starring Bruce Willis. My first introduction of Robert Crais was at the LA Times Festival of Books at UCLA a few years ago. I have since read as many of his books as I could get my hands on. As a former writer for the hit tv drama, Cagney and Lacey, he learned how to write women. He also wrote for Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice. Bob (can I call him Bob??) is going to be a sure-hit at the October meeting. Don’t miss it!

And don’t forget to order lunch by Oct. 9 – click here

Brea Community Center
695 E. Madison Way, Brea, CA. 92821.

For a map and directions, click here.

I can’t finish this message without a final and fond farewell to Gini Wilson, a two-time co-president who passed away in August from breast cancer. She was the “grande dame” of OCC before she moved to Texas. Last year, she sent rose charms for everyone at our silver anniversary/birthday party. She was a great lady and we owe her so much for all that she
did for our chapter.

– Sue Phillips
OCC/RWA Co-President


by OCC Co-President Sandy Novy-Chvostal

“Did you hear,” fellow writer Colleen Adams asked me awhile back, “that Jonathan Gold won a Pulitzer?”

“No, kidding!” I exclaimed. “Who’s Jonathan Gold?”

Jonathan Gold, I learned, is a food critic. He started his restaurant-review column, “Counter Intelligence,” at the L.A. Weekly (a free, tabloid style publication) in 1986. He brought it to the Los Angeles Times for a few years before returning to the alternative paper in 1996. He’s known for evaluating all kinds of eating establishments, from pushcart vendors to gourmet restaurants. He won in the Distinguished Criticism category.

And he’s the first food critic ever to be awarded a Pulitzer.

“As soon as I heard a food critic had won, I knew it was Jonathan Gold,” Colleen told me. “Every time I read his column, I want to rush out and try the place he’s reviewed.”

Intrigued, I googled Gold to read his columns for myself. I discovered Colleen—and Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media which owns the L.A. Weekly—are right.

“Like many of our best critics,” says Lacey, “he [Gold] is a cultural omnivore who can write captivatingly about almost anything. His gift to us is that he chose food.”

As this year speeds by and I work on my writing, and help out with OCC’s multiple endeavors such as our contests, our print publication The Orange Blossom, and our internet e-zine, A Slice of Orange, I often think of Jonathan Gold, food critic, winning a Pulitzer Prize.

It reminds me that contests can be wonderful for drawing attention to a writer. That sometimes success can take years to achieve. That it isn’t the size of a publication that necessarily matters, but rather the quality of what you produce. That talent can shine in any medium, whether it be food reviews or romance novels.

Thank you, Jonathan Gold, for the reminder. And congratulations on your win.

Happy Writing,


Sandy Novy-Chvostal (aka Sandra Paul) has a degree in journalism, but prefers to write from the heart. She is married to her high school sweetheart and they have three children, three cats, and one overgrown “puppy.” Her 2006 Silhouette Romance DOMESTICATING LUC was a finalist in this year’s RITA Awards.


by OCC Co-President Sandy Novy-Chvostal

Opportunity–Creativity–Community. OCC embodies them all.

Opportunity, in all areas of your writing life, is something all OCC Boards work hard to provide. Creativity comes from within. Community, however, can only be achieved by reaching out and connecting with your fellow members.

The perfect opportunity to do so with both new and old, local and long-distance members, is at National Conference. Once again OCC will be hosting a Hospitality Suite and once again Michelle Thorne — past RWA Bookseller of the year, past OCC president and longtime member — will be serving as our Conference Coordinator and Suite Hostess.

Our scheduled Suite Events include the Book Buyers Best Awards, celebrated with a Chocolate and Champagne Party on Wednesday night. We will also be hosting the first annual Presidents’ Tea on Thursday, and a “Salon” following the RITA/ Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. (For dates and times, please see page 4).

If you are a published member and will be signing at the literary event, please contact Michelle at to be included in any plans concerning that activity.

This year, Michelle is also planning to capture as many OCC members as possible in “Postcard Podcasts” to be used up on our website throughout the year. So check in with Michelle at the Suite to participate in that project.

And most of all, don’t hesitate to use the Suite to sit down and relax, to put your feet up in between lectures and take the time to chat with your fellow writers. Writing is basically a solitary profession, but even so, you don’t always need to go it alone.

Happy Writing,


Sandy Novy-Chvostal (aka Sandra Paul) has a degree in journalism, but prefers to write from the heart. She is married to her high school sweetheart and they have three children, three cats, and one overgrown “puppy.” Her 2006 Silhouette Romance DOMESTICATING LUC is a finalist in this year’s RITA Awards.

By OCC Co-President Sandy Novy-Chvostal

Critiquing: Sometimes a Paneful Necessity

I am a writer; words are my bred and butter. So I take great pride in insuring that I always select the right word to express my exact meaning.

Yet, despite the fact that i have a photogenic memory, even I have been known to make mistakes. I once told an editor that she was an abnormality in the business, only to have a friend quickly correct that to anomality. And although I realize that a condiment is something you put on your hot dog, and a condom on something else entirely, I’ve unfortunately traversed those two words as well.

But as bad as it is to make mistakes like these in pubic, its even worse when you make them in you’re writing. Because then the reader (and editor) is detracted from what you are trying to say.

Which is why I am so thankful to have critique partners. Along with helping me develop plot and characterization, they also help me catch those small mistakes in my books that some time slip through spell check.

But if you are a knew writer, you may not have found critique partners yet. And you may be wondering how ou can get you’re work critiqued. Well, here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

*Enter OCC’s Orange Rose Contest. The oldest, RWA chapter contest, the Orange Rose, was created to help our members get published. Every entrant receives detailed feedback from three published writers, and finalists are judged by acquiring editors. (Please see page 15.)

*First-Chapter Critique drawings. Offered monthly by our generous published authors, OCC members can enter this drawing for free at every general meeting.

*Critique Group Raffles. Still in the works, our creative Ways & Means directors are devising ways to give members the chance to “check out” how established critiqued groups function. Watch for more info in upcoming Orange Blossom issues and The Morning Juice loop.

*Stay for lunch at the meetings. There’s no better time to get get to know your fellow OCC members, and hopefully, find someone you’d like to work with–such as an all most error proof writer like me!

Happy Writing!


Sandy Novy-Chvostal (aka Sandra Paul) has a degree in journalism, but prefers to write from the heart. She is married to her high school sweetheart and they have three children, three cats, and one overgrown “puppy.” Romantic Times has labeled Sandra Paul’s work as “outrageously funny and surprisingly perceptive” while Rendezvous stated “Sandra Paul is imagination with wings.”


  • Anonymous
    on March 2, 2007

    Oh God, Sandy!! Laughed my Ass off at that!! And we both know that’s quite a bit of laughing!

  • Anonymous
    on March 2, 2007

    Okay, I know it’s bad form to leave a comment–and the only one at that–on your own post, but I just want to assure all of you that have been kind enough to email me privately about it, that at least most of the errors in my president’s message were put there on porpoise!


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