Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.

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Posted in Books, Career Day, Family life, For Writers, parenting

Please 2017, or Hope Springs Eternal

After a year which wore out its welcome sometime in August, I’m really hoping for a better 2017.

Sure, a few great things happened in 2016 – I took two terrific vacations with the family (Jamaica and San Diego, CA), my near two-year battle with dizziness came to an end, and the Cubs won a World Series but on the whole, hope seemed hard to find.

I grieved for the loss of human beings who inspired me – David Bowie and his art of reinvention, Umberto Eco whose pinball scene in Foucault’s Pendulum is sexy perfection, and for Carrie Fisher, who lived life with such fearlessness, wit, intelligence and honesty that for this child of the 70s at least, she was a role model of both what not to do (the drugs) and how to live. When Mohammad Ali died, I grieved once more for my grandfather who died from Parkinson’s disease 35 years ago. And I grieved for my grandmother-in-law who passed away in the spring.

I grieved for the loss of civility, and for my hometown, the City of Chicago, which seems incapable of stemming the tide of violence.

In 2016, I suffered many professional shortcomings. I expected to end the year with an agent, or at least a contract. I put forth a solid effort, but simply put, I failed. It’s not a good feeling, even though I understand that larger industry consolidations make it harder for a well-reviewed mid-lister like myself to break through that magical ceiling that divides the best-sellers from the rest of us. It’s easy to get down and think about quitting, but then something magic happens.

January first, 2017 is a new day. My calendar is not entirely blank, but it may as well be a clean slate. Today, I will do some serious exfoliation and scrub off 2016. As of this writing, no-one has died in 2017, so there is no need to grieve. No-one has teased my children or been unkind to them. No-one has told me no. Look out 2017, here I come.