Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On the Road with All of Us

I'd been feeling guilty about falling behind on these posts to my writer friends. Then I got it. I've been with my writer friends.

My itinerary reveals only the surface of my current west coast seminar sweep. What cities I've flown into or out of on which dates at what times.

 From New York to Seattle to Santa Monica then back to Seattle once more - in few enough days to rattle the consciousness. Maybe that's why I didn't get it till this morning.

I haven't been sweeping from place to place or even from seminar to workshop. I've been transported from writer to writer by the winds of our precious history.

I began making writer friends in the late 1970's when I first spoke my secret wish out loud. "If you could work at anything what would it be?" my husband Jonathan asked.

I was in a space between career phases at the time. I had no doubt about my answer to his question but I spoke tentatively anyway. "I'd be a writer."

That moment opened the door to many things which have enriched my life. The richest of these is my community of writer friends.

I've been enfolded and embraced as well as challenged and chided by that company. I seek them out wherever I go.

Thus in Santa Monica Mel Ryane and I met on the pier and talked and talked. The next morning on seminar day I met Pamela Samuels Young an impressive author I intend to add to my circle of acquaintance and support.

I also had a long phone conversation with Dorothy Randall Gray about another opportunity we're organizing for writers to get together.

The first Wild Women Write Weekend - October 5th through 7th of 2012. Wild Women everywhere - and anyone who wants to be a Wild Woman -- Save Those Dates! And be sure to put your email address on our contact list at info@wildwomenwrite.com.

Tomorrow I head out again for the Write On the Sound Conference in Edmonds WA. For more information about that event check my website Itinerary page at www.aliceorrseminars.net.

After the WOTS debut of my new memoir workshop there will be supper and celebration. Jennifer McCord and Joanne Ottness and Sheryl Stebbins and Roberta Trahan will celebrate with me - writer friends all.

Three days later back in Seattle I ferry across Puget Sound to Vashon Island - my former home place - for good chat and hearty laughter with author-humorist Mary Tuel.

Finally I speak at Seattle Free Lances - my fourth presentation for them. I'll be overjoyed to see Liz Osborne and - you guessed it - more writer friends. Then I fly back to New York..

I know what I'd do without my writer friends. I'd have a less lovely life. I also know what I won't do with my writer friends. I'll never give them up.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turn-Off Love Scenes

My favorite non-favorite love scene line ever was, “He sipped at her lips.” This gem arrived on my cluttered agent desk as a submission from an aspiring romantic suspense writer.

I tend to be a visual person. I visualized him sipping away. Nothing romantic about that.

I tend to select clients with sales potential. Two piles for submission reactions – yes or no. Where did the sipper land? No suspense about that.

You could dismiss such writing as genre fiction cliché. But that doesn’t tell us anything. Doesn’t instruct regarding what is essentially at fault.

Lack of authenticity – that’s the rub. In real life if someone sipped at my lips I’d either laugh or turn nauseous. I would not be turned on.

Yet again art reflects life. And writing an effective love scene is definitely an art. That’s why it’s so difficult to master.

At the heart – or other organic region – of this particular art is the imperative that you turn the reader on sexually. Or at least you don’t turn her off – with a ludicrous image or worse still an unsavory one.

This is commercial fiction we’re talking about here. Which presents another imperative. You must keep the reader reading – page after turning page – hooked hard into the world of the story.

You must never interrupt that pace with a sloppy line that stops the reader in her tracks to exclaim, “He did what?”

She makes that abrupt halt when a fissure appears in the believability of the story world. When the action doesn’t ring true. When the writing and what it portrays is not authentic.

John Gardner in his definitive work, The Art of Fiction, says, “Never awaken the reader from the dream of the book.” He’s right on as usual. The thud of an inauthentic line is a dream buster for sure.

Where do you find authentic details for your love scenes? Ask yourself, “What turns me on?” Make a list. Start there. Let your imagination – and your libido – do the rest.

My next non-favorite love scene line is, “He entered her.” This turkey is usually written by a man. What could he be thinking? That she’s a door? Or a contest?

Don’t even get me started on that one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chaos Contagion


Has your personal corner of the world gone tupsy-turvy lately? Have you been flooded in the northeast? Or blown off course by hurricanes and tornadoes in the south and elsewhere? Or been too close to toasting by wild fire in Texas?

Whatever maelstrom – natural or unnatural – may have churned your world. I hope you were able to keep you hatches battened and your laptop dry.

On my own home front. After two months of waiting for a furniture van from the northwest they scheduled it to arrive in the middle of Irene. We had to hold them off until we could repair the saturated and crumbling bedroom wall she left in her wake.

This was nothing compared with the devastation wreaked upon so many so often these days. But it was a pain in the patoot nonetheless.

“What does all of this have to do with publishing life?” you might very well ask.

If you were on deadline as havoc raged the answer to that is obvious. Otherwise you might want to peel your ear away from the disaster alert band of your battery powered radio and listen up.

If disruptive dismantling discombobulation is happening to us. At least a certain amount of it is happening to them also. Or to somebody they care enough about to have their rafters rattled by it.

“Who are they?” you might very well ask.”

The publishing professionals we spend so much time worrying over and waiting for – that’s who. Many of us have a project adrift in our writing career ozone right now while we pine for some agent or editor to haul it back to earth.

If this is true for you. Hang loose for a while. Remember that the majority of pub pros work in New York City. Here - from a newly returned New Yorker - is the skinny about that.

We’ve been through a mini-earthquake and a maxi-storm. Much of New Jersey and other contiguous states is washing over its banks at the moment.

Plus as of this evening we’ve been notified of terror attack threats to tunnels and bridges and heaven knows where else.

Keep that in mind while checking your mail – electronic or snail – for a response that is already overdue. Perhaps you could cut this particular agent or editor some slack and improve your relationship in the bargain by letting her know – subtly of course – that you understand.

In fact you could nail her gratitude down so securely not even the hounds of you-know-where will blow it away.

As we say here in apple town, “It couldn’t hoit.”