The following statement was sent to the Romance Writers of America Board and staff from the WisRWA Board and our Diversity and Outreach committee regarding the recent ethics issue:
The Wisconsin Romance Writers of America chapter is writing to express displeasure at the recent censure, suspension, and leadership ban enacted upon Courtney Milan. The vote should be rescinded entirely, not only in anticipation of a legal opinion. We believe the citation of “invidious discrimination” should not be applied to keep racist tweets, speech, and works safe from criticism. Suzan Tisdale’s actual complaint likens Milan to a neo-Nazi for the very act of calling out racism, and such an accusation was allowed to stand by the Board of Directors without censure. Indeed, it was upheld. This is unacceptable.
This decision is already having a detrimental effect on authors of diverse representation. Many are worried that the organization ostensibly designed to protect all romance authors may turn against them if they speak out against discrimination. Many are already withdrawing their RITA entries, refusing to judge the contests, and even leaving the organization. RWA has only recently begun to overcome the looming threat of institutional racism. Much of that hard work can be credited to Courtney Milan. To release this decision after business hours and right before the office would be closed for a holiday implies a cowardly unwillingness to be immediately accountable for the concerns of the RWA membership at large.
WisRWA as a chapter is eminently invested in supporting and promoting authors of color, LGBTQ authors, and authors with disabilities. The RWA board has greatly weakened our position to do so. We respectfully request a full and transparent account of the actions of the ethics committee panel and the RWA Board’s subsequent actions. We ask the Board of Directors to issue a formal and public apology to Courtney Milan.
In a nutshell—
My husband died unexpectedly that morning. My husband’s death left me responsible for managing all elements of our severely disabled adult son who lived with us and required 24-7 care. While my husband and I performed well as a team, his tasks were ones I never wanted to handle. He spent hours doing gobbledygook paperwork, which I absolutely detested.
“Too bad, MJ. Suck it up and start learning,” my husband whispered in my ear from his eternal rest, like he often did when I questioned my talents and stubbornness to succeed. So, I dug in and assumed his chores. A bit of grumbling, working in tandem with my stubbornness, pushed me forward.
Three months later, I had an accident and re-injured my knee which I’d been babying in an effort to put off a knee replacement. That option no longer appeared possible. In the process of getting all the pre-op work done for my knee surgery, my doctors discovered three, far more serious health issues. I was devastated.
I never thought I would have to deal with chronic, potentially life-threatening, health issues. This meant major adjustments. I had to find methods to curtail the stress and drama in my daily life—no easy task as a caregiver for my son. Plus, find time for new medical regimens: doctor visits, regularly scheduled lab work, and more daily medications than I’d ever taken. I was exhausted all the time. And angry—for not charging ahead full steam and subduing this new lifestyle.
Not happy, lonely, I often felt I was living the life of a fictional character in a future book—a book I’d probably never write, or if it did get written, it would be boring. I had barely enough energy to do the minimum for my son and myself. Amid this maelstrom of emotions and daily routines, my writing life plummeted from my priority list. Six to eight hours a day writing in my office fell into the black hole of…What once was.
That broke my already fractured heart. I was a total mess and not liking what I saw or felt. Somehow, I garnered enough energy to fight off despair and serious depression. I focused each day on what had to be done—then added one more task, phone call, or completed report. After three years of exhaustion and medical issues, I finally had several months when my body started to respond to all those medications and new routines. I even began to think about what it might be like to slowly step back into my writing life.
Talk About Baby Steps…
So much had changed within the writing world. I needed a new computer. The operating system had morphed into a devilish monster that sometimes brought me to swear at the machine which ignored my emotion. The software I’d been so comfortable using in the past now had a steep and frustrating learning curve. By the time I finished figuring out how to do what I wanted to do—my writing time was exhausted for the day. I fought feelings of hopeless stupidity regarding new technology.
Doggedly, I slowly inched my way back with writing projects…
Fast Forward to 2019
My new lifestyle is routine. I’ve learned to cope and manage all the new responsibilities I inherited and settled into a relatively stable health pattern.
What does that mean? I see myself as a writer once again!
I’ve put myself back into my writing space. I still have to finish those last four chapters of the book I had been working on when my husband died. I’ve thought a lot about the themes in that book. I realize I’ve gained greater knowledge regarding life changes. I will use this to enhance those themes as I revise the book.
Just a few weeks ago, I was able to get away for a few days. I flew to California to celebrate my brother and his wife’s 50th wedding anniversary. My brother and I drove down to Big Sur and walked a few paths I’ve been to in the past:
So, this Reminds Us—Writers Write…
We are Compelled to Do So
We find inspiration, plot ideas, characters, scenes, within the scope of our daily lives, our dreams, our dramas, our sorrows, watching the world around ourselves, observing the lives of others.
Writers don’t just write. We watch. We think about what we’ve seen, experienced, read about, listened to a story that jumpstarts a story of our own. Writers are thinkers and need time to think, to create a new world, a new character. I’ve been doing this in the past several months. It’s made me feel whole again. Like my writerly self is re-emerging.
We writers must keep our minds open to all that happens in the world around us. If we do, we will always grow as writers. What we write will be fresh. Don’t we all strive toward those objectives?
“That’s a resounding YES.”
by: Mary Jo Schiebl
A short summary of Mary Jo’s, a.k.a Casey Clifford, life might be as follows: She’s been there, done that, and is still trying…”
She’s not perfect and wouldn’t want to be. She was determined to finish college and graduate school to teach college level classes. She accomplished this while working and single-parenting 3 sons. She taught for 27 years and retired to pursue what she dreamed of doing since she was a child—write the stories that had been tumbling about in her head.
Today she writes women’s fiction and romantic suspense as Casey Clifford. Her first novel received the Holt Medallion for Literary Achievement for Best First Book of 2009. She also won the Write Touch Readers’ Award for the same book in the romantic suspense category. She blogs every Sunday and dabbles in photography. Her other published books have also finaled/won additional awards.
She strives daily to be a wise woman and believes all her heroines have already gotten there. Her Dessert Dames and Soul String series reflect that as do her romantic suspense and single titles.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
Lioness: Mahlah’s Journey by Barb M. Britton
Writing fiction is a passion for most authors, who come from all sorts of career fields and backgrounds. At the same time, it’s definitely work, too, to see a story through from start to finish. While there’s plenty to be said for work-life-writing balance in general and also sticking to deadlines when writing full-time and juggling other responsibilities, this article will focus specifically on how to avoid writing burnout when your other work involves writing and/or editing as well. For example, you might be a copywriter or marketer at a corporation or a non-profit or produce content for an online periodical. You might work as a freelance developmental editor, copyeditor, or proofreader for other authors. When much of your work day is already devoted to the written word, it can be more difficult to view your own writing and revising as an escape, a relief from your other obligations.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your writing and editing work for clients or employer, but if you don’t treat your own work as necessary, it’s the first thing to get cut when you’re scrambling to meet other deadlines. Most work days, you should devote at least an hour to your current novel, whether that’s plotting, drafting, revising, or marketing. (However, don’t force yourself to work every day of the week if possible.) Block it out on the schedule, even if you have another deadline looming.
Find the most productive part of the day for you to focus on your fiction. For many, that’s the first hour they devote to work in the day, shortly after waking up. For others, it’s during a lunch break or an hour before bed. Don’t schedule your fiction-writing hour right after working on other writing or editing. Make sure you recharge yourself. (See next section.) If fiction writing a full hour per work day seems to be too much, start with just half an hour. The key is not to overwhelm yourself.
With deadlines looming, it can be tempting to stay up late, get up early, and forgo every other activity in order to get all the writing and editing done. In that frame of mind, you’re not only not at your best creatively, but you definitely won’t feel like fiction writing is the escape it needs to be for you to enjoy yourself and work productively during what limited time you may have during the day to work on it.
Sleep as well as you can. If the stress of everything else you have to work on or your schedule precludes you from working on fiction writing first thing after you get up—when your mind is refreshed and better able to focus—try scheduling it after you take a break from your work writing and editing. Eat a meal. Go for a walk. Do a twenty-minute workout routine at home. Do something that pulls your focus away from writing and editing entirely, preferably something that gives you more energy and gets the blood flowing, like exercise and healthy snacking. When you allow yourself this break even when you’re dealing with deadlines, you’re actually likely to be more productive and to get more work done when you sit down to do it.
For those who write or edit for a living in an office, this may be easier, but in general, separating your work station from your fiction-writing nook may boost your productivity and help you avoid writing burnout. Those who work at home may be tempted to do client/employer work and fiction writing at the same desk or in same area of the home. However, this may train your brain to blend all of this work together, making it more difficult to find the creative energy you need to jump into your own fictional worlds. Keep your client and employer work to your desk. For fiction writing, you might consider:
Fiction writing on a laptop, tablet or phone with attached keyboard, or word processor can help you write “on the go,” away from the confines of an office desktop and chair. Writing on a Wi-Fi-free device like a word processor or resolutely sticking to a period of “no Internet” (there are apps to help with this) on your laptop or phone can also help train your brain to think of this place as your fiction writing center without distractions.
Some writers can’t—and don’t necessarily want to—escape writing and editing all day, even when not working on their own fiction. However, the non-stop writing work can lead to quick burnout and fiction writing getting pushed aside sometimes more often than working in another field entirely. Treat your own writing as a necessity, reenergize yourself between tasks, and retrain your brain to be at its most productive when it’s time to work on your fiction, and you’ll still be able to achieve your fiction writing goals.
by: Amy McNulty
Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance under a variety of author names. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.
Best-selling author Stephen King once said, “Good dialogue is a delight to read. Bad dialogue is deadly” (181). As readers, we can readily agree, but if you’re like me, an author intent on improving her craft, you want to know how to write dialogue that is a delight. You’re seeking guided practice—some rules. Here are seven insights I’ve gleaned from Janet Burroway, the author of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft.
*Develop an ear for how people talk. Listen to conversations everywhere you go. Take mental notes. “The trick to writing good dialogue is hearing voice. The question is, what would this particular person say? The answer is entirely in language. The choice of language reveals content, character, and conflict, as well as type” (49). But as you are composing your characters’ interactions, remember that dialogue isn’t not the same as idle chat or small talk.
*Cut the slack. Just tell the important bits. When my kids were small and I was a working mom, I used to watch soap operas to relax, but I didn’t have a lot of free time. From observation I theorized only one big event happens in each episode. Between big events, the characters simply react to the smash-up event that occurred. I’d fast forward though scenes searching for the pivotal scene–until the characters looked stressed, a gun went off or a car crashed, you get the idea. Then I’d slow the recording and watch. We as writers want to focus our dialogue on the big or important moments in our character’s interactions while skipping the rehash and small talk. Burroway points out that dialogue isn’t merely transcribed speech. It’s distilled speech, the interesting bits that inspire listeners to lean in closer. Edit out the boring bits and focus on what isn’t being said as much as what is. In other words, work the conversation so that it become more than merely the words the characters are saying (47).
*Write double or triple duty dialogue. When composing characters’ interactions follow Sloane’s Law–compelling dialogue should always do more than one thing at a time. If it doesn’t, it’s too sluggish or passive to work in fiction (47). What is meant by doing more than one thing? Well, Burroway says, “Because direct dialogue has a dual nature—emotion within a logical structure—it’s purpose in fiction is never merely to convey information… it needs simultaneously to characterize, provide exposition, set the scene, advance the action, foreshadow or remind” (47).
*Be careful when you use summary or indirect speech. Know why you’re switching the narrative to quick summary or retelling. Although you can employ summary or indirect speech to explain events readers already know, don’t skip over the heart of the scene or the important event. Make sure that’s in direct speech, so that readers feel immersed in your characters’ significant drama (47).
*Don’t use dialogue to info-dump. Don’t allow characters to talk about they both know merely to pass along information to the reader (52). At best, it’ll read false. At worst, it will sound like you’ve crammed words into your characters’ mouths. As you already guess, this pulls readers out of your story.
*Know what your characters want and pitch them against each other. As toddlers we learn to talk and use communication to get what we want. As adults, we’re practiced at using speech to persuade or argue for the things we seek. “David Mamet suggests that people may or may not say what they mean, but always say something designed to get what they want” (54), and fortunately, in fiction, characters don’t always want the same things. Conflict piques readers’ interest and advances story.
I’ve saved my favorite suggestion for last.
—When writing dialogue, make change your mantra. Your dialogue becomes action if it inspires change (53). When there’s the possibility that characters’ conversation will lead to something happening, or a shift in the character’s thoughts or circumstances, readers feel involved.
Writing dialogue that delights readers isn’t an easy, but it’s essential to selling stories and something we can and should strive for. I hope
I’ve helped you on your writing journey. For more awesome insights on writing, consider checking out On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway.
Burroway, Janet, et al. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. University of Chicago Press, 2019.
King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Hodder, 2012.
by: Mia Jo Celeste
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English Teachers, so it’s no surprise she’s both a writer and a teacher. Currently, she’s pursuing a Master of English at Mount Mary University.
Your characters are the heart of the story, so you want them to be right. What do they look like? What do they wear? What is their occupation? What manners and mores are typical for their times?
When you decide on what time frame you have set for them, and where, it will tell us who they are. Much of the past, stations in life defined people. In your research you have to get to know your characters well. You have to find how refined people lived and contrast that with the merchant and artisans. Also, you have to study the servant and country laborer and, finally, the poor and criminal class. Most countries and times have these varied groups of people. Even though you may not include all these groups into a story, it would help for a well-rounded vision, to know about each and their attitudes about others outside their circles.
Depending where your characters are placed, there are standard racial characteristics in different parts of the world. There weren’t many blue-eyed blondes that met Columbus’s men in the new world. However, places along waterways that for centuries had been used as ports of trade between nations, may have people of many nationalities living there. Countries who waged war for land would often incorporate the population into their empire and some would be moved to the capitols as slaves. Here again, it depends on time and place where you set your story on what racial groups would be living there.
In many ways, this is similar to the racial descriptions. Where you are in the world you can see in the native clothing styles. For the average person, if you lived in the far northern climes, for centuries you would have used furs to keep warm. Europeans, most Asians, the Middle East, and North Africa developed weaving cloth out of animal hair and plant fibers centuries back. The rest of the world used animal hides sewn together or plant material strung together in various ways.
Class had a lot to do with what people wore. Upper class had the refined clothing with imported materials, embroidery, beading and jewels worked in. It was usually dyed different colors from exotic plants and animals. Purple, for example, was regarded as a royal hue because it came from the ink of the squid, which was difficult to get. Merchant and artisan classes had less money for the rare, but their clothes were of high quality and professionally made by the guilds. The poor had hand spun and woven materials that were probably made by the women of the family from the animals and fiber plants they had. They would be natural color or dyed by plant matter.
There is a wealth of information on clothing from the mid-nineteenth through the twentieth centuries with the advent of photographs and movies. If you look on the web or in the library, there is much devoted on clothing.
The earliest jobs were probably hunter, toolmaker, food gatherer, textile, and cooking equipment maker. I’ve heard about the world’s oldest profession, but I think food and shelter would have come first.
As the ages went by, people learned how to smelt metal into useful objects. Instead of gathering wild plants, people started farming plants and animals for food and material. Carpenters and masons were building shelter and business structures. Then you have the intangible jobs of government, clergy, and scientists. Storytellers and musicians were the entertainment arts for a long time. Somewhere in that time, servants and slaves were doing the menial tasks for the wealthy.
Things really started to change when people started to make machines to do labor for them. First harnessing animal power, then wind and water made jobs faster and easier to do. The Industrial Revolution, around 1800, changed many things with its steam and combustion engines. With that came many different jobs that tied into the traditional, as well. You can find what was going on and how people were working in many different time frames by looking on the internet and in the library for life in the countries and eras you’re researching.
It’s true, what was acceptable in manners years ago has changed and will change again. I’m sure you’ve heard the statement, “acting like a caveman.” Before civilization came along, people lived in natural shelters, ate what they could find, wore little or no clothes, and men grabbed any females they desired. If they needed something they didn’t have, they would steal or kill for it.
As people started living in cooperative communities, the necessity for rules and the enforcement of them became important. Out of all that came the manner of treating your fellow human being. With few exceptions, men became the lawgivers and enforcers and because if that, for many centuries, women and children were treated like possessions. In the middle ages, women who were born in noble families were pawns to raise a family’s status. The oldest son would inherit everything while the younger ones were led to the military or clergy. Merchant and artisan classes were surprisingly freer than many in the nobility, as they could choose their course within the township and amass a fortune if they worked hard. Here again, men were the leaders of the guilds and women could only help their husbands in the businesses. This was the norm until women started coming into their own in the twentieth century when women started getting the vote in different countries and working independently in jobs other than owned by the family.
Many of the social manners started in the eighteenth century that we’re familiar with. Treating a lady with deference and respect lasted well into the twentieth century. You can find old rules in etiquette books from the time you’re working on to get some idea on how your characters treated each other. And remember, different countries had other social rules. So to be accurate you’ll have to check that out, as well.
by: Ilona Fridl
Ilona Fridl was born in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, where she lived the first twenty-one years of her life. In high school and college, she took Journalism and Creative Writing. She moved with her family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she met her husband, Mark. They started a locksmithing business and raised a daughter to adulthood. All the while, she dreamed about being a writer, but she hated typewriters. In the nineties, they purchased their first computer, and she never looked back. With some articles and short stories under her belt, she started her first novel. The eighth book is just being released by The Wild Rose Press. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, and a student of AllWriters in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
It’s Promotion Thursday for October. 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.
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.