Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lessons Learned

Bonjour, mon amis. Je suis fatigue. Je pense que le francais est tres difficile. Je vais le examens lundi.

Basically, I just wanted to check in, say hello, and let you know that I am tired; I think that French is very difficult, and I have an exam Monday.

Procrastinator that I am instead of studying for French I'll write a bit of French in my blog and that counts as studying, right. lol I'm learning a lot. I can introduce myself to others, go through my family tree (okay not that much), explain my oh-so-crazy schedule, tell you all about my university and campus, tell time, and almost make complete sentences. I can conjugate about 3 verbs. I'm really going to take the French world by storm. OK, maybe not. I can write it better than I can speak it. I was always good at remembering odd spellings (that helps) but my prof cringes every time I open my mouth to speak - Men! lol

I'll get back to studying in a bit, but I have to share the happenings of my so-called life. Since the accident in February I was forced to miss a meeting and due to conferences I'll be missing the next two meetings of my Lake Charles Bayou Writer's Group; I miss my friends so much. I can't wait to hear what's going on in your lives, writing or otherwise. I want hugs from everyone as soon as we meetup in May.

I took off of work Friday and drove to Shreveport, Louisiana with my mom and sister. A little vacay was in order for all of us. We shopped and ate sushi at this wonderful restaurant on the Boardwalk. I only experienced road rage once, so I guess that was good. We made it safe and sound.

Here's my sis, Stacey, and me:


We checked into the hotel and then Stacey and Moma left for some more sightseeing and shopping. I attended 2 fabulous early bird workshops about avoiding plagiarism and creating the page turner. There was a meet and greet with great food, and I drank the best glasses of Pinot Grigio I've had in forever, (oh wait it's been forever since I had a chance to drink).


I met up with a few old friends and met some new ones. I retired early to pound away at the keyboard having found some inspiration and a fix for one of my current probs with my current WIP. Here's me and the Vice President of BWG, Jan Rider Newman:

I met Jamie Colette at the 2008 Conference. It's great to meet up with an old friend:

Conferences are a great way to meet other writers. Here's a new friend, Betsy St. Amant:


The next day the workshops were fantastic; I learned so much and hardly know where to start. If I start naming names, I know I'll miss out on some of the major influences of the weekend and I should apologize for that up front. But thanks to the wonderful workshops of: Jennifer Blake, Karen King, Elle James, Delilah Devlin, Ramona Richards, Terry Spear, and Jade Lee I am so much smarter than I was 72 hours ago, and I am ready to tackle the rest of my current WIP.

I'm ready to take the rest of the journey with Nalia and her Merry Men to find the end of this book. The initial idea came to me exactly a year ago. In March of 2008 Nalia first stepped out of my mind and into my idea book. I didn't start writing the story itself until June of 2008. And while I have not been writing for all of these months since then, as I do have two jobs and attend night classes at UL, it is time to get to the bottom of the story. I had realized this going into the weekend but some happenings during the conference pissed me off enough to get the ball rolling for sure. I so do love a challenge.

As many of you know, I love everything about the learning process. I'm obsessed with knowledge and learning new things. What can one expect from the girl who taught herself how to read crochet patterns and then made up her own? But I digress.
I attend many conferences whenever I have the time, opportunity, and money even though I'm fully aware that I am losing out on opportunities to speak with editors and agents about my work, since I don't actually have a finished product. And while some feel quite comfortable speaking out when they don't have a finished product, my situation leaves me in a corner where I don't feel comfortable trying to sell something that I do not have and which I cannot guarantee would be reader-ready within a few months time.

But do I let this stop me? Heck no, I go to conferences and I learn and I get better and I network. Guess what? I'm okay with that. It works for me, and I'm fully aware that what works for one does not work for everyone.
During the course of the conference, I was asked numerous times whether I pitched to anyone. The answer was of course, "no." Most people just looked at me with pity in their eyes and nodded their head in encouragement as I spilled all the "excuses" why I don't have a finished product. Yeah, yeah so we all have excuses.

One remarkable woman actually compared going to conferences without a finished product to something like, saying I can be a race car driver just because I like watching Nascar. There are moments when I have no class. I curse like a sailor at the most inopportune times, and I tend to have a short fuse, but I have my moments. In the face of this criticism, all I did was smile and nod. I'm proud of myself for having class in that moment because the scenarios running through my head at the time were bad. In all walks of life there are those that can only feel better about themselves by putting others down. They just can't seem to help themselves.

While we all know that: Everyone has ideas. Everyone has the ability to write. Everyone usually thinks they have at least 1 good book in them. In this business, not everyone who aspires to write a book actually sees that goal come to fruition. We hear it a thousand times during our lives. But what I wonder is this, have you ever heard of tact? Find a better way of talking to other people.

I may not have finished a book yet. I may have had many ideas and actually gotten bored with some before completing them. I may have used all of the excuses in the book for my inability to finish a story. But newsflash: that doesn't make me any less of a writer.

Yes I attend workshops, lectures, conferences and I learn. I'm in college pursing a degree in English because I want to learn. I plan on going to grad school because I want to learn. These things do not debilitate me. Sometimes its daunting because there is so much work involved in the writing process when you worry about pace, hooks, characterization, etc., early on when maybe you should just worry about getting the story out.

Yes, it could be paralyzing for others, but it's not for me. My writing is stronger today than it was a year ago because I'm always learning how to become a better storyteller. My first drafts are still crap, just like everyone else's. Yet I've learned what to look out for, what my weaknesses and my strengths are, and how to fix them. So I'm more than a race car driver wanna be. I'm a writer, albeit a slower one than some perhaps. As much as it pissed me off to experience this, I didn't let it ruin my mood or my weekend.

Since I was a child, I have escaped to books, stories, anything I could get my hands on. I was Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. I read all of the Stephen King books available by the time I was in 6th grade. I stumbled upon romance novels when I was 14. I've seen worlds that didn't even exist. I've been transported from the everyday toil and drudgery of life into the exciting pages of stories by the most fascinating of storytellers.

I immersed myself in stories of cowboys and Native Americans. I looked at each beloved line used in Cassie Edwards' books, and I knew that I wanted to one day write a story so beautiful. A few years ago I became bored with reading: cowboys, Native Americans, Englishmen, Scottish warriors, nothing helped me escape.

Lucky for me there is a Bookrack located 3 minutes from my job. I'd often spend my lunch hour perusing the shelves. The worker knew my tastes and took a chance on me, referring me a paranormal romance after I hit my reading rut.

I was skeptic at first, but Janet knew what she was talking about. It was love at first bite (lol). I've been hooked ever since. I don't know what the first book was, but I think it was a Christine Feehan (one of the Dark series).
A voracious reader, I tore through the shelves grabbing whatever I could hold. I eventually found the Crimson City series. I fell in love with the stories, the world, and the characters. I quickly grabbed onto any books the writers of the series had on their backlist and found the Tigress series of Jade Lee; a wonderful writer of Paranormal Romance, she helped me escape into the beautiful setting of Shanghai, time and time again.

Over the years I have found many favorite authors. These are my classics. These are my teachers. I learn from them. I read their stories to escape, and I work every day at my own writing in hopes that I will one day be able to write as well as they do.

Everyone knows how excited I was to attend the conference because one of my favorite authors would be attending and speaking. Of all the empty chairs in the joint, she chose the one next to me for lunch! I would like to think that I am now a woman of class and can handle anything, right?
Not so much. I couldn't even speak. I had to work to chew, and we all know I have no problems with chewing. I couldn't even answer her when she asked me a direct question. (What's the name of my blog - heck I don't know!! Thank goodness I had a name tag I'd probably have forgotten that, too.). Here's Jade Lee, trying hard not to run away from the crazed fan - being a famous writer is so tough!!:

She was wonderful and handled my dorkiness with grace. She even told a story to make me feel at ease with being starstruck. What can I say, I may be a writer but I was a reader first (and the dorkiness will probably never go away. lol)

I learned so much this weekend. I found so many ways to improve my writing, and I met so many wonderful people. I can't wait to get back to Nalia and her tale to see what happens before her first full moon as a shapeshifter.
For anyone who did not attend the NOLA Stars workshop and wanted to, get ready for next year. This is a yearly conference you can't afford to miss.
(It's wonderful to point out that I'm the only one in all of these pics that isn't published! Yep I like to surround myself with greatness!!)

Drinking: Mr. Pibb (need to get back to studying - caffeine is good!)
Music: Best of Baroque album (gets the learning juices flowing)
Mood: Relaxed
Currently: Doing anything but studying; who knew washing clothes was so much fun!
Dreaming of: Life before I had to become immersed in French
Realization: I'm so grateful that is so-called crazy life I have offers me the opportunity and ability to attend such fantastic conferences. Thank you writers for teaching me so much.
**Sorry - I seem to be having post issues. Sorry if there is a lot of space or not enough - I should be studying. Opps! lol. Until next time,
Mindy

1 comment:

Betsy Ann St. Amant said...

It was a great weekend wasn't it? So nice to meet you, thanks for putting my pic up!

And seriously, you must email me privately (betsystamant@yahoo.com) or message on FB privately and tell me who made that racecar comment! Wow. How rude. I'm sorry you had to endure that and she was SO not right. I'm glad you chose to ignore it.

Writing takes time and you are already so far ahead of so many by coming to conferences and learning and growing and networking. You are doing everything right and if you're not comfortable pitching yet, that's your choice and it makes complete sense. Some editors/agents like hearing unofficial pre-pitches, others don't, and its understandable not to take that risk if you don't know.

I have the feeling that soon, your MS will be finished and you'll be pitching up a storm. =) You take your time and do what you feel comfortable with. Forced is not going to make anything better!!!

Good luck with French! lol

Blessings!