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    NJRWA 2011 – Behind the Scenes of Writing a Book
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  • Published: Oct 26th, 2011

heartImagine a computer screen with a blank page and that infernal cursor continually blinking. That’s the starting point for all authors. Putting words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs while creating just the right tension, drama and romance so that the reader is intrigued and will keep turning the pages is no easy feat.  It’s takes discipline to sit alone in front of a blank page while your characters chatter away waiting for you to write words that will allow them to spring into action and have purpose and meaning, conflict and resolution and of course dialogue that is interesting and dynamic. Well this weekend I didn’t have to imagine it, I got an in depth look at how authors begin this journey and stay the course, and I have to tell you it  was like watching a fascinating behind the scenes documentary.

Suzanne Brockmann

Suzanne Brockmann

I spent an amazing weekend at the NJRWA ( New Jersey Romance Writers of America) conference with authors Suzanne Brockmann, Rachel Gibson, Brenda Novak, Victoria Alexander, Sophie Jordan, Kristan Higgins and Eloisa James (just to name a few).  This is one of the biggest romance writer’s conferences of the year offering two days of networking, workshops, meetings with agents and editors and a book signing with the proceeds going to literacy. Geared to both published and non-published but aspiring authors, it has something for everyone. I’m a reader, not an author, but with that much talent in one place I felt motivated and inspired. Everywhere I went there were authors talking about their work, dreams, desires and how to be better at what they do; you could feel the passion and commitment vibrating through the walls.

A conference like this takes a lot of people and a year to plan. Conference Chair Marlo Berliner and Assistant Chair Ruth Seitelman did a fantastic job of making this year’s conference successful. With workshops like “ Making Your Hero Sound Like a Man” presented by author Cindy Kirk and author Hope Tarr’s workshop “ No One Cares You Had a Muffin: Making the Most of Social Networking Sites to Brand Your Books” – there was something for everyone.

Rachel Gibson

Rachel Gibson

I attended many of the workshops to get a feel for what was being shared and what writers wanted to know. One of my favorites was “Who Killed the Sentence?” presented by The Grammar Divas – trust me, they’re shaking their heads as they read this post. But I learned a great deal and promise to buy Diana Hacer’s grammar book, A Writer’s Reference  .

I also attended author Mary Burton’s workshop on “Unraveling Romantic Suspense”. I was fascinated by her process, research and the intricate details an author needs to know in order to commit murder and create a villain that a reader can both hate and be fascinated by.

I spent some time with Kristan Higgins, who is one of the funniest people I’ve had the good fortune to talk to, and now I know why I love reading her books. Her sense of humor and ability to tell a story carries the listener along seamlessly enveloping them in the moment. She told a great story about being invited to attend an autopsy  — and, well, being the kind of author she is, she thought ‘why not, could come in handy someday’.

I interviewed Suzanne Brockmann (my interview will be posted next week) and was inspired by her energy and love of life. Talking to her about her books and the arc of her characters was like taking a master class. Her zeal, love of family and commitment to social issues infuses the room with energy. She was the keynote speaker and her generosity of spirit was exhilarating.

Victoria Alexander

Victoria Alexander

What’s really amazing is the camaraderie between the authors. They are all there to refine or teach their craft, give or get encouragement, and most importantly share information and ideas. Sitting down with authors Cara Elliot, Leanna Renee Heiber, Elizabeth Kerri Mahon and Hope Tarr gave me a fascinating look into the process of not only writing a book but marketing it as well; an author’s work doesn’t end on the last page.  I sat at the same table as Rachel Gibson and Sophie Jordan as well as un-published authors as we talked about the state of the romance market. And in every hallway or empty room I’d see authors like Victoria Alexander or Eloisa James talking to un-published or newly published authors about everything from character motivation to finding an agent.

As a lover of books, experiencing and sharing time with these women (my apologies to the three or four men who were there) was like standing at the edge of a cliff watching a glorious sunrise – the excitement was that palpable.

This weekend I got a glimpse into how it all begins and that got me to thinking about the books I read. Now it’s clear in my mind – right now I’m reading a book that started with an author alone in their room staring at a blank page and it makes the gift of reading all the more precious.

Article originally posted on the B&N Heart to Heart Blog.
(You can view pictures from the conference at the “B&N Romance Readers” facebook page.)

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