What do you get when you win a contest?

10 Sep

charter oak B-1… a fantastic picture to put on your blog page, that’s what!

See? Isn’t it pretty?

I still cannot believe I just won The Golden Acorn RWA contest in the Mainstream with Romantic Elements Category. Wow! I’m so excited. Not the least because there’s never been anything remotely mainstream about me and most people would say I’m a cynic… not a romantic. And that, my dears, is why G-d invented fiction. Phew.

Along with this winner’s picture, I also get bragging rights. So, no, no big cash prize in this contest but I”ll take my picture and run, thank you.

I’m also thrilled that I’m a finalist in The Catherine RWA contest and posted the highest preliminary round score.

There’s a lot of discussion amongst writers about entering contests: the good, the bad, the ugly (the East German judge – writers you KNOW what I’m talking about!). At the end of the day we all have different reasons for wanting to enter contests. For me, it was about getting people who I didn’t know to give me honest feedback on my work. And that’s excellent. Contests have also galvanized me into being more focused on my process – always a good thing, no?

To this end, I’m also so happy to have found three like-minded writers to form a critique group with (Thank you RWA-PRO loop. So please do go and check out my new critiquers-in-crime – the wonderful Betty Bolte, Shelly Alexander (Shelly, time to get a website/blog or twitter handle, methinks!) and Tereasa Bellew.

I’m also SOOOO excited to announce the official launch of the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association. Just signed up, paid my dues et al. Kudos to the entire team that pulled this fantabulous group together and worked their arses off over the past year to make it a reality.  It’s a much-needed resource/support group for all us WF writers. I’m so proud to be a member.  I believe chocolate, alcohol and high heels are allowed too.

If you write women’s fiction then be sure to join. Not sure what that is – then JOIN and enter into the discussion about what it truly is. The conversations are fascinating. Just know women’s fiction does indeed have women in it. Hey, it’s a jumping off point, right?

Special shout outs to the board – all wonderful writers – the incredible Orly Koenig Lopez, Kerry Lonsdale, Laura Drake, Linda Avellar, Marilyn Brant, Annette Gallant, Steena Holmes and Maggie Marr. Don’t know how brilliant they truly are? Then click here and read each of their bios. 

And on an entirely different note for those of you, like me, in the deep bowels of the High Holy Days, wishing you all a Shanah Tovah, G’mar Chatimah Tovah and may 5774 be a year where your writing soars.

 

 

 

25 Highlights from #RWA13 in Hot/Wetlanta

22 Jul

I still have RWA conference brain even though I’m back at work today. What an amazing, whirlwind four days of fun, workshops, lessons, schmoozing, drinking, learning, pitching, book buying, book receiving and crazy moments. Who needs sleep when you’re at RWA?

I know EVERYONE is posting on their blogs about what a fantastic time they had at RWA13, so instead of a long post I’m just going to make a list of 25 highlights and make them as short as possible – the mark of a good editor, correct? So, here goes.

  1. So grateful I was only on the 7th floor of the 47 floor Marriott Marquis. Those glass elevators were terrifying!

    View of the 47 floors. Frightening...

    View of the 47 floors. Frightening…

  2. Kristan Higgins is all kinds of awesome: a keynote speech that made us laugh and cry; a public announcement that she was wearing Spanx; and a fantastic session where she couldn’t stop giggling about “balls.”
  3. I received  full manuscript requests from two editors (one of whom was not through a pitch session but whom I just happened to be sitting next to in the lobby (writing naturally) and we started chatting and lo and behold she asked me to send my ms to her.)
  4. I received a 50 page request from a big NY agent. Yikes. Terrified. Now polishing those 50 pages like a madwoman.
  5. Won a seat at lunch with Rebecca Zanetti – OMG she’s incredible. Loved that personal time with her. I think it helped that I ran into her in the Starbucks line  the day before and I was so brilliantly eloquent saying “Oh my gosh I’m having lunch with you tomorrow!”
  6. Discovered that while I am a pantser not a  plotter Jessica Brody’s “Save the Cat” session showed me that I’m following the cat rules – albeit organically.
  7.  The Austin women are amazing! Had so much fun hanging out with Tracie Stewart, Kristin Fischer (amazing Golden Heart finalist), Liana LeFey, Mindy Miller et al. Thanks for making me an honorary Texan and see you all in San Antonio next year.
  8. The LARA women are amazing too! Was great to finally spend time with the wonderful Samanthe Beck (so sweet you’d never imagine she writes steamy romance); Dee J Adams (I think one of the hardest working women I’ve ever met. And I discovered she’s incredibly funny too and is soon to be the proud owner of a new kitchen!); Robin Bielman (my next heroine looks EXACTLY like you. I’m taping your photo on my computer – but promise not to stalk you); Linda O Johnston (how can you not love a woman who writes pet detective stories – among others )
  9. Speaking of dogs – if you have a picture of a dog on your book cover or a dog in your book  I’m reading it! I got a book at one of the signings because it had a dog on the cover. Yes. I’m shallow. What of it?
  10. Starbucks in the hotel made a KILLING because 2,000 women writers (and about 10 male writers) needed their morning (and afternoon and evening and every hour in between) caffeine fix.
  11. Librarians are NOT boring, stuffy people. My roommate at conference, the wonderful Jennifer Lohmann is not only a librarian in Durham, NC, she’s also writer for Harlequin, owns the cutest LBD I’ve seen in a long time and knows how to par-tee. She also thanked me for being a “normal” roommate. I say “Back at you, Jennifer!”
  12. Only at a romance writer’s conference could a conversation about the cover of a book involving a violin lead to a discussion as to whether the book was in fact erotica. “Maybe it’s about 101 things you can do with a violin bow?” someone suggested. Oy!
  13. Met a woman from Asheville, NC. When I told her the greatest creative writing teacher I know lives, works and teaches in Asheville and told her who he was -the brilliant Rick Chess –  she said “He goes to my synagogue!” Small world indeed.
  14. Heartbreaking that  one of our chapter members who was a Golden Heart finalists last year was too sick to even attend her own book signing, let alone the conference. She shlepped all the way from LA to Atlanta and spent the entire conference in her hotel room with food poisoning. I hope you feel better soon, Robena Grant. Maybe you can get a refund.
  15. Posh frocks at the Gala (see pic)

    Posh frocks!

    Posh frocks (that’s me in the pale green number)!

  16. Lost count of how many free Kindles and iPads were given away at sessions and no, I didn’t win one.
  17. Barbara Samuel is a god. This is not open to negotiation.
  18. Agent Laura Bradford found herself in an elevator trying to explain to some Microsoft guys (they were at a different conference but in our hotel) why she was walking around with a bondage whip (Passionate Ink party). I got to witness that moment. Pretty funny.
  19. Learned that Courtney Milan kicks arse and takes no prisoners. And she’s funny to boot.
  20. Many, many romance writers are former lawyers. Hmmm….
  21. When I come back in my next life I want to be Deb Dixon
  22. Romance writers know how to drink!
  23. Buzzwords this year were “SELF PUBLISHING” And Kudos to OC Chapter member Debra Holland for self publishing and THEN landing a deal with Amazon. She’s now a NYTimes Bestseller. Proof that dreams do come true.
  24. No idea how I’m ever going to read ALL the books I collected at conference.
  25. RWA rocks.

RWA National Conference, Finalist in Contest and More…

15 Jul

923443_526716034036846_847899424_n-2

Yes, I know. I NEVER post on this blog. Yes, I’m busy all the time. Yes, my day job keeps me working round the clock, but yes, I’m here today with some EXCITING news…

As promised, I entered SIX writing competitions (I know I mentioned seven but then I realised my novel didn’t fit into the categories offered in the final competition. Of the six, I received feedback on three to date. Did not place in the first two, but last night I discovered I am a FINALIST in the Golden Acorn contest in the Mainstream fiction category. I’m SOOO excited!

This means that my entry (along with the four other finalists’ will be judged by Susan Litman, the special editions editor at Harlequin. Oh my gosh! I’m so excited about THAT! I was asked what do I get if I win the contest? I have NO idea (is that bad? should I go check what the site says?), but I so do NOT care. The purpose of my entering competitions was exactly this – to have my work read by agents and editors and avoid the “slush pile.” No matter the outcome of the contest Susan will read my entry no matter what. And THAT makes me sooo happy.

This couldn’t have come at a better time because I’m heading to RWA National Conference tomorrow morning in Atlanta. I can’t wait! Last year I was overwhelmed with the 2000 writers under one roof. This year I plan to be a little less gobsmacked (hopefully) and get to attend the Women’s Fiction retreat (go RWA-WF!) and the PRO retreat (Yay PRO!). And no, PRO is not some smutty salacious group – you become a member of PRO when you have completed a novel and submitted to to an agent (I have a rejection letter to prove it!). So I’m excited to not be a newbie at RWA13 this year and thrilled to head to Atlanta where I’ve never been before.

First, though I must pack, and finish my “day job” work. Sigh.

Also, I received so much great feedback from the A-Z blogging challenge I had THREE people nominate me for blogger awards and I finally picked them up today. Whoa, I need to stay on top of this stuff. But I’m glad to say that my slacking off blogging has been because I’ve been busy working (day job) AND entering competitions and working on my novel.

So a very belated thank you to Tonette de la Luna – tonettedelaluna.wordpress.com – D.L. Shackleford  – dlshackleford.com  – and Expat Brazil – expatbrazil.co.uk – for nominating me  for the Liebster Blogging Award. Be sure to check out their fantastic sites, too. I’ll be putting up another blog post today about those awards. Very exciting.

And that is that for now. I will be live tweeting #RWA13 from Atlanta and will try to blog each night – if I’m not in the hotel pool, at the bar or schmoozing with other conference attendees. Watch this space…

I Survived the A-Z Blogging Challenge: Did You?

1 May

survivor_[2013]I’m so excited to post my “I survived” badge here. Can’t believe how tough – and how fun – it was to post every day. But it’s wonderful because:

a) It will motivate me to blog more regularly

b) I met some great bloggers and made great friends through this and will now visit their blogs regularly

c) I made a commitment and stuck to it!

Huge congrats to fellow bloggers who had the guts to officially sign up and have their feet (or fingertips) held to the fire and who stayed the distance. And kudos to those of you who signed up and did their utmost but “life” got in the way of completing the challenge.

It’s been a thrill and I had a blast but am also grateful it’s over. There’s plenty more to write about both here and as I slog away at my novel. But once again, congrats to EVERYONE who survived this challenge and who shared their amazing stories and insights. I believe we all deserve to celebrate!

Onwards!

 

Z is for Zed

30 Apr

a-to-z-letters-zNow before you think I’ve taken the easy road on the final letter of this challenge, bear with me for a minute.

Remember, I live in America now, where Z = Zee. But for me Z will always = Zed.

I write about this because expats here tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who have embraced the U.S. of A and who say that you must adapt to their customs and those who cannot relinquish “how to speak proper like.” Guess which category I fall into?

I’m sorry can you imagine asking someone to pick a copy of the London A to Zee, or watching Zee Cars or heading to the Magic Roundabout and hearing Zeebedee instead of Zebedee being told it’s time for bed. Of course, if you’re American none of these will make sense to you.

Zebedee - Magic Roundabout

Zebedee – Magic Roundabout

And it’s not that I’m being deliberately annoying, it’s just very difficult for me to overcome a lifetime of doing things one way and then trying to do them another. Why does America have to be SOOO different? Why is it the ONLY country that writes its dates backwards – month, day, year instead of day, month, year. I’ve finally adapted I think but I cannot tell you how many cheques (they’re called checks here  – as are ticks – it gets confusing) I bounced in my time here trying to wrap my head round that.

Why is America the ONLY country that recorded its videotapes on NTSC when the rest of the world used PAL? This means I can’t play ANY of my videos collected over the years. Although, videos are becoming obsolete. And yes, I know I can convert them to CD, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I’ll also never be able to call a tomato a tomayto (I asked for tomato on my sandwich once and the guy thought I said broccoli!)or basil baysil or herb ‘erb, because as that brilliant British comedian Eddie Izzard (who I’m sure spells his name with a double zed not a double zee) points out quite clearly it’s pronounced Herb because “there’s a f***ing ‘H’ in it!”

And don’t get me started on dinner. Well, apparently an entree is a main dish. What? So what’s an entree? An “appetizer”. Oy.

Don’t get me wrong. I love America. I love being here. And while I will continue to put petrol in my car, I know Americans call it gas; that they have no idea what a fortnight is; that a pair of scissors is called a scissor; that they think a boot is a trunk and that “will call” is a noun.  I have learned these the hard way. I understand we are two people divided by a common language and I have adapted accordingly. But I will never call Zed “Zee” because I love Zebedee far too much. Actually I’m more of a Dougal fan – but that’s another story.

Y is for Yellow Blanket

29 Apr

a-to-z-letters-yI know my Mum reads my blog posts (hey, we all have to have a fan club and Mums make the best ones). And she’s probably the only one who knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about by this headline.

Major confession coming up. I was a security blanket baby (and toddler and small child). Yes. Just like Linus (but I did not suck my thumb). I vaguely remember a pink blanket with a bunny on it that I used to drag around everywhere, but I think that one disintegrated before I could walk. I think my Mum said she cut it up into small pieces at one point. I’m not sure. So my “yellow blanket” was really my second blanket but I still had it when I was very, very, young.

I would go NOWHERE without this blanket. Not to bed, not out the door, not in my pram, not ANYWHERE. And of course there were the horror stories where my parents would somehow wrest the thing away from me so it could be washed once in a blue moon; and of course they’d do it when they were going out one night and the babysitter had a mental breakdown because I WOULD NOT GO TO SLEEP without it. And the poor babysitter had to call my parents hysterical about the fact that I was hysterical. We may have traumatised a teenager for life.

 

Linus

Linus

I remember that blanket well. It was soft, and yellow, with a cream picture in the middle (can’t remember what it was). The blanket with satin edges. Now the satin is what I really wanted. I used to rub my face against it to fall asleep. Go figure. I loved the sensation of the satin on my face and lips as a small child and I found it soothing.

I don’t remember when I outgrew the blanket. But thankfully I did.  But because it was part of my childhood I held on to it. And yes, I still have it. It sits in a bag wrapped up in my linen closet. The satin edges have long since frayed away from the edges and it’s more a dirty mustard colour now than any shade of yellow. I haven’t looked at it in ages until now, when I pulled it out to take a picture of it and post it here. So here it is… my trusted yellow blanket!

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

My yellow blanket (old, frayed, tattered, but still mine)

Did you have a security blanket? A teddy bear? Something?

X is for Xerxes

27 Apr

a-to-z-letters-xThat’s Xerxes I to you. NOT Xerxes II.

Golly, I feel like I’m being a complete snob just mentioning him. But  come on, you come up with a letter X to write about?

So, no, I’m not some mad academic historian (with apologies to mad academic historians, some of whom are very good friends). I just happened to study Ancient History for my final exams in High School and let me just say as an aside to everyone who ever took an Ancient History class with Mr. Peter Crilley at Moriah College, aren’t you glad you did? Truthfully, he treated us like adults (even though we were in fact teenagers). He believed the best studying was done listening to opera, drinking red wine and eating excellent cheese. And he is the one who introduced me to Xerxes and the battle of Salamis et al. And he’s the one who taught me the meaning of hubris (courtesy of Xerxes’ colossal arrogance).

Xerxes of course, spectacularly lost the battle of Salamis in 480 BCE (Sorry. I went to a Jewish Day School, which is why we say BCE and NOT BC. But I digress). And, tying Persian/Greek wars into my Greek Tragedy drama school training (who knew at the time the paths would cross?), we learned that dear old Xerxes’ defeat was at the hands of his own hubris – very Greek tragedy. So much so, Aeschylus wrote a play entitled The Persians about the Persian attempt to invade Greece, which, as fate (very Greek) would have it, we did indeed study in drama school. What goes around, comes around, I guess.

220px-Xerxes_I

Just think where Greece and/or Persia (Iran now) would be today if Xerxes didn’t have such a huge ego and could have won the battle of Salamis? And with a link back to my Ophelia theme, may explain why I’ve also never met anyone who named their kid Xerxes.

W is for Writing Contests

26 Apr

a-to-z-letters-wFinally, I have bitten the bullet and actually decided to write about what I actually do for a living… writing. It seemed a “case of the bleeding obvious” to write about writing so I thought I’d write about something specific to writing: ie/ writing contests.

Up until now I really didn’t feel my novel was in good enough shape to submit to writing contests, but the month of May is going to change all that. These contests don’t require you to submit your entire manuscript. How would the judges get ANYTHING done? No. Each contest is very specific about word count and submission guidelines. Some just want the first X amount of words; some want chapters: some want specific scenes.

And so, on my magnetic board on my office wall I have 7 contests I will enter for the month of May.  The entry fees aren’t that exorbitant (and yay, they are tax deductible anyway), but I feel it’s time to put my toe in the water and see how my bits and pieces of work will be received.

Now, I have heard all sorts of horror stories about contests. You can get awful judges who rip you to shreds while others praise you to the skies. I’ve heard of great stories too, where it’s helped people land an agent or a publishing deal. Either way, in order to tell my own stories of  joy or horror, it’s time I take the plunge.

 

2012-06wwfc-lettinggo-v2-600

The truth is, I’m excited to enter the competition world with this novel. At the end of the day, like most things in life, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. For me this is really about taking that step and entering. I’m tough enough to handle critiques. I’m also seasoned enough to know that these things are subjective up to a point and to be able to stand by my own work.

Also, by stating it here, on this blog, that I am entering SEVEN (gulp) competitions in the month of May, I’m now beholden to my word. Please kick my arse if I don’t stick to it.

V is for Velvet

25 Apr

a-to-z-letters-vFor me, velvet is the equivalent of sandpaper or nails running down a chalkboard.  Just thinking about running my hands over velvet (right AND wrong direction) sends shivers down my spine. Why is that? Does anyone else have the same weird sensation when it comes to velvet?

And aside from Alannah Myles’ 1990 song Black Velvet, I can’t think of a single instance where an adult has worn velvet. I remember velvet dresses and velvet headbands as a kid. They seem to go hand in hand with patent leather shoes (also something adults don’t wear – unless you’re a hooker IMHO).

So what is it that makes velvet an “un” adult material? Do I need to check  Project Runway  to find out why grown women don’t wear velvet? I bet Tim Gunn would have an answer. He’d probably be able to “make it work,” too.

 

U is for Uncoordinated

24 Apr

a-to-z-letters-uYes, ladies and gentlemen, that would be me. One of the most uncoordinated people you’ve ever come across. In Australia if you’re uncoordinated you will be forever dubbed with the taunt “Unco!” Helas, that was me in school (probably still is).

The plain, unvarnished truth is that I have ZERO hand eye coordination. Maybe my kindergarten teacher should have spent more time teaching me to build lego. I don’t know. What I DO know is that you’re odds are better of winning the lottery than betting I’ll catch something you throw at me; be able to hit a ball with any form of bat or racquet, and forget my ever being able to colour inside the lines or even cutting out a shape along the line.

If I close my eyes I can recall the horror of being the Wing Attack during netball (Americans, I know you don’t play this game so please go Google it) and knowing I wouldn’t be able to catch it when someone threw it at me. Same horrors with hockey in England. I was also usually on the wing (what IS it about P.E. teachers always putting me on the wing?) and usually made sure I was running in the opposite direction to where I should be going. Have YOU ever been whacked on the shins with a hockey stick? Much better to run in the opposite direction.

In primary school I was much fought over when it came to picking teams. Oh the squabbles and the fights over me, which went something like this:

“We don’t want her. You take her!”

“No way. YOU take her!”

And so it would go.

Now apparently there is a logical explanation to why I am so UNCO, and it stems from the fact that I had childhood epilepsy. Because that supposedly REALLY screws up your brain. Or maybe it was the Dilantin that screwed me up? Who knows. I don’t think it matters in the grand scheme of things because it’s not like you can yell in the playground: “Hey, don’t throw that ball at me. My epilepsy will make me unable to catch it!” No. Best to remain silent. And suffer the scars.

Because, let’s face it, when you’re in school (especially in high school), nobody cares if you were on the winning debating team (I was); or if you were the best at drama club (according to the teacher I was); or if you won a Public Speaking Eisteddfod (I did). No, what was important was the sports you played. You should have heard the cheers when the boys or girls teams won their basketball/cricket/netball/football matches. Not a peep for us swots.

And of course there was the ritual humiliation of school sports carnivals – both the athletic and swimming carnivals. There  we’d be, divided into our Houses (Americans, thank goodness Harry Potter came along to explain houses). I’d be with Hillel House wearing our House colour (red) and dreading my turn on the field or in the pool. Unfortunately, one of our House teachers would rally us before the meet and bellow at us that we’d jolly well better sign up for every race we could because “YOU GET ONE HOUSE POINT JUST FOR JUMPING IN THE POOL!” The pressure to support your House (especially from this particular teacher) and win the carnival was immense. And that is how I came to have my terrible results listed in the local Jewish newspaper. They listed the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winner. I came in 3rd! Me! Of course there were only three of us in the race. Hence my abysmal time printed in the Jewish News. And we won’t even mention that the other two finished WAY ahead of me and the entire school was standing around and waiting for me to finish my laps so that they could start the next race. The horror of it all! No wonder I became a writer.

people-falling-down

And it extended beyond sports. I have spent my life tripping/falling/walking into walls/spraining limbs and collecting bruises. My Dad once came home when I was little and said “Kelly, I have a present for you.” My sister protested that wasn’t fair. But Dad said she wouldn’t want the present. He was right. He’d bought me a box of bandaids because I was always getting into some kind of scrape.

We also won’t mention when I got my foot caught in the Ferris Wheel at the school fete when I was 9 and tore the ligaments in my foot. From then on Dad called it the Fete Worse Than Death. Sigh. My mother was afraid to send me off to camp because every time she did it usually landed up with a phone call home saying “Meet us at the coach with a pair of crutches for Kelly.”

Today, I wear my Unco badge proudly.  I still fall and bruise and scrape and walk into walls.  I politely decline tennis matches with friends and many laugh when I say “Oh no, you DON’T want to play sports with me. Trust me.”  They don’t believe me. But now, you – just like me  – know  better.