Talk Back: Are writing conferences necessary?

August 5, 2013

On my Kindle: Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie

Talk Back – Tell us how you write!

What do you think? Now that Jenn has made us all totally jealous with her RWA photos, I feel like I am totally missing out.

Yet, unlike her, I have no real reasons to justify the price of going to a writing conference right now. I don’t have any book to sign, no agent or editor to meet and while I would love to learn more about the craft by attending the many workshops offered, the benefits would not outset the costs for me at this time. If I’d go, it would be a total splurge just for a little time out and to meet all my writer friends.

And I’m afraid that right now I don’t think attending writing conferences are necessary for me to reach my current goal (make a sale).

That said, this is only my own opinion and I may totally be wrong. So I turn to you for input. Do you think writers need to go to writer conferences to meet their goals? Is it different for writers at different stages of their careers? Are some conferences more useful than others?

What is your experience and thoughts on this?

Much love,
Marie-Claude xoxox


RWA13 in Pictures

July 24, 2013

Romance Writers of America held their 33rd Annual Conference last week in Atlanta. This was my 5th consecutive year attending and I must say there was a palpable change in the air. From traditional publishing to the new wave of self-publishing, the workshops, chatter, and even the pitch sessions, everything reflected the cataclysmic shift in romance publishing. It’s a brand new world out there and it’s looking pretty darn good.

For me, this conference was a little different. I was not a newbie sponging up all advice and teachings. Really, I only sat in 3 carefully chosen workshops, workshops that gave me insight and power into my own career as an indie author in a way I could positively use. Aside from that, I participated in a focus group with my publisher, as well as a publisher sponsored workshop. I also attended two retreats. Top that off with 2 signings—the literacy autographing and the indie signing. Oh…and the nightly parties. Yup, I was a busy girl. So busy, I didn’t snap as many pictures as I would have liked.

Be here are a few. Enjoy.

The Atlanta Skyline at dusk.

The Atlanta Skyline at dusk.

First night in Atlanta and I'm drinking gen-u-ine moonshine.

First night in Atlanta and I’m drinking gen-u-ine moonshine.

Probably best to not look up in the lobby of the hotel after drinking moonshine.

Probably best to not look up in the lobby of the hotel after drinking moonshine.

Packed house at the Gone With The Wind inspired Golden Network Retreat. Amazing speakers included Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Courtney Milan, Darynda Jones, and more.

Packed house at the Gone With The Wind inspired Golden Network Retreat. Amazing speakers included Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, Courtney Milan, Darynda Jones, and more.

The Literacy Autographing! WOW! So many FANS!

The Literacy Autographing! WOW! So many FANS!

My awesome and adorable editor, Mallory

My awesome and adorable editor, Mallory Braus

Amazing friends and chapter mates, Jaye Garland and Jan Nash

Amazing friends and chapter mates, Jaye Garland and Jan Nash

Signed over 50 books and the Indie Signing. Discovered I need a shorter name.

Signed over 50 books at the Indie Signing. Discovered I need a shorter name.

Decided I needed to go incognito and take up smoking cigars

Decided I needed to go incognito and take up smoking cigars. Look good, don’t I?

Super Secret Harlequin Party. The dancefloor was rockin'. Yes, there's Nora. And I didn't drag her to the floor this year. ;-)

Super Secret Harlequin Party at the Ritz. The dance floor was rockin’. Yes, there’s Nora. And I didn’t drag her to the floor this year. 😉

Rubies at the Ritz. Addison, Liz and Dani

Rubies at the Ritz. Addison, Liz, moi, and Dani

The pink socks Harlequin gives out so we can all dance without our heels. Bless you, Harlequin.

The pink socks Harlequin gave out so we could dance without our heels. Bless you, Harlequin.

Some of the greatest gals I know: Raven Raye, Ruth Kenjura, Melinda Porter, some chick in a black dress, and Sarah Andre.

Some of the greatest gals I know: Raven Raye, Ruth Kenjura, Melinda Porter, some chick in a black dress, and Sarah Andre.

My roommates. These rowdy girls are da bomb. Thanks for the memories Eliza Knight, Jennifer Jakes, and Kim Killion!

My roommates. These rowdy girls are da bomb. Thanks for the memories Eliza Knight, Jennifer Jakes, and Kim Killion! Let’s do it again.

Carina Press Uncensored

July 12, 2013

I thought I would pass along some very cool information to those authors who might me attending the Romance Writers of America 33rd Annual Conference in Atlanta next week. My publisher, Carina Press is doing a little something different for their spotlight. In the name of transparency, there will be an uncensored, honest discussion of Carina Press. What works, what doesn’t. Why the publisher is good for some authors, and not others. And a unique Q&A with and without Carina Press Staff. Read more about it here!

Look for me. I will be there!


2012 RWA – The Evidence

August 1, 2012

Song of the Day: Home by Breaking Benjamin

I’m baaack. Wow! What a whirlwind week in Anaheim at the 2012 RWA conference. The meetings, workshops, volunteering, seminars, signings, cocktail parties, it was all so overwhelming. What better way to share my experiences than through evidence, er, I mean a few pictures.

Once I landed in California, I threw my luggage into my room, headed off to volunteer shlepping books for the literacy signing event, and then rewarded myself with a trip to Disneyland.

With The Golden Network president, Liz Selvig.

Got booted in the Golden Network chapter. That’s a good thing. It’s recognition for a first sale of a book to a publisher.

L to R – Kim, Beth, Anne, Darynda, Liz, Vivi, moi, and Sally

A passel of Rubies at the Golden Network retreat.

And who would you like me to sign this to?

I was a bundle of nerves at the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing. It was an amazing experience.

*swoon* And he’s every bit as hard-bodied as he looks. Just sayin’.

The one and only, Jimmy Thomas. Intelligent, kind, business savvy, and, oh yes, handsome. It was great to meet the man who has graced 3 of my novels.

L to R – Rita Henuber, Ruth Casie, Adrienne Giordano, guest of honor and Brenda Novak bid winner, Joyce Adams, Jeffe Kennedy, Julie Rowe, and myself

Breakfast with fellow Carina Press authors. It’s never too early to drink a mimosa.

Arrgh, matey. The sign says it all.

Harlequin PJ party.

Rubies on the floor. Rubies on the couch. Rubies on the bed. Rubies in the corners. The room was busting at the seams with Rubies!

It’s always a good time with my sisters in the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.

It’s Carina Press cocktail hour!

Somehow, I managed to squeeze in another party.


Boy. All those parties sure wipe a girl out.


Harlequin knows how to start a party off right.

Dancing girls Vivi, Anne Marie, and Rita. You go girls!

We danced the night away at the Harlequin party.

ACK! NORA ROBERTS!! Girl crush!

Some of you may not be surprised that I dragged Nora onto the dance floor.  She’s a fabulous dancer!

L to R – Jaye Garland, Ruth Kenjura (my hotel roomie), Golden Heart nominee Jan Nash, and yours truly

What a way to end the conference than with some wonderful friends! Thanks for the memories!

A Little Conference, A Little New York

July 6, 2011

Song of the day: Rock This Town by the Stray Cats

A visual display of my RWA National New York trip anyone?

I promise I won’t make you sit through an endless array of slides while I chatter on about my nasty run-in with a New York cop, near death taxi rides,  bomb threats,  and elevator mishaps. Nor will I bore you with bemoaning my choice of shoes while trekking across block, after block, after block of the city,  or how I cried during the Broadway show Wicked, or how nervous I was to meet members of my new publisher, Carina Press (oops…did I let that slip?).

I won’t mention the amazing workshops and parties, either. Well maybe, I will.

So without further ado . . .

People, lights, and animation everywhere you turned. Sensory overload!

By the looks of those sun-deprived skinny legs, I'm thinking this cowboy is a stand-in. 😦

NY celebrated my arrival Monday night with fireworks. Did I mention I'm terrified of heights?

Don't honk. $350 Fine. One way the city makes lots of money.

Central Park, who knew it could be so big? And peaceful? And big? And beautiful? And big? Damn flip-flops.

My sight-seeing compadres, Stacey and Ruth. Thanks for not throwing me overboard.

Hard to believe I was part of a workshop panel.

What do you do at the end of a long day at conference? Go to a Harlequin PJ party and wear a silly hat, of course.

Traded PJs for chic at the Carina Press cocktail party.

The Wicked stage curtain. Yes, we had wicked seating.

Must. . . resist . . .donning . . .the ears.

Where's your sword, Zorro? You might can guess his answer.

Hamming for the camera on a tiny slab of red carpet.

Bon Voyage, Kemosabe

June 22, 2011

Song of the Day: Hold My Hand by Hootie and the Blowfish

And so it is upon us. I’ll be flying out to New York this weekend for the RWA conference.

The final touches are being applied. I’ve done my OCD thing making lists of what I will wear each day and night, including jewelry and shoes. My agenda for the week has been printed. My iPod is charged. The camera has been cleared for the gazillion pictures I’ll take. A new notebook for those novellas I plan to write in my down time (hahaha) is ready to be packed. And I’ve dug out all my pins to wear on my name badge.

Just a few days ago, I finally found a pair of sparkly, sexy high heels to wear with my cocktail dress for the awards ceremony. Since I’ve lost some weight, I’ll be rockin’ this outfit. Hubby seems to think I’m going to pick up men. Never mind that 95% of the attendees will be female.

Yep. Other than the carefully stuffing the suitcases for minimal wrinkle-age, I’m ready to go. So I’m thinking, what will my goal for this conference be?

Network, leadership seminar, retreats, workshops, sightsee, dinner with my Ruby-Slippered Sisters, attend parties, these are the given activities. Yet, this year will be different in other ways.

My ear will be to the ground listening, like Tonto, for the stirrings of the industry. Over the rise, there cometh a change. Self-publishing is whipping in the wind and causing quite a ruckus. Is it a manifest destiny of sorts? I don’t know, but the publishing industry and related organizations will need to assimilate and grow with the digital shift sooner or later.

I’ll also be interested in the value, means, and insight on marketing a self-published book with other conference attendees.

I can’t wait to share with you what I will learn.

Conference Tips, Bradley Cooper, & Daggers

June 15, 2011

Song of the day: Savior by Rise Against

Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts and a bit about conference etiquette. Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we?


Do bring a camera. Don’t just bring it, take it with you everywhere. You never know when you’ll want to snap a picture. Great photo ops will constantly arise. Besides, what if on your way to a workshop you happen upon Bradley Cooper in the hotel lobby? Who’ll believe you without the evidence?

Do pack light. Let’s face it, we’re women. We have clothes for every situation. Not only that, the time of day for which that situation happens makes a difference to what we wear, too. Add to that all the salon products we use to make ourselves acceptable for facing the outside world.  It’s easy to get carried away, but I strongly suggest mixing and matching outfits and shoes. You’ll not want to schlep the extra luggage.

Do pack snacks. There are many meals not provided by RWA and you’ll be on your own. Bring nutrition bars, trail mix, crackers, small boxes of cereal, packets of tea or Crystal Light, or whatever packable foods you like to munch on. Bonus! You’ll save tons of money if you don’t step out to delis and restaurants for each meal.

Do budget for shipping costs. With all those free books, you’ll likely want to ship a box or two home. Or, bring an empty carry-on suitcase. Fill your books and other souvenirs in your bag and check it in at the airport.

Do have business cards handy.  Give them out freely.  Carry an empty business card holder for the cards you collect. Write pertinent information about the people you meet on the backs of their cards. Your mind will be mush when you get home and this will help you remember who they are later.

Do wear comfy shoes. Got a new pair bought just for the conference? Break them in now. You will be doing a lot of walking. It never fails. You will have a room on the far side of the hotel and most hotels do not have those nifty moving walkways. Trust me, no matter the care you take or how trusty your footwear is, you’ll need band-aids, so bring lots of them.

Overall, BE CONFIDENT. When you are confident, people gravitate to you and respect you as a professional. I’m not saying that to scare the introverts. Even an introvert can display confidence and be seen as professional.  In a way, this is part of branding yourself.



Don’t get slobbering drunk.  This should be self-explanatory. No lamp shades on your head, professing your love loudly for everyone in the room, or dancing on the tables.

Don’t be rude, bad mouth, or complain, even among friends. What comes around, goes around. You could be overheard, or your words taken out of context. People may not always remember those who are kind and polite, but they never forget someone who is ugly.

Don’t dress inappropriately. Another no-brainer. No stripper clothes. No Cher or Lady Gaga outfits. No Daisy Dukes. You get the picture.

Don’t stalk the pros. Keep in mind they are there panning for gold, too, but they are talking with hundreds of people.  Approach them if they seem receptive. Pick up on their cues. They are just like you and I, they like their personal space and may be tired. If they seem uninterested, be gracious, offer a business card, and move on.

Don’t line cut. Yes, people do this, and if daggers could be thrown from dirty looks, it would be a crime scene writer’s conference.

Don’t crash parties. There are many parties that are open for all conference attendees. But some are not. It’s bad form. Remember those daggers?

Don’t try to sell your book. You will not walk away from the conference with a contract in hand no matter how great your novel. Pitch your book, yes, but sell yourself!

There you have it, my do’s and don’ts for conference. And complimentary pictures of Mr. Cooper.

One last thing I’d like to add. No matter what type of conference you attend, you won’t be able to do it all, so relax, and most of all HAVE FUN!

Got anything to add? Let me hear from you.


10 Reasons Why You Should Go to the RWA Conference

June 1, 2011

Song of the Day: Here I Go Again by Whitesnake

For romance writers, conference season is upon us. Authors from all over the world, the superstars to the newly aspiring, will converge in New York City later this month for Romance Writers of America’s 31st annual conference.

Yes, MuseTrackers, I will be there to lay waste. With this year’s theme Bright Lights, Big Stories, I’m prepared to wow the Big Apple with my unique personality and overall awesomeness, aka my “brand”. Okay, that’s a loooong stretch. However, I have set aside my general fear of flying (again) and the excitement is seeping in.

This will be my third year attending. I don’t claim to be all-knowing (quiet down, those of you in the peanut gallery), but I think it’s safe to say I’ve learned enough to share a few tidbits with you. And so, with the dash of snark you have come to expect from me, I give you—

10 Reasons Why You Should Go to the RWA Conference

1. The People. Meet new like-minded crazies. Think about it, 2,000+ people who listen to the voices in their heads, just like you. You can also connect with the friends you’ve made online. New friends, old friends, the potential is there to make life-long friends, which will be handy when sharing padded cells.

2. The Energy. Whoo boy. The energy crackles. It’s contagious. There is no cure. You are so giddy from all the excitement, you want to write, write, write.

3. Pitching. If someone doesn’t ask about your book or what you write, you must still be in your hotel room. There is a very, very good chance you will pitch, even if you do not have an appointment to do so with an agent or editor. You may be standing in line, you may be at the bar, you may be in the restroom, but you will be asked. And you never know who is listening. I’ve heard many stories of how a casual conversation led to an industry pro asking for submissions.

4. Workshops Galore. There is a workshop for every facet of writing. Craft, research, business, the writer’s life, chats, publishing, and more, there is something for everyone.  If that wasn’t incentive enough, I’ll be presenting at one of those workshops. Look for me at Road to Novel Completion: Potholes, Pit Stops, and Poppy Fields, Oh My! You won’t want to miss that, right?

5. Industry Spotlights. Be in the know about publishers. Listen to the editors, get to know their personalities, find out what they are looking for and what they are not, and ask questions. These spotlights go a long way in helping determine a good fit, and the inside knowledge is valuable. Wasn’t it School House Rock that said Knowledge Is Power?

6. Girl Crushes. Stargaze at the famous, meet your favorite authors, and go ga-ga over those who inspire.

7. Networking, baby.  Go to the retreats. Get to know everyone. Let them get to know you. Be a sponge and listen closely. Share information and insights. Participate – actively. This is a biggie in my book. You never know when opportunity will strike. Assume it will strike at any moment. Last year, I played a Mad Libs – type game sponsored by Grand Central Publishing and won. My prize, a critique by two GCP editors. Now, that’s golden. You should be green with envy.

8. The Parties. All work and no play makes (insert crazy writer’s name) a dull boy/girl. So play! Publishers, chapters, organizations, and individuals hold all sorts of merrymaking revelry. Some even have themes. RWA holds a fancy awards ceremony, too. Great excuses to show off your swanky new digs. Bonus: more networking.

9. The Freebies. Publishers host book signings and all the books are freeeeeeee. Romance queens and brand new authors alike will gladly sign your copy. Last year, I picked up books as gifts for the readers in my family. I also collected some for a raffle basket at my child’s school fundraiser. Did I mention the books are freeeeeeee?

10. It’s a Tax Write-off. Yep, the entire affair is tax deductible. The registration, travel, hotel stay, food, the whole shebang is a write off.

Enhance you career, network, and have fun, this is the goal. Be looking for my next post covering the conference do’s followed by the don’ts.

Want to add to the list? Got more reasons to attend? Please share!

Pitching: What they want to hear

July 21, 2010

Song of the day: I Melt With You by Modern English

This is what you’ve been waiting for. The nugget of information that will make pitching to an editor or agent a piece of cake. The magical words of wisdom that will surely chase away the butterflies and all but guarantee you a four book deal.

Okay, maybe not that last part. You’re stomach will still flip-flop and you’ll probably not get signed before your ten minutes is up. But you’ll be armed with knowledge to get you that much closer to fulfilling your publishing dreams.

What are those agents and editors looking for in a pitch anyway?

Here is part three and the final section on pitching to the pros as suggested by Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency.

Is your story in the genre the agent/editor is interested in or represents? Don’t waste their time, and yours, by avoiding this simple step. If you pitch your vampire cowboy zombie slayer to someone who clearly is not interested in paranormals, you will come off as looking unprofessional, disrespectful or just plain lazy for not knowing beforehand. You won’t change their minds no matter how much your story rocks.

Ask yourself if your story fits in their line. This goes back to doing your homework. Find at least three ways it fits in with what the agent/editor. An example might be the steam level. How hot is the relationship between the characters? What type of heroine stars in the story?  Is she the über sexy take-no-prisoners kind of woman or the girl next door? Are their historical novels primarily Regency or steeped in lots of historical details? You should go beyond ‘Oh, they take fiction. I write fiction.’

A note here. Scott gave great advice on figuring out your target.  If you don’t know what publisher best fits you and your writing, go take a look at your bookshelf. See what author(s) you like to read in the same genre you write. Check out who published these books. Chances are many of these favorites will be printed by the same publishers. That’s your target market.

Now for the nitty gritty, your book. This is what they want to hear.

High concept. Whoa Nelly. Settle down. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to know what book or movie you should compare to your story. Keep in mind that you may not get the reaction you hope for if you walk in and blurt out how your novel is a perfect creative blend between Zombieland, Brokeback Mountain and Twilight. What they really want is to know what makes your story UNIQUE. Why is it a great story?

Incidentally, what would you think if I told you that I am working on a pirate tale with Smokey and the Bandit and Appaloosa as my working high concept? Things that make you go hmmm…

Tell them about your unique characters. What makes them different from everyone else’s John, Dick and Harry? Is your heroine not rich, not skinny, or not beautiful? Is your hero not a duke, CIA agent, or werewolf? Even if they are, maybe it’s their relationship that makes them unique. Hey – you got your peanut butter in my chocolate. No. You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Bottom line, why do these characters stand out?

Unique plot. Again, what makes your story different from the rest?

Tell the agent/editor about the internal or external conflict. The conflict cannot be something that is easily resolved or a simple misunderstanding. The agent/editor reserves the right to smack you upside the head for such a heinous crime.

You know what? They also want some of that awesome storytelling. It’s all in the voice. No throat exercises, please.

It doesn’t end there, folks. During a pitch, the agents/editors are also uncovering bits of info about you.

It’s important for you to know where you are at in your career and where you are headed. Do you know enough about the industry? Do you treat your writing with professional regard and not like some passing bucket list fancy? Are you a team player or stubborn, not willing to take advice.  As an author, are you ready to make the move into revisions, deadlines, new material? The agent/editor does not have a crystal ball but they may be able to spot an author’s potential.

Here is another gem from Scott. There is always a do-over. If the agent/editor declines to see more from you, don’t turn in your badge and gun yet.  A no doesn’t mean a no for life. Just on the particular story you pitched.

Now you are armed and ready. Go forth, my writing friends, go forth and pitch. Best of luck to you all.

See you in Orlando!

Pitching – The Job Interview

July 14, 2010

Song of the Day: Break Your Heart by Taio Cruz

If you popped in last week, you’ll know the do’s and don’ts of submitting masterpieces to coveted agents and editors. If you didn’t, scroll down. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

To give you a quick recap, Scott Eagan of the Greyhaus Literary Agency came to my “home” Romance Writers of America chapter, Northwest Houston RWA, gave us an eye-opening quirky presentation on submitting and pitching.

This week, I’ll share with you the scoop on pitching pointers à la Scott.

Treat a pitching appointment like it is a job interview because in all honesty, there is little difference. You walk into the appointment to sell yourself. Now for all you degenerates out there, and you know who you are, I don’t mean bribery or prostitution. This interview is about you and your resume. Resume = manuscript. Just as in an interview for employment, you are not there to chit chat and yuck it up. You have limited time. Use it wisely. Ask questions, take notes. Keep in mind I’m not referring to items like word counts, genres, and the like. You would know that from your research, right? And I don’t mean advances and royalties, either. That’s putting the cart before the horse and the horse just walked away. Questions that might arise may be more like how your book might fit into the current market.

By now you know that writing is a business. The cool thing about that is you can work at home in front of your computer wearing your PJs, not having showered in days, and entertain the cat with unkempt hair that rivals Edward Scissorhands. No so for a pitching session (or for anytime leaving the house). Dress accordingly. Business casual will be perfect. Sound professional. Act professional. Be intelligent. This falls in line with knowing the business and having confidence about yourself and your work. Let the agent or editor know you are ready to move to the big league.

When going on a job interview, you should know a little something about the company. The same applies to pitching. Do your research. Know what the agent / editor wants and what they like or dislike. Does the agent accept romantic suspense but not women’s fiction? Do they love historical tales but despise time travel? Are they partial to comedy? Do they represent all genres of romance but are only accepting young adult at the moment? Maybe they are really into vampire cowboys. Tailor your pitch to them. Scott put it best; one size does not fit all.

Be prepared. There are several points to this. Don’t pitch if your story is not complete, polished and ready to send immediately. Understand that there is a really good chance the agent / editor will ask questions. Know the answers. Be able to produce your manuscript. Consider keeping your book on a flash drive or stored in a secure web account. That way when you are at a conference and an agent / editor requests to see your manuscript, you can hustle back to your room, do your happy dance and fire off your magnum opus from your laptop. If you don’t have your materials with you, don’t fret. Just be sure to get them what they asked for as soon as possible.

Lastly, let’s talk about pitching no-no’s. Do not dress in costume. Please don’t dress up as a character in your book. That’s frightening. Don’t slide money across the table expecting favors. Avoid auditioning for a stand-up comic gig. Don’t shove a business card under their nose before your pitch session begins. Don’t apologize. And, if you know what’s good for you, don’t argue!

Next week: The Pitch! How to give them exactly what they want!