When Disaster Strikes

We’re back! Thanks to Sandy, and lack of internet access, the Femmes took an unplanned break from blogging. Did you miss us? We missed you!

Don’t forget to enter our anniversary contest. There’s good news…because we’ve been on hiatus, we’ve decided to extend the entry period until the end of the month!  We can’t wait to award one of you a brand new NOOK SIMPLE TOUCH! To enter, click on the link below.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c70/

 

Surf already pounding the day before Sandy

 

Not too long ago, two Harlequin editors tweeted that they were looking for stories built around natural disasters. Having just been through a 7.6 magnitude earthquake while vacationing in Costa Rica, my thoughts immediately turned to how I could craft a story around an event such as that. Not once did I think a disaster right in my own backyard would give me fuel for a story. Things like that just don’t happen in New Jersey. When you think of New Jersey, you think of humid summers, sometimes nasty winters, glorious springs, sunny beaches and breathtaking fall foliage, but not natural disasters.

If you live on this planet, you can’t be unaware of the happenings in the northeast US over the past two weeks. Superstorm Sandy slammed the tri-state region, and our perspectives on life, weather, and the people of our area got knocked on their butts. Whoever would have thought a storm, creating damage of such epic proportions, could happen here?

Well, it did, and many of the citizens of the Garden State, as well as the neighboring states of New York, Connecticut and Delaware, will be brushing themselves off, cleaning up, and rebuilding for years to come. Living near the shore myself, I was without power for nearly two weeks. I am in a position to view, firsthand, the devastation in our area: the wrecked beaches and boardwalks, the destruction of some of my favorite restaurants, the washed-away homes, the depleted dunes and nesting grounds of various endangered bird species. Luckily, I can also help some of my unfortunate neighbors, people of all ages, races, and economic circumstances, to just get through one day at a time. Family and friends have endured such tremendous destruction, loss, and heartbreak, it is unimaginable, and yet, they persevere.

As I grumbled about not having power, my very helpful friend next-door said, “Just think. As a writer, now you have some inspiration for a story.”  She’s right. As I interact with the people around me, I am amazed to see the grace with which they are handling the adversity handed to them by Mother Nature.

In the grocery store yesterday, I thoughtlessly said to the cashier, “Can you believe I’ve been calling JCP&L every day for over a week, and they only just fixed my power today? All of my neighbors got their power back last week!”

She commiserated with me for a bit. Then I asked, “So, how did you make out in the storm?”

“Well,” she replied, “All the houses around me are condemned, but ours is okay. We have to gut the bottom floor, so we’re all crammed upstairs right now. Luckily, my dad is a contractor, so he can rebuild our house himself.”

Facepalm! Here I was, complaining about having to rough it without power for two weeks, and this young girl, who, I later found out, lives in one of the hardest-hit towns, was living in half her house!

I’ve seen and heard stories of people heroically coming from all over the country to help us. Then there are the stories of the looters, the criminals, the beating of a police officer at a local gas station when tensions got high, the stabbing of a clerk at a 7-Eleven. Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. They exaggerate the human condition, in both positive and negative ways. And they provide tremendous fodder for us as authors.

The story I would have written about an earthquake is much different from the story I would write about a hurricane. Now, I have the firsthand memories of what it looks like, sounds like, feels like and smells like to live it. Before, anything I would have written would be based on research and imagination. Now, experience can inform my story. We are lucky as writers to have this kind of catharsis for our pain, and to be able to glorify the fortitude of the human spirit, so that perhaps others may have hope and begin to heal.

I leave you with a photo of the real Jersey Shore, the one that will soon be restored.

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Least terns on Sandy Hook

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Why You Should Go to a Conference

With the one year anniversary of The Violet Femmes fast approaching, I’ve realized once again how blessed I am to have such a great group of women supporting me.

As you may or may not know, The Femmes came to fruition at last year’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, put on by New Jersey Romance Writers, an excellent sub-group of Romance Writers of America. Encouraged by a glass (or four) of white wine (it’s surprising how much wine can promote creativity), holed up in a hotel room after the awards ceremony, the Violet Femmes were born. It goes without saying that if we weren’t all at that conference, our little group might not exist. Which is what prompted me to write this blog.

First of all, I want to propose that we coin a new term…Pro-ference. Because, really, there are no “con”s to attending a writers conference.

So, here are my top five reasons for attending a Pro-ference…whether it be Put Your Heart in a Book, another local conference, or (gulp!), RWA Nationals:

1.  Camaraderie.  There is no better feeling for a writer than being in the company of others…lots of others…who understand the daily trials, self-doubt, and successes of being a writer. Plus, the sharing usually involves cocktails!

cocktails

 2.   Advice.  Michael Hauge recently spoke at a special event for New Jersey Romance Writers, and he made an observation I found to be true from my first NJRW meeting. Romance writers, he said, above writers of all other genres, are generous to a fault when it comes to sharing information about our business.  Sure, there are egos, but I have never met a romance writer who guarded trade secrets more closely than Colonel Sanders guarded his secret fried chicken recipe. For example, at my first NJRW conference a couple of years ago, USA Today bestselling author Leanne Banks gave the Special Presentation, reserved for the first 100 registrants for the conference. We spoke a bit before her presentation, and I actively participated in a little exercise she conducted.Photo: Me sipping a "Harlequin Heartbreaker" at the Harlequin bash.

Later, she sat on a panel with Susan Litman, of Harlequin, and they talked about what Harlequin looked for in its different lines. Susan had just requested a full manuscript from me when I pitched her my category romance, so I sat in on that session. Leanne greeted me when she came in the room. Afterwards, I cornered her (poor woman!) in the bar as she grabbed a quick glass of wine, and asked her a question that had been nagging me ever since I had pitched to Susan. Leanne spent about fifteen minutes with me, answering questions and giving advice. And I had just asked her one question!

3.  Pitches.  As Michele discussed in last week’s blog, pitching is a prime reason to attend a pro-ference. Where else do you have the opportunity to meet, chat with, and pitch to several editors and agents in one place? Most regional conferences offer pitch sessions. NJRW’s conference offers lots…probably aided by our proximity to New York City, that publishing mecca. This year, NJRW’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference offers a choice of almost 30 agents and editors…that’s a lot of potential to sell your manuscript!

 4.    Workshops. Probably the biggest draw for serious writers is the schedule of workshops offered. From the craft of writing, to resourcing, to brainstorming, workshops give us writers the tools we need to get the job done…not an easy feat, I can assure you. They help with confidence building, show us ways to get out of that corner we’ve just written ourselves into, and tell us what to do once we feel our manuscript is ready for someone’s eyes other than our own.

5.     Market knowledge. Whether it’s gleaned from editor and agent panels, or in conversations with other authors, finding out what agents and editors are seeking is invaluable information for aspiring and published authors alike. As audience demands are constantly changing, it is important to understand where the minds of the people helping you sell your book lay. Understanding the business of writing is instrumental in getting those books of our hearts published.

So, have you attended a pro-conference? What was your reason for attending, and what did you take away with you?

Hugs,

Jaye

p.s. Stay tuned for a special contest celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Violet Femmes! Thank you to everyone who has followed us over the past year. We appreciate your support!

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