Monday, October 17, 2016

Conference Corner

I just returned from a fabulous romance writers conference this weekend. Sponsored by my local RWA chapter, the Put Your Heart in a Book Conference featured workshops, networking, pitching opportunities and chocolate—what’s not to love?

For me, it was a needed jolt of energy and inspiration. I’ve been down on everything writing-related recently, and hadn’t even planned to attend. But my online writer friends were talking about it, my critique group was involved in planning for it, and a writer I admire, Virginia Kantra, mentioned coffee. So I registered.

In a “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” moment, I decided if I was going to the conference, I might as well pitch. So I chose three editors/agents I thought might be interested in my work and signed up to pitch them. And then I panicked. Luckily for me, one of my critique partners, Miriam, was in charge of the appointments. She talked me off the ledge, adjusted my appointments and even invited me to sit at the editor/agent table for lunch – a surefire way to guarantee I don’t actually eat anything.

For weeks I prepped and worried and planned and worried and worried some more.

But I’m so glad I went!

I met up with lots of writer friends, pulling me out of my introverted writer shell. Thank you, Laurie!

I attended two fabulous workshops—one by Tessa Dare on “Firsts”—first kisses, first meetings, etc.—and how to use them to improve the emotional content of your writing; and one by Robin Covington on adding intimacy to your sex scenes (insert tab A into slot B is really only good for Ikea directions). They both inspired me and I’m busy incorporating what I learned into my current manuscripts.

My pitching went well—and the editors and agents were nice people too!—and I’m planning to submit their requested materials within the next two weeks. Hopefully I’ll have good news soon.

As I’ve often said, one of the best things about these conferences is the support we all give each other. Romance writers are some of the nicest in the publishing world. We constantly look for ways to prop each other up, no matter our success level. With that in mind, if any of you are looking for some new-to-you authors, may I suggest any of these wonderful ladies who have been so supportive of me?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Out of Words

I was supposed to blog yesterday and I’m supposed to write an entry today for another blog I contribute to, and I’m out of words.

I wish more people would run out of words, actually. Maybe then our political scene would be less vitriolic. Maybe people would think before they speak and have a chance to remember they are humans first. Because our upcoming political leaders, and their supporters, seem to be forgetting that.

They bring each other down by their words and their deeds. Rather than rising above, as some claim to do, they fall for the bait and lower their standards and everyone else’s. Our country has become a reality show, the world has become its audience and everyone loses.

Authors are told not to get political because we will lose readers, so I can’t talk here about who I back and why.

But I will say this. When we rule from a position of fear, we lose. When we lower our own moral standards to pander to others, we lose. When we cater to the whims of others because it’s the only way we’ll “win,” we lose. When we stop thinking about long-term strategy and focus on temporary gains, we lose.

Our elections should never be about a single issue. They should never be about choosing the least bad. Our country has always been a beacon of hope for others. That beacon has dimmed. Make sure you vote before it goes out.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Surviving Shopping

After going clothes shopping for myself for the first time in several years, I have come to the conclusion that fitting rooms and women’s clothing sizes are created to induce eating disorders.

I don’t typically use a scale—I find that no matter what number pops on that evil digital screen, it’s always greater than the number I’d like it to be in my head. As long as my clothes fit and I’m relatively happy with how I look, I don’t worry about it. Seriously, there are so many other things to think about, stress about and wonder about, this doesn’t come close to the top of my list. But several months ago, I realized my clothes weren’t fitting the way I wanted them to and I was unhappy with the way I was looking in photos. So I made some changes and I lost a few pounds. Then I got super stressed and I lost a few more. Not enough for anyone else to notice, but enough for me to have fewer choices in my closet, since I’m not a fan of the “baggy pants hanging with your rear end sticking out” look.

So I went shopping, the first time I went shopping for myself—other than a random top or a special occasion-dress—in years. There’s something about shopping with teenaged girls that drains all the shopping desire out of me. But they were occupied and I have a need to be covered as the cold weather arrives, so I snuck away. The sales lady had a field day with me. Essentially, she got to play dress up with me for two hours and I left with a new fall wardrobe. Bonus points to her for not rolling her eyes at me once.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Because while I know I’ve lost weight and eat healthier than I did several months ago (even though I still eat dessert and firmly believe that chocolate is an essential food group), trying clothes on brought out all of my known insecurities and even a few that I didn’t know I had (because THAT’S always fun). Here’s why:
  • Dressing room lighting makes me look like death warmed over—even “my” colors make me look pasty and sallow; put me in colors that might be the “it” colors and forget it. I realize zombies are popular, but eating brains is not my thing.
  • Dressing room mirrors are like carnival fun houses come to life—they magnify every single flaw, both real and imagined. I don’t need any more crazy.
  • Women’s sizes make no sense—how is it that men, who essentially have no shape, have neck sizes, sleeve sizes, waist sizes and inseam sizes, but women have one size for their entire body? What, was the math too complicated?
  • And who the heck came up with 0 as an actual size? Are they trying to erase our very existence or is it some hidden plot to suggest we wear nothing?
  • The sales lady successfully convinced me that I was a smaller size than I thought—but the time between telling me, showing me and convincing me was quite longer than it should have been. She earned her commission and probably should have been given a tip for counseling.
  • As the sales lady was trying to convince me to purchase items for my “girls’ nights out,” I realized it’s been so long since I’ve had one of those that they’ve created an entire wardrobe selection and I didn’t even know it. How did that happen, and are there matching shoes?

I made it home with my purchases and am still happy with them, and I think I’ve recovered from the iffy psychoses I almost got during the process. Now it’s a question of which will be a better deterrent to remaining healthy—throwing away the old clothes, or thinking about having to go clothes shopping again.

Monday, September 19, 2016


Sometimes you have to put yourself first. You have to know when to save your soul, even at the expense of other people. Sometimes things have to fall apart before you recognize how bad they are. And sometimes you have to make things worse in order to ultimately make things better.

Sometimes, others say it best:

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Org Chart

For the past five months, I’ve been helping to run my temple’s religious school, close out the last school year, revamp some organizational processes, and prepare for the new year. While I am woefully under-qualified to do this on a full-time basis, there was a need, it fell under my purview and I stepped in. End of story.

The experience taught me a lot, about myself, my temple, our fabulous teachers, how things run and a few life lessons.

From the time I joined our Temple board, on which I currently serve as one of the vice presidents, I’ve been asking for an org chart. I’ve needed something on paper to see who handles what, who reports to whom, etc.

Each time I’ve asked, I get one of two looks—the “you’re adorable” look or the “you’re crazy” look. Neither one is particularly satisfying. The chain of command exists in people’s minds, but I wanted something on paper that I could refer to on my own.

We’re a temple. When in doubt, ask your Rabbi. His idea of the perfect org chart?

Cute, but it still didn’t answer my question.

Over the summer, one of the things I did was clean out the Religious School. During this cleaning, guess what I found? You guessed it, an org chart! It was a thing of beauty—it listed clergy, the president, the executive board, the regular board, staff and even committees. I was so excited. Witnesses once again gave me the “you’re adorable” look or the “you’re crazy” look. Those looks still weren’t particularly satisfying, but I got what I wanted, so I didn’t care.

Until I examined the chart more closely and filled in names of people. I looked at it. I turned it sideways and upside down. I printed out another one and re-filled in the names, on the chance I messed up the first time. I walked away and came back later for a fresh perspective.

In fact, the org chart was starting to resemble a stereotypical hillbilly family tree.

My name was everywhere. In some cases, I was actually reporting to myself—which is awesome if you’re me, less awesome for the group as a whole. So I created my own, simplified version, which helps me keep things clear, and helps others know who to talk to.

But as I thought back to this quest for the perfect org chart, I realized it had taught me a few things:

  1. It’s not what you know, or don’t know; it’s how you approach the situation and learn (lack of an org chart).
  2. Keep things in perspective (God vs. Me).
  3. There’s a reason we like a diverse gene pool (hillbilly chart)! If you do too many things, you’re going to fall apart.
  4. Simplify (my version). It’s good for the soul.

I’m going to keep those four thoughts in mind as I give myself a break for a while and rejuvenate. And if someone, somewhere, asks for the org chart, I'll give them mine.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I’m THAT Woman

I’m the woman who will go to bat for her kids, no matter how crazy you think I am. I’ll go to bat for yours too if I think they need it, especially if they need it and you’re doing nothing.

I’m the woman who holds you to incredibly high standards, because I hold myself to the exact same ones. Manners, ethics, morals are important. If you think that makes me uptight, I don’t care. I think lowering your standards makes you weak.

I’m the woman who does the right thing, not because I want to, but because I have no choice. It was ingrained in me, in the same way knowledge of my own name was. I’ll balk and whine occasionally about having to do it, but ultimately I do the right thing, because that’s what keeps us human.

I’m the woman you tell your problems to, because deep down you know I’ll help you fix them, even when you really don’t want to. I’m the one who speaks up, speaks out when no one else will. I’ll never be a bystander and quite frankly, you count on me for that very thing.

I’m the woman who will stick up for my friends and family, who will call you out when I know you’re wrong, who will remain loyal to a fault. Because you deserve it. Until you don’t.

I’m the woman who messes up frequently, who unwittingly offends, and then feels guilty about it, long after I’ve been forgiven. 

I’m the woman you vent to, complain to, cry to, because my shoulders are wide even when my soul is weak.

I’m the woman who laughs when she’s ready to cry and whom you mistakenly believe is “fine.”

I’m the woman who fills in when everyone else falls away, because there is no other choice.

I’m the woman who worries about the stupid stuff, the crazy stuff, because it’s so much easier to distract myself with the little things, to prepare for the bad so I’ll be pleased with the good.

I don’t expect or want praise. I’m not bragging and I don’t think I’m better than you. We each inhabit our own spheres, and if they spin slightly differently, that’s okay. The world would be boring if we were all the same and I depend on our differences. Quite honestly, I tire of myself more often than you do of me. But I’ll never change.

And someday, if I’m lucky, I’ll be proud of myself for being THAT woman.