Sunday, October 23, 2011

A thank you letter to the members of the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group

It’s the day after our first “I’ve Always Wanted to Write a Book” conference.  As president, conference committee member, GRRWG member, author and reader, I could not be more proud of the professionalism, enthusiasm and pride shown by our participants.  Whether sharing their knowledge in a workshop, moderating or simply taking the time to make sure a first time attendee felt at ease, they showed themselves to be first class all the way.
Friday evening’s wine tasting started the weekend’s success.  The private setting allowed us the freedom of getting to know strangers, share stories and much laughter.  We enjoyed the wide selection of Michigan wines provided by Kent Beverage Co and the expertise of their representative.  Nothing could have set the tone better.
Saturday’s workshops were informative, fun and varied.  Thanks to all the presenters, moderators and attendees.  I heard a lot of laughter and positive comments.
The Radisson provided an awesome, varied buffet of delicious food for both breakfast and lunch.
Keynote speaker Jacqueline Carey admitted to not being a "professional speaker", but she had us fooled with an eloquent, very funny tale of her writing career.  She showed that hard work, perseverance and good writing can pay off.
A big thank you to literary agent Michelle Grajkowski.  She was gracious, funny, classy, and most importantly, approachable.  I heard a lot of talk in the hallways of proposals she’d requested and encourage everyone to submit as soon as possible (all the quicker to be accepted as her newest client).
Thanks also to those who donated raffle prizes.  They underscored the generosity of our group.
Lastly, I’d like to express my sincere appreciation to the conference committee, Jennifer Armintrout, Bronwyn Green, Temple Hogan, Sydney Ayers and Ginny Hebert.  Without your hard work, dedication and ability to perform miracles, this conference never would have happened.  You are classy ladies, and I was privileged to work with the very best!

Cheryl Sterling,
President, Grand Rapids Region Writers Group

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What to wear? What to wear?

How do you decide how to dress your characters in any given scene?

My characters personalities, professions and time period dictate their clothing choices. You're not going to see my DNR characters wrangling black bears in a ballgown or a tux. They're going to wear their uniforms. Just like you're not going to see the yoga instructor/new age store owner wearing a Chanel suit.

I try not to go overboard describing clothes unless it's integral to the plot. There's a certain author that I know of who goes to great and torturous lengths to describe every intricate strap, every buckle or grommet on her character's impossibly tight, black leather dresses. The same amount of detail is paid to her legion of male characters. Every silken ruffle, every scrap of lace and every pair of tight leather pants is described. Often for paragraphs. Unfortunately, none of these descriptions are integral to the plot. When I was still reading this series, my frequent thought was, "OMG, I don't care how high the slit is--just fight or have sex already!"

In erotic romance, we kinda need to see what's being taken off, shoved up or pushed down. It's not only part of the genre, but it's also part of the whole atmosphere of the sex scenes. However, we don't need to know there are mother of pearl buttons...unless of course they're being ripped off and are rolling across the floor, because that right there (done right) is kinda hot.

Also, on an only vaguely related side note, someday, I will write a story in which the heroine gets to wear this dress. Because I love it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


(I apologize this is late!!)

I'm a busy lady. Most women writers are. They work full time jobs, they're 24/7 moms, or a combination of both. I fall in the first category.

My creativity-- or maybe my alter ego-- gets frustrated, even jealous of my demanding job. Sometimes it pouts. Sometimes it whines. But lately it's found a new tactic- and it's working quite well. It interrupts, but in a good way.

I daydream more than I used to. When I'm driving to work in dreary rainy weather and the coffee hasn't quite kicked in, I allow myself the luxury to daydream my next story. When I realize there won't be any spare time that day to devote to writing, I daydream. Maybe it's while I wait in line at the store that I'll start imagining a character's appearance. Or it's while I'm falling asleep that I formulate their motive. It might be a brief flash, an image, or an intuition. I never know what to expect. It also helps me stay in touch with the story and it keeps it fresh and vivid in my mind, so that when I do have time to write, it's right there, ready for polishing.

I may not always have access or time for pen, paper, or actual writing, but my mind is always with me- and on those high stress days when the mundane tasks of life feel overwhelming and endless, I indulge in a daydream. Like a morsel of dove chocolate. A guilty pleasure. And really, who can resist that?!

My alter ego won't be whining or pouting this Saturday. It gets to indulge in a whole chocolate fountain of creativity- The GRRWG writer's conference, hosted by this awesome group. An entire day on the topic of writing! No need to daydream. I'll be IN my dream.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inside a Writer's Conference

The day after this post is published, I'll appear on live TV.  Not something I had planned on when I volunteered to be on the conference committee.  Sure, we planned promotion, but the 8 West appearance took on a life of its own.  Before I could say, "hey, wait a minute", I'd been volunteered as one of the spokespersons for the conference.  I'm not stressed about it (yet) because I've had training in Toastmasters.  And also because I have had no time to obsess with it.  But y'all owe me (and Mary) a drink because the show won't be taped, as it was first presented, but LIVE. 
The conference committee has been busy behind the scenes, but I have every confidence we'll pull off a successful conference, and you'll be so jealous of not being part of the cool committee that you'll volunteer next year.  (hint, hint)
Here are some of the things we've tackled in the last few weeks that you otherwise might not know about because of our awesomeness:
* the possible loss of a major speaker due to a family situation.  How would we fill the empty spot on the schedule?  Plan B is in place if the speaker can't make it, but we're good as of this moment.
* an unexpected expense
* whether to lease the audio/visual equipment for all three rooms (we're only using it for one room and have shuffled our schedule to accommodate the speakers who requested it and the needs of the conference)
* questions regarding the meal and where it will be eaten
* arranging a room for the agent to use for pitches (why didn't we think of this earlier?)
* coordinating who's doing what when and with whom
I'm sure there are other things we've all been doing that haven't been communicated.  None of these are earth-shattering, just last-minute-itis.  On top of our individual writing schedules and getting promo material together, we're handling it rather well.  The panic level is low (speaking for myself).
All in all, I think putting on a writer's conference is a lot like writing a book.  There's an idea of what you want, and end in sight, some false starts and detours.  Characters are willful, someone in the background says, "I have a better idea" and it never quite turns out the way you thought it would.  But like writing, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
(well, maybe a second free drink)(hint, hint)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Riding the Rails

At the time that this will post, I will be on a train from Salt Lake City to Chicago.  My real job is sending me for a tech conference next week, at which time my brain will be full of techno-geekery instead of characters.  I'm hoping to get some serious chunks of writing done on the train however, and am hoping gorgeous scenery will provide additional inspiration.  Either way, I hope to have some fun stories to tell from the trip.

My latest inspiration has been coming from vintage sewing machines - of all places.  The Scot - a.k.a. Stewart has been popping up every time I win a new vintage machine.  It's really hard to not bid on something he's excited about, and it's fun when I do bring something new home.  To give you a peek into his mind set, take a look at the machines he "talked me into" getting.

The newest toy, a Singer 99K came home today.  He's really excited about this one as it'll just take a bit of cleaning, new grease and oil to get it running.  Best part for me is I've already got it sold once it's cleaned and running properly.  It appears to have been in a cabinet previously, but I'm thrilled it's not in a case as it's being shipped across the country later.

This next one is the first machine he really pressed me to get...mainly for the cabinet.  But I think he knew something I didn't, because when I opened it up I found it to be in great shape, and it has all of the original attachments with it.  Who knew that attachments would be harder to find than complete machines?

And the one that started it all, my grandmother's machine...which is now known as Black Betty.  It was when I first began to dig through closets to find her again that he popped up.  He loves a challenge, and I love to tinker.  Since I can't have a project truck, I now have project sewing machines; a much cheaper hobby than car restoration.

I must admit I've neglected her terribly, but Stewart assures me we'll get her working again.  He's taken to sounding like Scotty from Star Trek - he jokes with me about "She can't take any more Capt'n".  I love it when my characters make me laugh, no matter what the subject.

My only worry know is how am I going to get writing done for 4 characters and fit in the vintage machines.  Anyone got a good cloning device yet?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conference Countdown

Before I joined my first writing group, I'd always thought of writing as a solitary profession. Just you, the typewriter/word processor and the paper .  Times have changed greatly in the years that I've been writing, and now we tend to think that it's just you and your PC, Mac, or iPad competing against every other writer in the universe, jealously guarding whatever trade secrets you've gleaned along the way. 

Well, I was delighted to discover it's not like that.  There are a lot of wonderful writers out there, working at day jobs, pounding keys at night, and excited to share the things they've learned, tips about markets, and what agents and editors to avoid.  The energy and excitement in that first group was great. We talked, we laughed, we bounced ideas off each other as we ate a meal and discussed writing.  That afternoon, on an adrenalin high, I went home and wrote an article that I sold the next week to  Working Writer Magazine.  Sadly, that publication is no longer around, but the adrenalin rush I get around other writers continues to motivate me.

Nowadays, I belong to GRRWG (Grand Rapids Region Writers Group), and I'm pleased to say I get that high on a nearly daily bases through our meetings, group email loop, and blog.  The GRRWG Writers' hard work and dedication to the craft of writing is incredible!  The group has quickly grown from the four pioneers who started it to three dozen writers of various ages.  What is more incredible is the volume of published work the authors are turning out.  Every meeting seems to have at least 2 or 3 new releases announced.  That sure spurs on the rest of us to go home and write.

Thanks to GRRWG writing is no longer the solitary profession I'd thought it was.  It's a group of friends supporting you, cheering you on, and ready to jump in when you draw a blank or hit a wall.  Through GRRWG, I renewed some old friendships, made new ones, and found my two critique partners.  When we meet, there's food, fun, and friendship, and I recharge my creative batteries with every contact.  

Have YOU ever wanted to write a book?  Do you imagine it as a solitary existence and don't know where to turn to learn the ropes?  Are you trying to figure it all out by yourself?  Well, it doesn't have to be that way. 

GRRWG is putting on it's conference (I've Always Wanted to Write a Book!) on October 21 and 22.  Circle those dates on the calendar.  There will be panels, seminars various types of books (romance, mystery, Young Adult, etc.), and a book signing with many of our published authors.  Our key note speaker at lunch (yes, the price includes your meal)  is popular author Jacqueline Carey.  Later there will be a book signing with many of our GRRWG authors.
If you've ever considered writing a book, do yourself a favor, and join us at the conference -- or come to one of our meetings -- I know you'll be glad you did.

Happy writing!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Imagination is Funny

This blog was written by Temple Hogan

I think that was an old favorite from a by-gone era. I’m talking fifties or earlier, but it comes back to haunt me now and then. I get caught up in the many elements of writing and always I think of imagination as first and most necessary. With imagination, man has been able to soar above and beyond his present reality. Without imagination, we wouldn’t have Ipods or electric cars or a hundred other technological gimmicks that make our lives better and sometimes more hectic. Without imagination we wouldn’t have the wonderful music and literature that calms or excites our souls and our imagination. Without imagination we wouldn’t have little girl tea parties or little boy Lego mania and so much more. Without imagination we wouldn’t have erotic romances. At least I think so. Maybe some writers are just writing down their own experiences, but some of us have to use our imagination.

Imagination is funny, but without it our lives would be dull and static. Without it we couldn’t see the beauty and joy beyond a given moment. When I have a writing block, oh yes, that famous writer’s block, that I write about so often, I realize that I haven’t let my imagination take over and do its thing. When I’ve given free rein to it, I can sit back and try to keep up with the story and characters my imagination is creating. Maybe that’s the heady thing about writing. When all the elements are right, you can’t stop, just like you can’t stop imagination. Everyone has one, everyone uses it. At least, I think so. I can’t imagine not using it, it’s such a basic part of our very psychic. I’ll bet if Freud had put his attention on man’s imagination rather than the id, he would have found a kinder understanding of who we are. Anyway, I have to go now, my imagination is running wild and I have to get it down on paper, uh, on the computer.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Clock is Ticking!

Only three weeks left until the "I've Always Wanted to Write a Book" Conference! It's going to be great. All the GRRWG members are excited to be a part of it. I'm going to moderate two sessions, and I'm looking forward to sitting in on several others. So what's in it for you?

At the top of the page are several tabs. One is marked "Conference Schedule". On that page you can view all the sessions. As you can see, a wide variety of topics are covered, and several genres are represented. There are sessions for those of you who have yet to write your first rough draft, as well as those who have a completed manuscript and want to find out what to do next.

When you've decided to participate, click on the tab marked "Conference" and register! It couldn't be easier. We're looking forward to meeting you! You CAN do it! Mark your calendars and join us in beautiful downtown Grand Rapids. If you've always wanted to write a book, here's your chance to make it happen!

Patty Kiyono