A Different World

April was filled with a series of firsts in my writing career. It was the first time:

  •  I traveled to a new state alone without the intention of meeting family, friends or coworkers.
  • I attended an RWA sponsored writer’s conference.
  • I attended an African American writer’s conference.
  • I visited Chicago, Illinois.
  • I considered truly being self-employed without feeling a panic attack brewing in my chest.

 When I attended the RWA sponsored Desert Dreams conference in early April, I had every intention of comparing and contrasting that experience with my participation in the predominantly African American focused Romance Slam Jam set to take place later in the month.

 These two experiences really reflected the industry distinction between two groups who have the same appreciation  for love and romance but operate on different levels of support.

 At Desert Dreams, which was hosted by my local RWA chapter, I was the only African American author and the only author who wrote interracial romance.  Despite that fact, I felt the readers and writers in attendance really took an interest in my platform, because to them it was unique and different. One Caucasian woman took an extreme interest because her daughter was the product of an interracial relationship. Talking with an editor from St Martin’s Press only solidified my conclusions.

 While Desert Dreams was a great experience, one that I will repeat again in the future, I really felt at home at the Romance Slam Jam conference. There were a lot more readers in attendance who were hungry for great romantic stories and excited to meet the authors of those stories. Even though I was a newly published author, I was an important contributor to these attendees. It was nice to be around people who looked like me and appreciated what I was called to do. While I didn’t have any agent/editor appointments at this conference, I actually had one seek me out. She was an editor at Red Sage and she introduced herself to me because I seemed familiar to her. Upon hearing that I write interracial romance, she invited me to submit to her.

 The conference was nearly a week long and it was great to laugh, learn and party with my sisters and brothers. It was great to put names to faces and personalities. It felt like a reunion although all of those in attendance were virtually strangers to me. I was able to meet some of my virtual critique partners and it was like vacationing with sisters. I made so many contacts and so many new friends that there’s no doubt the next Slam Jam will be even better.

While Slam Jam didn’t have the exposure to the New York publishing market like Desert Dreams did, it is clear that we are garnering attention. Representatives from RWA were there as they were a low-key sponsor as well as Avon and a local Chicago book-club. It becomes obvious that we are growing in numbers and our economic power is being watched when those in mainstream start to take notice.

 On returning to the regular day to day, a raging fire was ignited in me. I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Writing, reading and being around those that appreciate these endeavors is how I see my future and now I have the courage to pursue it with laser-like focus. Since arriving home, I have been up late every night writing and researching ways to freelance full time. It is still my primary desire to write novels, however, freelancing appeals to me as well. I am no longer satisfied being at the mercy of one company no matter the industry. Even in writing, I plan to write in multiple genres for various publishers and companies.

 I’ve search for many years for that one product I would market in order to stake my claim among the self employed, and these conferences have taught me to look within. The product I can promote the best is inside of me.

 As long as there are readers looking for stories that reflect their unique experiences in a world that is not just black or white, I will be striving to meet the demand.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Be creative about what you know

The Literary Diva has at her disposal a tremendous wealth of knowledge — starting with her own. She is savvy, smart and successful. If this sounds like you, then what are you going to do with what you know? It’s great to sit around talking about all that you know with your friends, but why not share that information with strangers who would pay?

Consider where your knowledge lies. Do you need to write a book to share a new way of doing business? What about a book that uses what you know to help others deal with trying or difficult situations? Is there a unique understanding that you bring which you can now use to empower others on the way to their dreams?

Writing is powerful, as any Literary Diva knows. When you’re considering how you can share what you know in a meaningful way, use the power of the pen to create a lasting project that can stand the test of time. Be creative. That means coming up with new ways to address old problems. It means writing your nonfiction book with your potential reader in mind — and not just writing based on what you want. When you write with the reader in mind, that forces you to study your market and produce what that market wants.

And that’s a way to help you create a true impact, stemming from what you know. Your knowledge truly is your wealth. So turn what you know into a marketable book so others can learn from what you have to say.

In my latest book, Zoom Power: Your Key to Hitting Your Personal, Business and Financial Targets, I share tools, tips and strategies to help people create success in their everyday lives. I wrote what I knew from my own experiences as a successful business owner, journalist, author and speaker, but I also interviewed others who have had success in their fields so they could speak to my readers. As a former journalist, I relied on the skills I gained as a newspaper reporter to research and interview. Using what I know has been an awesome way to touch the lives of others. I’ve been able to conduct workshops, give keynote speeches, mentor and coach, all because I decided to be creative about what I know so I can help others.

What about you? What do you know that people would pay to learn?

 

The Big Bad Editor

  Who’s afraid of the big bad editor? Every writer with the dream of having their stories read by the masses must first play joker to royalty’s throne. In this case, royalty is the elusive editors and agents we try to impress with our ideas.

  Earlier this month I attended a local writers’ conference, where I sat in luncheons, dinners and mixers with published and wanna-be published writers. In that creative crowd lurked the editors and agents from popular publishing houses and literary agencies looking to discover the next literary money-maker.

  Having already sold my first work, Mismatched, I only had a rough outline and pitch for my next novel. Much advice was given that weekend. Tips such as:

  -Don’t stalk your dream editor or agent during the conference.

  – Don’t waste their time if you don’t have a finished work to pitch.

  – Don’t corner them in the restroom with a copy of your manuscript.

  -Don’t be nervous even though these demi-gods hold the future of your literary career in their grasp.

  – Do expect editors and agents to find any reason to say no, because they are busy people.

  – Do your research and be professional.

  While I admit, I did hold fast to most of these rules, I must note that this list is not all inclusive of the rhetoric that was flowing that weekend.

  I half-heartily prepared my pitch  while I watched other writers fret over their upcoming appointments. Since it was my first conference, I attended workshops and just set out to enjoy the experience. I went to an editor/agent panel where I was finally able to put an editor’s name with her face. It was another hour of writer do’s and don’ts in prep for the upcoming appointments.

  After another series of workshops it was time for lunch, where the nearly 250 attendees were seated according to their interests in various genres. 

  I joined the table for Women’s Fiction which only had two seats left and began to stuff myself with resort quality food. Once my plate was clean, I turned my chair around to listen to the keynote speaker, romance novelist Carly Phillips. A short time later, I felt a presence fill the seat next to me. It was one of the editors, not just any editor, but the editor I was to meet later in the day.

  I sat back and watched the other table mates bombard her with questions while her lunch just sat there barely eaten. I waited while the lady who sat on the other side of the editor went on and on about how smart she was for drinking from a reusable water bottle instead of the disposable water bottle I was using. I wasn’t sure if that was the most marketable trait for a writer, I let her babble without interruption. When it was time for her to leave, I was the last one sitting with the editor. Instead of bowling her over with the premise of my story I asked her questions about herself. Then I informed her that I had an appointment with her later but for that moment I would leave her to finish  her lunch in peace. She seemed surprised and grateful for the chance at a little solitude.

  At a writers’ conference, it is the editors, agents and renowned published authors who are the celebrities, because they are where we dream to be or they are the ticket to get us there .

  Having the opportunity to practice my networking skills and chat with the editor ahead of time really took the edge off when it was time for my appointment.

  Twenty minutes before, I fine-tuned my pitch and watched while the others studied their notes and paced. When it was time, we entered the meeting room which was set-up like a speed-dating session.

  I had ten minutes to sell my idea and find out what the editor was looking for. I talked so fast, I had time left and that gave the editor a chance to ask questions. We had a good exchange and by the time the bell signaled that the appointment was over, I had  a request for a sample.

  Later that night, I found out many who had appointments received valuable feedback and/or requests for writing samples. The proof of how successful these appointments were will be in how many actually follow-up and send the requests and how many of those will be offered a publishing contract if any.

  The one thing I’ve learned in this experience that can be useful in any endeavor is the importance of increasing the opportunities that support your dreams.

  In the end, it’s not one single shot that can make or break your dreams, but the culmination of chances and how we use them that help us transform our dreams into reality.

Camaraderie in Meeting a Need

This weekend I attended my very first writers’ conference. It was not only my first writers’ conference, it was the first time I networked in-person among readers, writers, editors and agents as a published author.
The Tempe Arizona Desert Rose RWA chapter hosted the 2008 biannual writer’s conference in Chandler, Arizona. It was a busy weekend packed with workshops, mixers, editor/agent appointments and book signings.

Over 225 men and women descended upon the San Marcos Golf Course and Resort to serve or satisfy a need or desire. Editors and Agents were on site to offer advice and hopefully spot the next bestselling author, while writers were there to connect with readers, other writers and hopefully get recognized as potentially the next bestselling author.
Despite an allergy-induced head cold, I arrived on Friday afternoon, ready to meet a fellow author who would be my roommate for the weekend and anxious to take advantage of all the conference had to offer.
Being hosted by a chapter of Romance Writers of America, the attendees consisted of USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors, as well as lesser known successful authors all the way down to aspiring romance writers both male and female from as young as 20 to as aged as 80.

One point of interest to make is the fact that I was the only African American present. Such ethnicities as Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian, and Hispanic writers were present but there were few of them as well. Equally low in attendance were the number of men as to be expected. There were a couple of men who were there as aspiring writers, but most of the men were husbands of the attendees or employed on the sales side of the publishing field.

Although I was the only African American there and obviously the only person focused on African American romance, it was a test to my commitment every time I answered the question regarding my genre of choice. When asked, I would reply “I write interracial multicultural romance”. Most of those inquiring were pleasantly surprised. Their response seemed genuine many asking follow-up questions. The best response I received was from an aspiring mystery writer. She was a middle-aged Caucasian woman who expressed strong interest the moment I mentioned my genre of choice.

As it turns out, she was in an interracial relationship in the 1970’s and a baby girl resulted. She went on to express the difficulties she and her mate experienced and the difficulties her biracial daughter still encounters today. She seemed excited and flattered that someone was interested in telling the stories of people with experiences like hers. She beamed with excitement and laughed as she imagined her daughter’s response in hearing about my book and platform.

I asked her if she had pictures of her daughter. Unfortunately, she did not but her eyes twinkled with pride as she compared her features to that of Lisa Bonet.

An obviously shy woman stepped out of her shell as she shared snippets of her experience with me. In addition, the fact that I was a black woman interested in her experience was not lost on her. It made her feel even more comfortable as she began to chat like we were old friends.

I gave her my card and a bookmark with the realization that my audience just tripled. I assumed my writing would appeal to African American woman aged 18 to 55, but I realized in this exchange that anyone touched by the romantic bonding between ethnicities would be drawn to my stories.

Although I never say her again the rest of the weekend, I know with that encounter that biracial stories are important and need to be told and I am happy to be that vehicle as we inch closer toward acceptance of our differences and similarities.