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President’s Message

July 7, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as


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 agreatreadoccrwa@aol.com 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.

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President’s Message

March 1, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

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.”

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SANDY NOVY-CHVOSTAL: August 2006 President’s Message

July 24, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

“No Good Book Lacks Lovers”

Every writer I know is a bibliophile. Not to be confused with a bibliomania, an indiscriminate book hoarder (I know a few); or a bibliophagic, which is a book-eater (let’s not even go there), a bibliophile is someone with a healthy love of books.
And, being bibliophiles, all the writers I know also have “Keeper Shelves.” These shelves are stocked with books we especially love and that we really don’t (despite what we may say) want to lend out.

But we do like to talk about favorite books and recommend them to our friends. To this end, our fabulous blog editor Jennifer Apodaca (riding high on the success of our recent blog contest, Going to the Chapel… Thank you, New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber for judging for us!) has created a new blog category, called “The Keeper Shelf.”

No, this one isn’t a contest. Jen is simply inviting our members to blog on an ongoing basis about books that they love, and think other OCC members shouldn’t miss.

Now my Keeper Shelf is chock full of books, some old and out-of-print, and others brand-spanking new. The amazing thing to me about all these books is that since joining OCC over 15 years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to actually meet the authors of many of the books I read and reread. While meeting my favorite fiction writers is a personal thrill, meeting the nonfiction writers is always a professional boon for increasing my understanding of craft. Hearing the author discuss his work in person (agent Donald Maass, executive editor Leslie Wainger), never fails to provide insights I’d missed on the printed page.

With this in mind, here are a few books from my nonfiction collection pertinent to upcoming events I don’t want you to miss:

Lessons from A Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell.

Long before our renowned Programs Director Bobbie Cimo snagged Morrell for our August meeting, this book has been on the shelf of many of my friends. Learning that Morrell would be speaking at OCC – and knowing his background not only as the creator of Rambo but also as a writing teacher – and I rushed to get it, too. I was not disappointed. Not only are Morrell’s lessons on craft great, in my opinion his opening discussion of “why do you want to write?” is worth the price of the book alone. Read it before Morrell speaks, and if you are an OCC volunteer, make sure you don’t miss the reception afterward (invites are a volunteer perk) so you can discuss it with Morrell in person.

To the Point–Samples of Successful Synopses by OCC/RWA

More than 25 authors donated the synopses they wrote – synopses that sold – so other writers can learn from them. This collection (originally published by OCC more than 10 years ago), has been newly revised and updated by Ways and Means Director Sandy Brown. Order it in book or CD form on our website, and after you read these synopses, don’t miss the opportunity to talk to the authors about them.

The Hero’s Journey by Chris Vogler.

Before I was published, I studied Vogler’s application of Joseph Campbell’s work to plotting simply because all the published writers I knew had studied it, and because George Lucas had used it to create “Star Wars.” Well, everyone still knows about Vogler’s work, especially Hollywood writers who now pay Vogler big bucks to evaluate their screenplays.

Am I looking forward to hearing Vogler (when he returns from presenting his workshop in Italy) lecture in person at our Autumn Affaire in September? You betcha.

And I’m hoping you’ll be there, too.

Sandra Paul aka Sandra Novy-Chvostal has written ten books for Silhouette and also serves as OCC Co-President with Mindy Neff.

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Sandy Chvostal: April 2006 President’s Message

March 31, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

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, she’d climb to the top of a hill and pray to The Powers That Be, “Please, let me win the lottery. Just once. Please, let me win.” But day after day, lottery after lottery would go by and the poor woman would never win.

Finally the woman decided it just wasn’t fair. She marched to the top of the hill. She shook her fist at The Powers That Be and yelled, “What is wrong with you? Time after time, day after day, you never let me win the lottery. Why? Why can’t I win?”
And The Powers That Be responded, “Because you never buy a ticket!”

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 I’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 didn’t talk and laugh so much, these meetings might go faster. If we didn’t get diverted by subjects such as Mindy’s latest manicure, we might be more efficient. If we didn’t argue so much, we wouldn’t get all the sides of each issue. And if we all didn’t care so much–about writing, about OCC, about our members, their careers, and our careers–we wouldn’t bother being on the Board at all.

This Board doesn’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 “buy a ticket” so to speak, so you don’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 else’s–isn’t as difficult, or as expensive, as you might think.

Check out Michele Cweirtny’s article on page , to see if your headshot is “picture perfect” 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 OCC’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 hadn’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 didn’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 Jina’s valuable time, of course. Thank you, Jina!

So don’t miss the opportunity to feature your writing in a blog for OCC’s A Slice of Orange. You never know what might happen.

Enter Contests
Yes, having sold my first book via a contest, I’m a firm supporter in their value. And, according to Chairman Jennifer Crooks, there’s still room and time to enter OCC’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 haven’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. We’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, OCC’s Autumn Affaire is well underway. The opportunity to learn about plotting using The Hero’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.
That’s right–write. It always comes first–even though I’ve listed it last here. After all, it’s your vision, your dream, your book written clear to The End, that is your ultimate ticket to success.

Happy Writing!

Sandy Chvostal w/a Sandra Paul

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