It’s Promotion Thursday for July. Check out where you can find our WisRWA authors this month.
The 2019 WisRWA Write Touch Conference is over and it’s time to start looking ahead to Chippewa Fall’s October 2020 Retreat. That’s right, instead of a workshop, we’re holding a retreat.
Yes, we’re going to be doing some writing so plan to bring your work-in-progress; but it’s NOT just about work. There’s going to be lots of fun, too. There will be games and prizes, good food, drinks for those who like to imbibe some, and plenty of opportunities to have a good time with other writers. As you all know from other workshops and conferences, romance writers know how to have a good time.
Everyone’s going to be assigned a brainstorming group. How many groups and how large will depend on attendance. Groups will be made up of a mix of attendees and subgenres, because sometimes the best ideas come from someone totally different than ourselves. So, if you’re stuck on your plot, have characters who just won’t behave, or hate your title, bring that with, too. You might find your answer in your group.
There will be times when we break from our groups and go off to our own little corner to write. This is where you put into words the inspiration you received from others. I know, you could do this at home but you might be surprised how much more you accomplish at a retreat. The Chippewa Falls area does this every year and I write so much more when I’m with the others. I think it’s a combination of inspiration and accountability. No one wants to be the one to say they frittered away the time and accomplished nothing, when everyone else made their goal.
And don’t forget, this is when WisRWA holds its annual meeting.
Because this is a retreat and not a workshop, it’s being held in a retreat center (think large house) and not a hotel. It will be a very economical weekend get-away. There are no built-in costs for speakers, editors, or agents. And you don’t have to consider the added cost of a hotel room on top of conference space. There’s a full kitchen so we don’t have to cover the extra cost of catering, only food. (The logistics of food will be determined at a later date.) Paying for an over-priced glass of wine at a noisy crowded bar? No! We can bring our own. So start putting together your car pools and plan on attending.
Just one thing: Because this isn’t a hotel with many rooms to offer, attendance is going to have to be capped. The place we’re hoping to contract sleeps 40 in 10 bedrooms (no bunk beds) and there are 4 bathrooms. And it’s easy to get to, about 13 miles south of Eau Claire. Once we sign, a link will be shared so everyone can see just how nice this is going to be.
by: Jane Yunker
Jane Yunker has been a WisRWA member since 2015 and the Chippewa Falls area contact since 2016. She is a blogger, published poet, and published short fiction writer. Her romantic women’s fiction novel, “Mary Bishop”, finaled in the 2016 Fab Five competition’s historical category. She is currently working on her second novel, “The Healing Heart”, which finaled in the 2018 Fab Five competition’s historical category. She grew up in Wisconsin but spent almost thirty years living in Rochester, New York, before returning to Wisconsin in 2011. She currently lives in St Croix Falls with her husband.
Jane is also a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA), and the Romantic Women’s Fiction (RWF) online chapter of RWA.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
Iron & Aqua by Amy McNulty
From time to time, I take a moment to reflect where I’m at in my life and where I want to go. During one of these reflections, I read about habits of successful people. You should know I define success not only as financial stability, but also about our journey as individuals and what we give to the world.
As I read, I became aware how discovering what my ten rules for success are, also complimented my journey as a writer. It takes a strong determination to reach our goals as writers. We have days where our “real” life takes over our writing times or days we feel like giving up. Or how about the days you feel as though you’re just spinning your wheels in your writing career. It’s easy to become frustrated if you feel you’re not meeting the milestones you thought you would have already reached.
A technique I developed over time to combat this was to pick out a small or big goal each day to take a step toward my ultimate goal. By breaking up the larger task into smaller chunks, it helps me feel more successful when before I know it I’m able to cross things off my list.
We all reach milestones at different paces and need to forgive ourselves if we feel we should have been farther along our writing path. Taking time out periodically to reflect also helps me keep moving through what I fondly refer to as “my writing adventures”. After all, we have to protect the reason we started down this writing path in the first place. We love to write romance with happily ever after endings.
The following are my 10 rules for success which I follow to keep myself on track.
Life has a way of pulling us off track and I have found these rules help me keep moving forward toward my goals. What are your 10 rules for success?
Lisa Romdenne is a member of RWA (PRO) since November 2014 and WisRWA member since September 2015 (served as WisRWA President 2016-2018). She writes western romance under the pen name Lianna Hawkins and is presently working on a historical western romance series. THE BOUNTY’S CATCH, book two in her Runaway Outlaw Series, won the historical category in the 2019 Utah RWA Great Beginnings Contest.
I joined WisRWA in January of 2014. I can honestly say, it was one of the smartest things I did on my bumpy, winding road to publication. Meeting fellow writers, industry professionals, and taking countless workshops on the romance genre all contributed to what successes I have had.
The most valuable of all that WisRWA has to offer is the Fab Five Contest. I’ve been a contestant twice (lost once, placed once), I’ve judged twice, and I’ve been a coordinator twice. This year, Natalie Alamo and I managed the contest and I couldn’t have teamed up with a better person. Each year, I grow as a writer because I participate in the Fab Five Contest.
Natalie and I have been working on ideas for changing and, ideally, improving the Fab Five Contest. The contest is not broken, but there are ways in which it could function better for the contestants and for the volunteers. The motivation for trying something new evolved from a combination of things: examining successful contests in other RWA chapters, judging issues related to diversity and training, as well as the acknowledgement that every once-in-a-while it’s time for a change. So, don’t be surprised if Fab Five get an overhaul next year.
My sincere thanks to the amazing and diligent category coordinators, the first-round judges, and the final judges. Congratulations to those who won and placed. You are one step closer to your goal. For those who did not place, I applaud you for putting yourself on the line and opening your heart to honest, well-meaning criticism. It’s scary and you are brave to have entered. I know you will benefit from the Fab Five Contest.
I’m honored to have participated for five years and plan to continue in whatever capacity I can. Fab Five is a satisfying endeavor because its purpose is to help unpublished authors achieve their dreams. What could be more rewarding?
by: Jennifer Rupp
Jennifer Trethewey is the pen name of Jennifer Rupp. She writes sexy, sweeping Highland romance combining on site research, wonderfully flawed characters, and a liberal dose of humor. Her first four historical romances from the Highlanders of Balforss series released by Entangled Publishing, have achieved critical and financial success. She has placed in numerous regional writing contests and is a member of Wisconsin Romance Writers of America, Chicago North Romance Writers of America, Wisconsin Writers Association, Red Oak Studios, and Chicago Writers Association. She is also Co-Founder and former Co-Artistic Director of Milwaukee’s Renaissance Theaterworks.
Let me start out by stating the thought of going to a three-day conference, by myself, without really knowing anyone else scared me silly. I’m relatively new to WISRWA, having moved from the metro Detroit area four years ago. But…I’m so happy I stepped outside my comfort zone and decided to make the investment in my career and go!
For me as an author, this year has been spent focusing on developing my craft and marketing. I found the sessions at the Write Touch Conference gave me a huge boost toward my goals.
On Friday (the first official day of conference), after arriving at the beautiful Hyatt Hotel in Downtown Milwaukee, I stepped into my first session with Agent Courtney Miller-Callihan. She provided insight into the romance market from an agent perspective. My big take-away from her session—Walmart is a big influence in the romance market, as they are the largest retail purchaser of romance. My next session was with Kimberly Brower, another literary agent, who presented information on what makes a good ‘hook’.
After a quick walk to the Public Market to buy lunch, I attended Mel Jolly’s newsletter session. My author newsletter was pretty much non-existent until Mel’s session. I’ve already put into use a lot of the information and tips I learned.
The day ended with an interesting Q & A with a panel of guest agents, authors, and editors. Dinner was held in the Vue, providing a beautiful view of the skyline of downtown.
Saturday morning was spent learning about emotional wounds from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Yes, we all feel bad emotionally wounding our beloved characters but those wounds make for interesting and layered stories. I own their book, The Emotional Thesaurus. Attending a session with them in person was so educational. I really learned a lot from their presentation.
After lunch, I had the opportunity to pitch to an agent and editor. Both requested more material. I’m still waiting on replies but whatever the outcome, I felt the opportunity to meet one-on-one with them was a great experience.
Once my heart rate slowed back to a normal rate after my pitch appointments, I sat in on Lisa Cron’s Anatomy of a Scene. I purchased her book, Story Genius, and am currently in the middle of using it to create a deep profile for the main character of my next book. I highly recommend Story Genius if you don’t already have it in your writing tool box.
I attended another wonderful dinner in the company for some great authors, along with representatives from Literary Services, and enjoyed the keynote speech given by Maya Rodale. After dinner and enjoyable conversation, I did what most other introverts/bookworms would do and returned to my hotel room, looked over the cute gift basket I won at the auction, opened a bottle of wine, and read for a few hours before going to bed.
On Sunday, I ate a quick breakfast, packed my suitcase, and headed home, my spirit renewed. For the following week, I felt the lingering buzz of excitement from spending time studying my craft and meeting fellow romance authors.
I can honestly say the experience was such a great value. The cost wasn’t cheap, and I really debated if spending the money was a wise investment.
My conclusion—yes, yes it absolutely was! I made great new friends and learned from some of the best in our industry. Thank you to all the people who worked hard to make The Write Touch Conference such an amazing experience!
by: Laurie Winter
Laurie Winter is the award winning author of The Warriors of the Heart series, set in Wisconsin and Texas. Inspired by her dreams, she creates authentic characters who overcome the odds and find true love.
When not lost in the imaginary world of her stories, she enjoys time with her family, who are scattered between Wisconsin and Michigan.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
The Innocent Wife by Cici Cordelia
Saved Between the Sheets (Mutiny’s Rebellion) by Lina Jubilee
Everywhere I looked, a potential story scene loomed. Who was she meeting in that corner room? Why is she rocking out in front of everyone with her happy dance? That’s what attending the Write Touch Conference did to me. It inspired me to be creative and share my tales through the power of the written word. To paraphrase conference speaker and author Lisa Cron, we are wired to share stories.
I attended the Write Touch Conference to become a better writer. Like a sponge, I soaked in as much information as I could. I learned about story beats and crafting a scene. Marketing tips flowed freely from the speakers. Personal stories from beginning and accomplished authors on their path to publication uplifted me.
Being a novice, I’m still learning the basic elements of writing a novel. So, I’m plunging headfirst into romance novel plot points, using the #writetouchconference as my guide. With the plot structure adapted from Priscilla Oliveras‘s Gale Online Course, I’ve developed a story outline that incorporates some of the conference highlights.
Conrad Hastings. He graduated from college a few decades ago, never took a creative writing course, and fell asleep numerous times reading Wuthering Heights. An unlikely romance novel writer.
Ms. Write Touch Conference. Teacher extraordinaire, romance professor, and connoisseur of fine wines. Heroine of all heroines. Motto: Dare to be Decadent.
Tara Fischer. Nicer than the girl next door, she wouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. The logical love interest for Conrad, she won’t get in the way between a writer and his muse.
Reaching his mid-life crisis at full throttle, Conrad must write an entertaining novel to impress Tara or risk losing her to the sexy Scottish Highlander literary heroes (once she’s gone kilt, she’ll never come back).
Romance Plot Outline
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Conrad has heard that phrase before, but it especially stung when it came from his friend Tara. A voracious reader, she could not look into his eyes. He’s asked her for an honest review of his novel, but he sensed her hesitation to tell the plain truth. He knew. He’s known all along. His writing sucked and he needed help.
Tara slid her smart phone across the restaurant table, opened to the WisRWA conference web page. No words were needed. He realized he has to attend.
Conrad cautiously stepped through the Hyatt vestibule, his senses overwhelmed with the busy lobby. But there she was – she could not be missed. Plastered on placards and a large wall, Ms. Write Touch Conference welcomed all writers.
Conrad nearly jumped out of his shoes from the slight tap on his shoulder. He turned around to gawk at the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.
“Welcome,” Ms. Write declared with a large grin, “I’m so happy you could attend.”
More enduring than advertised, she promised to guide him throughout the day. She suggested attending both writing and publishing/marketing events. Conrad was already smitten before the conference sessions even began.
Development (Intimacy Grows)
Day One lived up to the hype. Literary agents Courtney Miller-Callihan, Kimberly Brower, and Laura Zats talked about the current state of publishing and offered insights into new trends and possibilities. Editors Jennie Conway and Madeleine Colavita and Author Becca Puglisi offered constructive criticism to authors wanting a fresh and resplendent start to their novels. Authors Angela Ackerman, Mel Jolly, and Angie Stanton provided ideas to find his audience and connect with them. The indelible and genuine Lisa Cron taught an all-day, intensive writing course on crafting the irresistible novel. Conrad felt his confidence grow, knowing even published writers had obstacles to conquer on their journey to success.
Yet, he did not have Ms. Write’s full attention. She guided other aspiring and veteran writers through the smorgasbord of conference offerings. Night One’s special: An Evening with Daring and Decadent Girls. He wished he could be there to share in the fun, but family commitments came first. Will missing the evening adventure derail his novel?
Day Two was just as dazzling as the first day. Authors Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi, Valerie Biel, Mel Jolly, Amy Reichert, Lisa Cron, Angie Stanton, and Bobbi Dumas discussed novel writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Keynote Speaker Maya Rodale spoke about writing the right story. He was given the tools to be successful. It was up to him to apply them, but fortunately inspiration was as close as the titillating glass elevator. He now had the perfect setting for writing a sex scene.
Guilt washed over Conrad’s face, stuck on the outside, looking in. There Ms. Write was again, center stage in the best restaurant with the best view, basking in glory as the sun set upon downtown Milwaukee. He had to go home early, while she regaled the writers with Daring Dialogue and Decadent Prose. Does she even miss him?
Misery or Big Black Moment
Why did he even want to write a novel? A great friend, Tara will always like him, even if his head-hopping scenes and verb conjugation made her dizzy. Ms. Write was there to provide the tools for a successful career and to provide guidance, support, and encouragement for his writing journey. He’s got the support, but he searched for motivation.
It’s simple – he wanted to share his stories and donate any proceeds to his favorite charities.
At breakfast, in-between sharing bites of bacon with his dog, he realized he does not have to be jealous of Ms. Write. She favored no one, but supported everyone. She wanted all authors to succeed.
He made a promise. In two years’ time, he will reconnect with Ms. Write Touch Conference. She will be impressed. So will Tara.
By T. Ganfield
Tom Ganfield is working on his first novel, Chasing Chestnut, with younger versions of Conrad and Tara. As a dog lover, he is trying to position Chestnut (the dog) to steal scenes and the hearts of his characters (and maybe the readers?).
Imagine this scenario. A young woman has been asked out, repeatedly, by the same young man. Whenever she bumps into him in their small town, he asks her out again. She keeps saying no. He’s pressed her for a reason, and she’s told him that she just isn’t interested in dating him. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, but she isn’t attracted to him and his continued advances make her uncomfortable. He keeps bothering her, again and again. One night, she is crossing a bridge on her way home and meets the guy again. Is it really a coincidence? Has he been following her? He asks her out again; again she says no. So he climbs over the railing of the bridge and leans over the edge. The water beneath him is shallow and rocky. He tells the girl that if she doesn’t agree to go out with him, he’ll let go. He even releases one hand to show her how serious he is. Scared and with no other choice (other than to let him fall off the edge), she says yes.
Stories like this are becoming disturbingly common, especially among young people. On social media, we see stories of “crazy” guys pressuring girls into agreeing to go out with them, sometimes with wild ultimatums. Say yes, and he’ll stop harassing and threatening you. Say yes, or he’ll bring a gun to school. Say yes, or he’ll kill himself. We all know that there is nothing romantic about forced consent. Consider the story above. It’s not romantic. It’s creepy. This isn’t what love looks like.
Or is it?
The Notebook is arguably one of the most popular romance movies of our time. Reconsider that opening scene, and keep The Notebook in mind. This is oddly similar to the hero of The Notebook, who refused to take no for an answer and even went so far as to hang off a Ferris wheel to convince the heroine to date him. Of course, it was all okay because he was the hero and we knew he had good intentions. He wasn’t a creeper and they were soul mates. We find this story sweet and endearing… or is that what we’ve been taught to think?
We’ve all heard that young boys pick on girls because they like them, teaching us that if a boy is mean to you, it’s because he likes you, not because he’s a jerk. (He’s Just Not That Into You, anyone?) In romance novels, we love a persistent hero who won’t give up. Young girls are taught that guys should chase them and that girls should play hard to get. If he doesn’t give up, he must really love you, and then you fall in love and live happily ever after. But in writing stories like these, are we part of the problem? Are we teaching young ladies that it’s okay for their “hero” to treat them badly because once they fall in love, everything will be okay? Are we teaching young men to do whatever it takes to get a girl to say yes, even if she doesn’t want to? Are we teaching young people that “no” doesn’t really mean no—it means “keep pushing until I give in?”
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but as we sit down to pen our next romance, hopefully these are things we’ll all take into consideration. Are you writing a story where your hero acts like a jerk, but it’s excused because he’s the hero of the story? Are you writing a story where the heroine is helpless and trapped, pressured by the guy who says he loves her? Or are you writing a story that models a good relationship for young people?
Food for thought.
by: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Kayla has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that jump-started her adventure as a published author in 2010. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.
Like most writers I know, I collect inspiring/encouraging quotes and keep them where I can see them in my office. Somehow, these quotes and thoughts are shortcut reminders of various attitudes and qualities we need as writers: determination, persistence, fired up creativity, the courage to dream big, making course corrections, and so on. You probably have a list of your own that matches what you need to make a life in the creative life possible.
Right now, I’m starting something new, a type of writing I haven’t done before. It’s all fresh ground to cover and explore. Because other books were ahead in line, I’ve let this old idea-project slide down on my list of priorities for years. No more! It’s time to put it in the top ten—maybe the top three. If I don’t get on with this book, which I believe in for all kinds of reasons, I am 100% sure I’ll regret it.
So, now is the time for Mark Twain to pay me a visit and give me a boost with a gentle reminder:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore…Dream…Discover.
Since I spent a lot of time sailing at one time in my life—decades ago now—the idea of “throwing off the bowlines” arouses something in me. A sense of adventure, a curiosity about what’s around the next corner, a feeling that something special is waiting for me to claim it. You know what I mean. But our friend Mark Twain was also right about regretting what we don’t do.
As for me, I wish I’d started writing fiction sooner. I was steeped in nonfiction, the source of my income, so it wasn’t like I was slacking off. But the longing was always there. Story ideas written in journals and spiral notebooks twenty-five years ago made it onto my to-do list and many are still waiting patiently today. Some one or two line notes eventually became Greta’s Grace or Girl in the Spotlight or any of my other books. One idea also became this new book I’m inching my way into.
I don’t want my new idea to be one of those “wish I’d done” projects. Pushing ideas under the rug, ignoring snippets and flashes, and delaying the start of a project costs too much. Mentally, I mean. When I used to ghostwrite books, the clients knew (or thought they knew) the price of procrastination. They measured it in lost income and delayed professional prestige.
We novelists usually can’t calculate a financial cost. Maybe we’d be better off financially if we took up some other line of work. Wait, I was only kidding. I hear you hollering at me at the very suggestion. Not every project is weighed the same, of course. I’ve let a few ideas shrivel up and die and that’s okay. They hadn’t merited enough passion to keep them alive.
My new project is different. If I don’t write this book, I’ll regret it and the characters will hunt me down and haunt me forever. That’s the only guarantee I have. So, I’ve sailed away from the dock.
What about you? Do you have one or two or ten of those book ideas that call your name—even in your sleep? So do you hear Mark Twain urging you on?
I’m grateful for my WisRWA friends for many reasons. They understand the way ideas grab me and why I can’t or don’t start them immediately. But they gladly turn into cheerleaders when I say I’m finally plunging in. And I’m here doing the same for them. The gifts we give each other are truly priceless. Let’s all sail away into great new writing adventures and see how far we can go!
A member of WisRWA since 2001, the same year she moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, Virginia McCullough writes women’s fiction and romances for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. A FAMILY FOR JASON, book one of her new series, Back to Bluestone River, is scheduled for an August 2019 release. Her award winning novels tell the stories of everyday people struggling with everyday life issues in settings that often include oceans, lakes, rivers—and boats. A past-president of WisRWA, Virginia has also enjoyed a long career as a ghostwriter and editor of nonfiction books and novels.