A Generosity of Spirit…

wrong-girl-240hWomen, as Rudyard Kipling once observed in his poem The Female of the Species, can be deadly.  They can be mean (a la Mean Girls), they can be just as much bullies as boys or men.

They can.

But, most of  the time, they aren’t.

Most of the time, they will breathe their last breath before they let someone else go hungry, ill-clothed, ill-shod or unloved.  Women will literally take the shirt off their backs and run around, embarassed, in their underwear, if it means they helped someone, as many did in the aftermath of the Boston bombing. Humans, men and women, have a generosity of spirit that overarches the petty concerns of the everyday.

Now, that’s not just in grandiose, flowery prose that comes with tradgedy and loss. It’s in the everyday.

Writers are this way too.  Especially romance writers.  Now, I started to say women writers, but I don’t personally know many women writers who AREN’T romance writers so I realized I shouldn’t say that.  Most of the writers I know either are Romance Writers now, or they were before they branched into mystery or horror or thrillers.

Now, why the heck am I rattling on, and on, and on about this?51YgKUr-MKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Well, this last weekend was the annual Nora Roberts Writing Institute at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD.    The “official” theme – if you could call it that – was COME LEARN TO WRITE!  The unofficial one was HEY, YOU’RE NOT ALONE!!

People from all over the country come to the lovely small town of Hagerstown for this.  From Washington State and Colorado, from Philadelphia (2 hours away) and North Carolina (6 hours away).  To learn.  To get the basics.  To hear authors who’ve “made it” say, “You can do this!!” And they do say that.

Authors like Jana DeLeon talked about how they made it, and how “making it” is an everyday job.  Yes, there are things you can do to enhance your progress – if you ever get a chance to take a class about promotion with Jana DeLeon, regardless of your business, DO IT!  The woman is brilliant.  But Jana shared more than the nuts and bolts of writing and promoting what you’ve written.  She shared her time.  Her precious writing time (because when you write, time is the one thing you always feel you don’t have).  She shared her experience and more than anything, she encouraged. Longshot-Thumbnail

The guys did too, don’t get me wrong.  I’ll say the same thing about John King, former faculty member at Hagerstown CC.  If you can get him to do a class on police procedurals for you? OH. MY. GOSH.  DO IT!!  He was born to teach, and to teach about how the police/cops/mounties/etc. work, think, hurt, believe.   And he too was incredibly generous with his time and energy and knowledge.  And he came all the way from Provo, UT, back to Hagerstown, to teach us.

Then there were the very well known and highly thought of and totally cool Keynote Speakers.  That would be the internationally bestsellers, Sylvia Day and 01f8205dc6f90a900484df.L._V359400092_SX200_Hank Phillipi Ryan.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to conferences where the keynote whisked in, spoke, shook hands with folks who were brave enough to come down to the stage, then whisked off again, into the ethers, never to be seen.

Not these ladies.  Sylvia and Hank were present and answering questions throughout the weekend.  They took the time to talk to these beginning writers, to encourage at every step, to hug, to mug for the camera, and to share.  To generously share their journey.  They shared their trials and tribulations.  They shared that the work STILL has to get done, by you, the writer, even when your last book was on top of the bestseller list in 40 countries and translated into 41 languages.  :>

Sylvia still has to sit down and write the next book. Every writer does.  Hank does.  Susan Donovan does.  All the Romance Bandits do.  These writers reminded us all that glamorous as others think our job may be, we STILL have to sit down, grumpy and rumpled or coiffed and heeled, and WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.

Hank Phillipi Ryan, who’s been a guest on the blog several times, is one who’s usually still in her work suit from her job as an investigative reporter, when she snags some writing time.  Hank is funny, delightful, insightful and yes, generous.  I’m diving into her latest THE WRONG GIRL and already anticipating her next book,  TRUTH BE TOLD.  (October) SylviaDay-001

Our own Bandita Donna MacMeans was a speaker, as were NYT Bestseller Susan Donovan, Gail Barrett, Agnes Jayne, screenwriter Jeanne Ford, historical writer Dennis Frye, media savvy Leigh-Anne Lawrence and Laura Reeth, and military historical writer Dr. Robert Savitt.

Every single one of them were wonderful, took the time to talk to and encourage new writers and pay it forward. They talked about how to stay in the chair with your hands on the keyboard and just DO IT.  They talked about their own struggles and foibles.  The audience learned that some are strictly regimented, and some take time to play.  Some write at night, some early in the morning, and some whenever they can fit it in around their day job.

Some plot the whole book out before they begin to write.  Some just fly by the seat of their pants.  Some “brew and spew” as PC Cast would say.

All of them, as writers, remember what it was like to be one of the audience at a program like this, and so they share what the journey is like going forward.  Time, energy, stories about editors and agents, about going solo, about when a story stopped on them, or fell flat in the middle.  They shared it all.

That’s a generosity of spirit, of time and energy and life, that I’ve seldom seen outside the writing world.

What about you, Banditas and Buddies?  In your field of work, do people share information?

Are your colleagues and co-workers generous with their time and energy and ideas?  (And what field do you work in?)

If you’re a writer, what successful writer would you like to hear talk about their journey?  Who do you want to hear?  (Living or dead)

If you’re a reader, whose journey would you like to learn about?  

Which of your favorite authors would you like to hear speak?

If you had your fav author in front of you, besides “When is the next book out!?!?”, what question would you like to ask? (And no, I didn’t learn when the next Crossfire book will be out…sorry!)

As a last note, I’ll say you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Bandita Donna read from The Whisky Laird’s Bed.  Grins.

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Comments

24 Comments

  • This can not be right. I can’t be the first person to post – am I?

    The weekend was great and I met some very amazing people – including our own Shannon who came in for the book signing.

    I’m a writer and a CPA. I can swear up and down that while the OSCPA (Ohio Society of CPAs) organization is a professional one – it’s not warm and fuzzy and helpful to those just starting out. I’ve noticed that most CPAs don’t even attend a conference by themselves – they travel in the safety of packs so they don’t have to make conversation with a stranger! 🙂

    I love gatherings like the NRWI because of the energy and helpful spirit of so many writers in various stages of their writing career. I was honored, thrilled and pleased to be a part of it all.

    • Donna, congrats on snagging the rooster!

      I’m glad you had such a great weekend at NRWI. It sounded wonderful.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Yay for you, Donna! It’s hard to catch the chook in your time zone, right, and even harder in mine!

      LOL at your accounts’ conferences. It reminds me of the old joke about how you can tell and extroverted engineer from an introverted engineer (engineers are notoriously introverted).

      The extroverted one looks at YOUR shoes instead of down at his OWN.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Hey Donna! I guess the rooster is your prize for teaching so well. Grins.

      I’m just now able to get back online. We’ve had both cell towers down and wifi down due to heavy rain and storms. UGH!!

  • What about you, Banditas and Buddies? In your field of work, do people share information?

    Since my current field is writing, where we’ve established that yes, people do share, I don’t need to say more about that.

    In my former field, law, people also shared. Put any two trial lawyers together, and they will find a case to talk about, especially if it allows them to be on familiar ground by working one or more of their own cases in. These conversations also run to things like, “I’ve had a case like that. I can send you some citations.” Or “Look at the complaint I filed in this case, and it’ll give you some ideas on how to frame yours.”

    If you’re a writer, what successful writer would you like to hear talk about their journey? Who do you want to hear? (Living or dead)

    I’ve read a lot of author memoirs and bios, so people like Tolkien, Stephen King, Georgette Heyer, Dick Francis, and Lois McMaster Bujold are covered. I’ve also been able to meet people at conventions or conferences and hear them speak, often about their journeys, which has been great.

    I would love to hear Harper Lee discuss how she came to write To Kill A Mockingbird, but time is running out for that.

    If you’re a reader, whose journey would you like to learn about?

    Marion Zimmer Bradley, but she’s no longer with us, so that’s not likely to happen, alas.

    Which of your favorite authors would you like to hear speak?

    Nora always gives a great speech, and I would’ve loved to hear the late Dorothy Dunnett. And Harper Lee, of course,

    If you had your fav author in front of you, besides “When is the next book out!?!?”, what question would you like to ask? (And no, I didn’t learn when the next Crossfire book will be out…sorry!)

    I have so many authors I’d love to question that I can’t pick one question. It would depend on the author.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      We just finished watching the PBS special on Mark Twain, Nancy, and I realized — AGAIN — what an icon he was. I’d loved to have walked in his footsteps. I imagine him larger than life and so big that it must’ve been difficult to walk in his shadow.

      But I would like to have tried.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Nancy, I’d love to hear about Harper Lee’s journey as well. And I want to hear from YOU sometime what Lois McMaster Bujold talked about! :>

      Jo, I adore Twain. I really, really adore him.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    My “former” profession was teaching and I think it depends on the department or subject you’re in. We English teachers very much depend on each other to share ideas, strategies, and techniques. I’ve noticed in the past, however, that math teachers tend to go it alone.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    This is a great blog, Jeanne. I’m still amazed after having 15 works published, that writers, especially romance writers, are so generous with their time, energy, and ideas. It’s such a boost to know that other writers have gone through pretty much the same struggles that you have.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      It is reassuring, isn’t it, Jo? Not that I wish those struggles on anyone, but when La Nora said, during a speech, that she sometimes called Pat Gaffney and said, “This is the worst drek, they’re going to find out I’m a fraud…” I heaved a sigh of relief. :> If SHE can feel like that, after 200+ books then it’s okay if I do.

  • Jeanne, wow, what a star-studded line-up! I’m envious! I’m so in awe of how Nora Roberts gives back to the romance community (did you see I did a fan girl post about her a couple of days ago? I’m on a major Nora glom at the moment). How lucky you were to be there and in an environment where you all interacted.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      It was great, Anna. I’ll go back and read the post – It was while I was at the NRWI! :> ALthough Nora doesn’t attend, it’s sponsored by her foundation. Total awesomeness.

  • catslady says:

    I’m no longer in the working field but I do volunteer work and those are some of the most generous people. As to authors, I have found them to be extremely generous to their readers. And romance authors being mostly women, fit that mold most definitely. There are so many authors I would love to meet and I just like to hear about their every day lives.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Catslady, they’re mostly boring. Hahaha! I was laughing with one of the authors that when you have teenagers, as we both do, no matter how successful you are, you still have to load the dishwasher and do laudry. There are only so many things you can farm out. Ha!

  • Jeanne,

    So envious you got to hang out at the NR Writing Institute with all these great and generous authors. While I’ve experienced this wealth of gracious help from other authors ever since I walked into my first DARA meeting, I’ve also experienced a more casual teaching in the nursing field. I’ve been on other units where the nurses eat their young (that would be those “mean girls”)…and it’s a horrible place to work. But given the chance, most nurses will pass on their experience in the hopes that the younger crew will use those experiences when taking care of patients and each other.

    Imagine if you will…

    It’s late at night. Patients are either sleeping, laboring comfortably or the unit is having a rare lull and empty (like major-league rare!). A young nurse, (in experience, not necessarily in age), asks the older nurse, “Have you ever…”

    And so it begins. Just like when people sat around campfires and told stories, the older nurse tells the younger nurses of her experiences. The good ones, the funny ones, the sad ones, the horrible ones. We teach at the bedside, showing the younger ones how to give compassionate care at the same time doing vital signs or giving a complete bed bath. We bring them into emergencies, letting them see how to do it with calm and quick decision making and accurate assessment skills.

    This is on a good unit with nurses who actually care about their co-workers and the care they deliver.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      You know, Suz, it IS like telling fables and “teaching stories” around a campfire. Wow, hadn’t thought about it that way.

      And SO, so so glad that nurses do that and are so willing to teach. There are always going to be SOME mean girls/guys in any situation, but when you’ve got that kind of sharing you cherish it and LEARN!!

  • Helen says:

    Jeanne

    What a great post and I have just been to RWAust and met Cherry Adair and what a great fun Lady she is and so supportive to the other writers she had even taken some new writers up to her room and helped them with plotting and I had a reader get together with Marie Force and heard about her journey and books it was so good. And Sylvia Day will be at ARRC215 next year so I get to meet her 🙂
    All the authors that I have met over the years have been wonderful 🙂

    At work at the moment it seems to me that every department is against each other not working together as a team they need to learn something I would say.

    Have Fun
    Helen

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Cherry is a hoot, isn’t she? So funny!

      And you’re going to LOVE Sylvia. She’s so nice, and so generous and down to earth. :>

      Haven’t had the good fortune to meet Marie Force yet, but would like to.

  • Amy Conley says:

    As a kept woman, I don’ share much, but hubby is available on a first come, first serve basis if anyone needs one. 😀

    As for talking to any author, Diana G would be fitst on my list, just wanting to know how she keeps stprylines togethet has to be a work of art. But there would be a thousanf people in front of mr, so I’d just ask the first person in line what she said.
    Yes, Donna would be on my list, Julie Ann Long would be, Stephanie Laurens would be. ..and the list continues.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Heehee, Amy! Donna has so much to teach, I’m ALWAYS asking her questions. Grins.

      I’ve met Stephanie Laurens, but not in a place I could ask questions, alas. I’d like to though!

  • Shannon says:

    What about you, Banditas and Buddies? In your field of work, do people share information?

    Today I put together a group of 12 people from two different agencies with the mission of sharing what they do so that they can work together as resources for our organizations diminish. And I got to meet in person my co-author on an especially high level project and plotted what we were going to do with the “evil” agency that might steal our show. By the time this project is done, we may have five co-authors and taught everybody that playing nice is the best way.

    If you’re a reader, whose journey would you like to learn about?

    There’s so many. Blogs today at least let me know a bit more about current writers.

    I want to know from Grace Burrowes how she manages to write 8-12 books a year. Where do the ideas come from? How is it she comes up with a different set of expletives for each of her heroes and heroines?

    I would like to know how Maljean Brook started writing. My heart is kind of breaking that she indicated she is thinking of going other directions than steam punk because she wants to break out of being mid-list.

    Which of your favorite authors would you like to hear speak?

    With my historical bent, Christine Brook and Anna Campbell, and Donna (waves feather) I know very little about Celeste Bradley but I loved her spy novels. Courtney Milan’s enhanced content makes me think she’d be a great speaker. And I’m stopping there because I still have to make dinner.

    If you had your fav author in front of you, besides “When is the next book out!?!?”

    What is the best idea you ever had? What is the worst idea you ever had? Is there a book you want to write that you know is the book of your heart but couldn’t be sold to most editors?

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Shannon, it was SO great to meet you this weekend at the NRWI!!! Yay!!!

      Had to LOL about the teaching people to play nice. You go, girlfriend!

      And what a fabulous question!!!!

    • Amy Conley says:

      Shannon, I think the book of my heart could be sold to an editor, it’s the sitting down and writing it which is theproblem