Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Always the Quiet Ones

Please help me welcome erotic romance author Missy Welsh to my blog. Missy's debut, The Summer of Wes, is available now from Loose Id.

There's a story my mom tells of me at age four that pretty much establishes part of my personality: Me and a neighbor girl of the same age came across a mud puddle in the sidewalk. She got right in it, stomping and splashing and making a mess of herself. I went to my mom and asked for permission to do the same. She said no, so I just stood on the sidelines and watched.

Yep, that's me. Even at four years old, I was comfortable on the sidelines. That's me there now, holding up the wall and observing everything.

Another story about me was that around age eight -- the year after my grandfather died -- I used to worry about death to the point of making myself sick. I'm not sure who's idea it was, but my mom would make me sit in a corner alone for one hour each day and get all the worry out. It didn't make one lick of sense to me, so I sat there instead and made up stories. Eventually, I made friends with the tiny spider playing in the cobwebs and told them to him. (Mom cleaning the corner is a tale for another day.)

Seems rather normal to me that I would later apply both aspects of my personality -- the observer and the story-teller -- and become a writer. How I got to writing about gay men falling in love is for my therapist to figure out someday. How to tell family and friends and the occasional stranger that's what I write is an ongoing struggle for this shy writer.

I discovered gay romance or M/M romance about a year ago while poking around the small online publishers. I'd fallen in love with my first gay couple thanks to Suzanne Brockmann's Jules Cassidy and Robin Chadwick characters. I read about them and I wanted more. And yes, more details. (That observer in me is a curious gal.)

I soon found myself enchanted by the storylines that seemed fresh and new for having gay men involved: Cowboys, Marines, hustlers, secret agents, single dads, cops and corporate bad boys. Being gay added another layer of complication to their already complicated lives and I, like millions of other women -- yes, women -- were gobbling these stories up so fast the publishers are having trouble keeping up with the demand for more and better.

So now I was a total fan, but I've always been a writer and I couldn't help giving writing about gay men a try myself. I told absolutely no one. I downplayed my progress and said vague things about plot or character whenever someone asked how the writing was going. I even lied about my "heroine" a few times. I came to realize I was in a closet of sorts about it and didn't like it one bit. "Coming out," though, was unthinkable. Until something happened that basically forced my hand.

A month after my thirty-fourth birthday, I submitted a story to Loose Id...and they wanted to see the full manuscript. I managed to keep a lid on my joy and sent it off, telling myself it might mean nothing. The next month had me going before an editor. My very own editor! And she wanted to get to work ASAP to beef up the external conflict before pitching it to management and maybe making me an offer.

As far as I was concerned, that meant I was in and I couldn’t keep this a secret anymore despite my extreme nervousness over telling someone. There’s only so much Pepto a girl can swallow before enough is enough.

First on the list of people to tell was my mom. She's a terrier with a chew toy when it comes to my writing. Breathe one word about an idea and she wants to know what happened to the other one. The woman has high hopes I'll be on Oprah's booklist someday. When I got the email from Loose Id saying they were passing my story to an editor, I started crying and knew my first phone call would have to be to Mom.

She didn't frickin' answer.

My sister, on the other hand, did pick up when I called her next. I babbled about sending the partial, etc. in and then sending in the full manuscript and then she asked the crucial question: "What's the story about?"

Pretty sure I gave my tongue whiplash as I abruptly stopped talking.

But this is my little sister and she already thinks I'm a little nuts, so... I told her it was an erotic romance -- explained what that meant -- and then confessed that it was about two gay young men, one eighteen and the other twenty-four. After her moment of silence as she absorbed that, my dear sister said, "What do you know about boys that age, let alone gay ones?"

I really do love my little cockroach.

I asked her advice for telling our mother, she laughed at me, and I tried calling Mom again. Probably would've been a good idea to wait until she got home from work, but I wasn't thinking about things like that right then. I was on a roll.

"Oh, really? Well..." she said and then she repeated what I'd said to someone standing in her office with her! I had a mild seizure thinking she was telling her male boss, but it turned out she was telling two of her coworkers and friends. And they were intrigued, laughed, and generally thought I was awfully creative.

Huh.

It was actually much easier to tell the group of strangers that made up my first visit to a local Romance Writers of America chapter. Someone asked, I said, she blinked, and we moved on. The lady who sat on my other side and dressed like she'd ridden a Harley to the library -- she had -- also wrote erotic romance and thought I was a kick and a half.

Palpitations came when I realized two of my college English professors were in the room too...and cue the "would the new people introduce themselves please?" moment where the spotlight clicks on and my head goes empty. I managed to say it all again -- probably looking like a tomato -- and was greeted by a few startled titters and much eye blinking. And we moved on again.

I'd sweat so much I'd had to shower when I got home, but oh, my giddy aunt, I'd confessed my genre to about thirty people at once and lived to tell the tale!

It's getting a little easier every time I say it and I'm fairly well-prepared with statistics and whatnot when people have questions. I've signed two contracts and am working steadily to promote myself and my books, so the process helps remind me of the goal I'm working toward and that it's all worth it to see my words out there for the world to read. There will be moments, I am certain, when the reception won't be so giddy or mild, but I'll plead Scarlet on that one and think about it tomorrow.

Right now, I'm going to go jump in a few mud puddles without permission because, by the time you’re reading this, I'll be able to say I'm published and that's really what matters. And then, ahem, I'll get back to writing.

Missy has been writing since she was twelve and now has a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University that was a gift she gave herself for making it through a Bachelor of Arts in English at her local university. The stories she writes vary from historical to futuristic, but romance has always been the main theme for her. She grew up watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies with her dad and reading her mom's romance novels as soon as she turned her back long enough for Missy to grab one. And let's not forget Captain James T. Kirk, her first bad-boy and the man who taught her how to face danger and walk away grinning. So long as there are men being brave and falling love, Missy will be writing about them. Visit Missy online at http://missywelsh.com/.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Teamwork for Introverts

Please welcome debut author Susanna Fraser to the blog. Her first book is out this week with Carina Press.
Here's Susanna: Since my first book released just this week, I’m nowhere near the “quit day job” point in my writing career. I’ve been out of college for over 15 years now, and in that time I’ve amassed quite the stack of performance evaluations.

They’re positive, for the most part. I’ve been praised as everything from meticulous to tactful to efficient to being good at defusing tense moments with deadpan humor. And a few bosses have valued my self-sufficient, independent work style.

But far more have said, “Susanna needs to work on her teamwork skills.”

Because, you see, I’m a classic introvert. I find it hard to be “on” socially all the time, and I’m not good at delegating or sharing responsibility for a task. To my mind, most meetings are big time-wasters--why spend an hour talking when you could just shoot each other emails that could be read and responded to in 5-10 minutes?

It’s not that I don’t like people. I just find it easier to work on my own. Even when my husband and I are, say, cleaning the house in preparation for a party, I find it easier to split the house into sectors than to clean side-by-side. My ideal job would be one where I sat in an office with my door closed, spitting out completed projects and reports, for which my boss would email her thanks and praise. I’d occasionally come out for lunch or happy hour with my colleagues, because I’m far better at socializing with people than working with them.

So you can see why, even aside from my love of storytelling, I dream of being a full-time author. Writing a book is the ultimate solitary project. (Except for the occasional sets of co-authors, and frankly, they baffle me!) Even if you have critique partners or brainstorming buddies, in the end it’s you and your words, all by yourself, at the moment of creation. I dream of getting up each morning, sending my husband and daughter off to work and school, and then spending the day sequestered in blissful solitude, curled up with my research books and churning out my daily page quota.

But if you want to sell your book, at some point you’re going to have to interact with other humans. You’ll have an editor, and you’ll also have at least some contact with legal/contracts, publicity/marketing, and possibly whoever is responsible for your cover art and back cover copy. And you need to treat these people as part of a team who share your goal of seeing your book find its readership.

You don’t need to give them everything they want--unless you honestly think they’re 100% right--but neither should you dig in your heels and refuse to cooperate. Because you really don’t want the people who can decide they don’t want to buy your next book to think your teamwork skills suck.

It helps that 99% of your interactions with your publishing team are likely to be by email. Remember that you don’t have to reply right away. In fact, if you’re feeling at all stressed, anxious, or angry about what just hit your inbox, then DON’T reply right away. Wait until you’re sure you’re capable of being calm, fair, and rational. Remember that YOU’RE ON A TEAM. Everyone wants your book to succeed. And while you’re the expert of your book, you’re NOT the expert on cover art or marketing strategy, for example. If you don’t like your editor’s suggestions, for example, try to understand what made her raise the issue and come up with a way to address her concerns that’s true to the story.

I want to stress in all this that I really enjoy being part of the Carina team. I had a blast working with my editor and I love how my cover turned out. But in a way I’m glad I got published now and not nine years ago when I first started writing, because all those workplace performance reviews from the past decade have made me much more aware of the challenges being a natural loner presents me when it comes time to be part of a team!

What about you? Is teamwork a challenge for you, too, or does your introversion manifest in a different form? Commenters will be entered in a drawing to win a free download of The Sergeant’s Lady, my debut historical romance release from Carina Press.

Susanna Fraser was born and raised in small-town Alabama, but now makes her home in Seattle with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. She manages research grants by day, writes on evenings, weekends, and lunch hours, and in her occasional spare time goes to baseball game and sings alto in a local choir. Her first book, The Sergeant’s Lady, is an Aug. 23 release from Carina Press. You can learn more about her on her blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Skip a Starbucks Day--August 23, 2010

Help bring their daughter home from China

Today, we're doing something special on Once Written, Twice Shy. My friend and fellow writer C.J. Redwine is trying to adopt a little girl from China. She's rounded up a bunch of bloggers to help her raise money for the adoption fees. She's asking everyone to skip their Starbucks (or other treat) just for today and donate that small amount to her fund to bring their daughter home. Everyone who comments and donates from this blog (you must let me know in the comment section that you've donated) will be put into a drawing to win a $10 Starbucks card from me AND put into a drawing to win some fabulous prizes from C.J.'s blog.





Winners drawn on Thursday, August 26.


Here's C.J.'s story:

We had three biological boys in four years and then I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I had a hysterectomy and while I mourned the fact that I couldn't have any more biological children, I was certain our family wasn't finished. My husband wasn't so sure. :) I'd talked about adopting and I always saw us with a little girl from China. He came up with a ton of reasons why now wasn't the right time to adopt. Then, on Mother's Day of 2005, he leaned over to me in church and said, "We have a daughter in China. We need to start the adoption proceedings to bring her home." I adjusted to this unexpected news (we hadn't discussed adoption for months) in about 15 seconds. :)

The next day, we began researching adoption and we picked out her name: Johanna Faith. Johanna means God's Gracious Gift and Faith is what it is taking to bring her home. We signed up with Chinese Children Adoption International agency based out of Colorado. We completed our stateside paperwork and homestudy within a few months, sent off our dossier to China with the understanding that it would be a 6-8 month wait, and eagerly planned to bring our daughter home. Soon, though, we began to hear rumors that the wait time was extending. Then we heard that the government had cracked down on orphanages who were receiving money from the state but who weren't keeping all of their beds full and the wait slowed to a crawl. Our dreams of having her home for Christmas were dashed. And then our dreams for having her home in time for summer were dashed as well. Before we knew it, another Christmas had passed and we were still waiting. Meanwhile, the Olympics were coming to Beijing, and the word was most adoption processes would stop altogether because China didn't want unfavorable international attention on their orphanages.

As the wait stretched from 8 months to three years, I struggled with depression. I could hardly bear Christmas, because she wasn't yet there. I shut the door of her bedroom and left it closed because I couldn't bear to walk past it in the hall. It hurt to think about having a child out there whom I couldn't protect. Couldn't love. Couldn't save. Three years became four with no real change. Our homestudy expired. Our immigration petition expired. Three times. Our fingerprints expired. Four times. And China raised the orphanage and court fees by thousands while we waited. Suddenly, the cushion of money we'd fundraised at the start of this process was almost gone and China was picking up speed in their child match program.

In September, it will be five years since we officially started our adoption process to bring Johanna home. We expect to receive her picture, information, and permission to travel sometime by the middle of September.

I opened her bedroom door for the first time in 3 1/2 years.

And we need to raise 8k to cover travel and the cash required to pay the orphanage for Johanna's freedom.

From Becky: This is where you, my fabulous, generous readers come in. If you could skip your Starbucks, Egg McMuffin, donut or whatever else you might normally buy for yourself today and donate that amount to C.J's cause, we'd really appreciate it. We suggest a $5 minimum to offset Paypal charges.


Click on the button above to take you to C.J.'s blog page where you can donate
to be in line for the $10 Starbucks card from this blog and

to learn what other fabulous prizes you could win just by opening up your wallet a bit.

THANKS SO MUCH. C.J. and little Johanna Faith thank you, too.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Reacting to negative comments

WHAT DO YOU DO IF....

There's nothing that strikes fear in an author like talking with a group of readers and have one of them say - "Oh, I don't read that junk." Talk about a depression-inducing moment. Here you are, gathering courage to talk about something that is dear to your heart (if it isn't - you shouldn't be doing it) and have an individual cut your feet out from under you.

So what do you do? What can you do?

A few would say, leave the conversation. Some would say - nothing. Change the subject, because everyone is allowed their opinion. Yes, that is correct, but is it the best way to go? I don't think so.

Instead, how about asking questions. Something like - what don't you like about my genre? What do you read? The one thing I've found when I'm talking about books is everyone loves to talk. Just as everyone has an opinion. If you ask the questions, without getting defensive, the person to whom you're talking will be more than happy to give you an opinion. If you are in a group, you will be surprised because others will come to your defense and you won't have to say anything.

Another thing I've learned. I wait until someone asks what I do. It's a great conversation opener and works much better than opening up with I'm an author, or I write romance novels. When someone asks what I do, I smile and say quietly, I write books. It always amazes me how many will ask if I write children's books. Usually the next question is am I published. I am, so I nod. Then the usual question is what do you write. I write romance and that's usually when I get the 'junk' statement. So I immediately ask what kind of books they read. The conversation will usually start following from there. Most authors read a lot of genres, so questions like, who's your favorite author and so on may in fact give you even more to talk about.

What's great is the person you talked to will probably remember you as someone nice, a reader first. At a future time, when your name is mentioned , the individual you spent time with will offer an opinion about what a nice person you are, etc. And there you go. It's called word-of-mouth!


Award winning author, Allison Knight began her writing career like many other authors. She read a book she didn’t like and knew she could do a better job. She grabbed paper and typewriter (computers weren't available back then) and announced she was going to write a book. Her children hooted with laughter. “Yeah, Mom, when cows fly,” her daughter declared. She took classes, joined a critique group, wrote, rewrote and wrote some more. When her first book sold, she came home from her teaching job to find a stuffed toy cow rotating from the ceiling fan in the family room. It seemed - “Cows did fly!” Since that time, Allison has written and published seventeen books with a gothic anthology and another medieval romance to be released in 2010. Allison often speaks at writers conferences and has taught writing classes eager to share her knowledge and her love of romance novels. You can learn more about Allison on her website.



Friday, August 13, 2010

How A Shy Writer Learned To Make The Most Of The Golden Heart Experience

Please help me welcome super-talented and award-winning romance writer Joleen James to the blog. Not only is she one of the nicest people around, she's also a four-time Golden Heart Finalist (including 2010).
Here's Joleen:

The Golden Heart experience can be a wonderful career boost, but to really get the most out of the contest you need to put yourself out there, and for a lot of us, including me, that’s tough. Attending the National conference can be intimidating, even for the multi-published. When you’re a little fish, even making a small splash can be painful.

I’ve been a Golden Heart finalist four times, and it’s taken me that long to figure out that I needed to become my own advocate, toot my own horn, because no one was going to do it for me. The first time I finaled, I pushed myself to send out three proposals to three different agents. To my surprise, two of the agents offered to represent the book. I chose one of the agents, and I let her take over. I did nothing else.

When I finaled the second time, I still had an agent. I went to the National conference. I met with editors, but again, nothing really happened. Around this time the historical market was dying. I had some tough choices to make. My agent was losing interest in me. I began to think about reinventing myself. Out of necessity I began writing contemporary romance, but I wasn’t sure where my voice fit. I’m sure this was tough on my agent. Eventually, we parted ways.

That’s when I got to work and decided I had to stand up for myself and be my own advocate. I am responsible for my career. For years I’d been content to let others dictate my career path. Once I made the decision to put myself out there, things began to change.

When I finaled in the Golden Heart a third time I began to shop for an agent, but because the book had already been rejected by the category line I’d written it for, I didn’t have any luck. Did that stop me? Nope. I won the Golden Heart for this book.
Winning the Golden Heart gave me the confidence I’d been lacking. For the first time, I took charge of my career and took a long, hard look at what I had to offer a publisher. I came up with a big, fat zero. I wasn’t doing anything to promote myself or my work. Why would a New York publisher want to take a chance on me? What did I have to offer them? Around this time I read two great books: Get Known Before The Book Deal, by Cristina Katz, and The Author’s Guide To Building An Online Platform, by Stephanie Chandler. These books opened my eyes and made me realize that I needed to offer potential publishers something more than just my manuscript.

I put up a website —this was hard for me. Again, I hate to toot my own horn, but as an unpublished author with no book covers to take up all the space on the front page of her website, I had to post something personal about myself. I listed my Golden Heart finals. I posted links to my 1st Turning Point articles. I even included the short synopses of my two most recently completed books.

At this same time my critique group submitted a workshop proposal, and it was picked up. Giving a workshop is right up there with getting my teeth drilled. I’ve presented at workshops before, and it always amazes me that the seats are filled. No matter what stage you are in your career, you have experiences to share.

In addition to promoting, I also realized I had to keep writing. I wrote two more books following my Golden Heart win. I entered the Golden Heart again, and I finaled a fourth time. This time I was ready. My website was up. My name was out in cyberspace. I belonged to several loops (although, I’m not as active as I’d like to be--I still have a hard time sharing anything via a loop, even good news—I am working on this).

I queried agents, and this time I found one. I attended the National conference in Orlando. I introduced myself to my fellow finalists, not easy for me, but so rewarding. I met new, wonderful people. I went to an editor appointment, nervous beyond belief, and I actually had the best appointment I’ve ever had. This time if an editor searches for me online, he or she will find something; see that I’m doing my part to promote my work.

Each time you put yourself out there, it gets a little easier. If you don’t take the chance you’ll never know if you missed something great. Take baby steps. Introduce yourself to your fellow chapter members or conference attendees. Smile. Send your work out. Do a guest blog or two. If you don’t have a website, at least begin thinking about the content. You’ll know when you’re ready to take the big leap into personal promotion.

For me, it’s time to learn about Twitter. I need to build a Facebook fan page. I actually want a TweetDeck. I’ve come a long way. If I can put myself out there, you can too!

Joleen Wieser James won the Golden Heart® Award in 2008 for her series contemporary book Under A Harvest Moon. A four-time Golden Heart finalist, she has also finaled/placed in several Romance Writers of America® sponsored contests, including The Maggie Award of Excellence, The Orange Rose, and The Heart of the Rockies. Most recently, she’s taken on columnist duties at 1st Turning Point, an online promotion site for authors. When she’s not busy writing, she enjoys spending time with her family at her lakeside home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.


Monday, August 9, 2010

This little introvert went to conference


Please welcome YA author B.A. Binns to the blog.

To me, writing is the perfect job. I’m the kind of girl who prefers alone time. Crowds devour me. I love silence and solitude. And walking up to a stranger and beginning a conversation – you have got to be kidding. Writing sheltered me from this. I like putting my fingers on the keyboard so much I finished three manuscripts in the last two years. One became a Golden Heart finalist for 2010. Another became my first sale; a YA entitled PULL, due to hit store shelves this October. I mention these so you know that I walked into the RWA National Conference last month with two very important ribbons attached to my badge, a Golden Heart finalist and a First Sale. I also walked in with clamoring nerves.

2010 was my real first RWA National conference. I attended the 2008 conference, but the truth is that barely counts. I was both new to RWA and still deep inside my introvert shell (I score at the top 3% on the charts, thank you very much), so all I did was attend workshops. I raced from room to room on tired legs, determined to soak in every piece of knowledge available. I ended up exhausted. I met absolutely no one except the poor agent and editor I pitched to. I don’t remember their names and I only pray to God they don’t remember my babbling. This introvert didn’t have the energy required to step up to strangers and say hello, so I left knowing no one I didn’t know before I arrived. In the end I felt lost and that I had wasted my time and money attending.


Fearful of another exercise in frustration, I skipped 2009, not wanting to repeat that experience. But this year I decided to give things another try. I realized the conference would be what I made of it, and I decided I needed to make connections. I had a GOAL when I signed up for the 2010 RWA National conference: to network, network and Network. I was going to make friends and – well, if not influence people, at least get to know lots of them.


Even if it killed me.

I psyched myself up before boarding the plane. You will talk to people, I told myself, especially first-timers in memory of all the people I wish had spoken to me. I began by accepting an invitation to room with a near total stranger, Gail Zerrade, who writes under the name Clarissa Southwick. She and I are both members of the Unsinkables, as we 2010 Golden Heart finalists call ourselves. We’ve emailed for several months, so I convinced my shy self that staying with her wasn’t exactly the same as being with a complete stranger. Gail and I clicked and I enjoyed my time with her in spite of the huge jolt to my system. And that was just the beginning.


Another step in my goal involved volunteering. I worked at the Conference bookfair, talking to shoppers, answering questions, and handing out my cards for two hours Wednesday morning. I also volunteered at the Pro Retreat, and began to enjoy calling to people and waving them over to my section. After that, I was warmed up and ready to keep exercising my networking skills.


Receptions abounded, and I chose to attend those and other people-meeting activities over sitting quietly in workshops. So if you’re reading to find out the juice about workshops, you’ll have to go elsewhere. I purchased the conference CDs the first day so I could concentrate on and moving outside my comfort zone to meet and mingle with people.


The internet is an introvert’s best friend, and I have become a joiner. I am a member of a number of RWA chapters, including Chicago North and WisRWA. I am also a member of the online chapters YA RWA (“say it like a pirate”) a special interest group for young adult writers, and the Golden Network, a special interest chapter for current and past Golden Heart finalists. I am also a member of GIAM, the writing Goal-In-A-Month group put together by Amy Atwell that taught me to set goals if I want to achieve results. It felt great to meet her in person for the first time.

Each group held get-togethers during conference. Because my novel, PULL, had won the YA category of the Oklahoma RWA chapter’s “Finally A Bride” contest, I also received an invite to their reception. Once I took a deep breath and decided to step outside that invisible comfort zone of mine, I was in a whirlwind of breakfast meetings and after-hours get-togethers every day. I met people, shaking hands, exchanging cards and meeting my goals. I made an appearance at every reception I was eligible to attend, especially the one’s with open bars! I went, I talked, I even hugged – a big deal for me. I chatted with agents and editors – yes, chatted, no pitching required since I had already made a sale, so I was able to relax around them.

I managed long talks with some of my favorite authors too, including Courtney Milan, Kayla Perrin, Karen Rose, Julia Quinn and Lori Wilde. And Lisa Kleypas, whom I’ve been reading and loving for years, not only asked about my book, PULL, when she saw my first sale ribbon, but said she wanted to read my book!! My heart jumped when she said took my card. One of my major idols wanted to read my book. Shows the power of the quick pitch, I gave her three sentences, she loved the concept.

No, I didn’t win a Golden Heart, but I more than achieved my goal and the conference was worth every penny. The Golden Heart finalist status helped. So did that First-timer ribbon. But the big difference was my attitude. This was my real first-time. I met my idols, learned to talk to editors and agents as if they were normal people (they really are) and greet people I didn’t know. I even introduced myself to several first-timers who looked as lost as I probably did back in 2008. Somewhere in the middle of things I found time to attend five workshops and three book signings so I had to ship a huge box of books home. In the end I distributed about eighty cards, and received about fifty. I attended eight receptions/chapter meetings – many of them simultaneously a feat even many paranormals would have difficulty achieving.

My schedule:

Wednesday
Volunteer at Bookfair
The Golden Network Retreat
Literacy signing
WisRWA get-together
GIAM get-together

Thursday
Simultaneous breakfasts with both other Unsinkables and YARWA
PRO Retreat
The Golden Network Reception
Oklahoma Romance Writers reception
YARWA meeting and reception
Chicago North reception,

Friday
Golden Heart Reception
Two private receptions

Saturday
Golden Heart practice
Dress (an activity all by itself)
Awards ceremony

Sunday
Harry Potter World!


Monday
SLEEP!!


Best of all, I scheduled down-time. Sunday and Monday while everyone else was rushing for the airport, I relaxed by the pool, toured Downtown Disney and visited both Epcot and Harry Potter.

Oh yes, I managed to raid the Goodie Room, too. And I’m relaxed and eager to do it all again in 2011 in New York.


B.A. Binns grew up on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, the eldest of five children. Her love of education led her to haunt the halls of the University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, Depaul University, Roosevelt, Chicago State, and Harper College. She's worked as a computer programmer, trainer, raised one child, retired early, and now spends her days volunteering—and writing. Her debut novel, PULL, releases October 25. You can learn more about B.A. Binns on her website and her blog.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Maybe You're Not Shy After All...

Please help me welcome romantic suspense author R. Ann Siracusa to the blog.

When I agreed to write an article for Rebeccas’s Once Written Twice Shy blog, I intended to share some of my own experiences learning to overcome shyness and being in the public eye. But after reading the blog, and others dealing with shy writers and shyness in general―I was surprised at how much there is out there on the topic―I was struck by how many writers made statements like J.A.Saare on June 25, 2010 when she wrote, “The truth is, as often as I think of myself as shy, I’ve been told I’m quite the opposite.”

Hey! That’s my story. So, what’s the deal?

While researching the topic, I decided many of us may suffer from confusion in terminology. I’m not sure that makes a difference in how one handles marketing, selling yourself to editors and agents, making public presentations, handling book signings, and the like. But I do believe the more we understand about ourselves, the easier it is to address our problems and make informed choices. Besides, as authors, we are word crafters and should be masters of that craft. Words do make a difference.

So here goes! Instead of being shy, you may be an extrovert who is shy. Well, that’s crazy. Shy people are introverts. The words mean the same thing. Everyone knows that. I thought so, too, but not according to psychologists and experts in the field.

Shyness
Shyness can be defined as feelings of
apprehension, discomfort, anxiety, dread, lack of confidence, or awkwardness experienced when a person is in proximity to, approaching, or being approached by other people, particularly in new situations or with unfamiliar people. In biology, the word “shy” generally means "tends to avoid human beings."

While most experts generally agree on the definition, I found in my research numerous opinions about the reasons for shyness. Most sources indicated shyness as a learned behavior which can occur in certain stages of development in children, is learned in a certain cultural environments, or is a cultural norm. And not only that, but it’s a learned behavior which is fueled by a concern that one will be (or is being) judged negatively by other people, regardless of whether this is actually the case.

As a result, many shy people never overcome this feeling of discomfort in social situations because they limit social interactions to reduce their anxiety.

But, hey! If it’s learned behavior, it can be “unlearned,” right? Yes, it can.

Introversion
Introversion is another matter. Introvert and Extrovert are defined as personality types and all people seem to be categorized as being one or the other, although a few experts acknowledged there are people in the middle although they may have a tendency toward one type or the other. Not one article I read stated or implied that this is learned behavior.

By most definitions, introverts tend to be people who are reserved, less outgoing and less sociable. They aren’t necessarily loners, but tend to have smaller circles of friends and find it easier to solve things inside their heads without help. Introversion doesn’t mean social discomfort but rather social preference. An introvert may not be
shy at all but may merely prefer non social or less social activities. Another expert described introverts as needing more down time. This natural preference is found in the animal kingdom where some species prefer to live and travel in groups or herds and others tend to be solitary.

Sophia Dembling, in her post “Introversion vs. Shyness” on her Psychology Today blog The Introvert’s Corner, draws the distinction clearly:
▪ Shy is the fear of socializing.
▪ Introversion is a lack of interest in socializing.
She also writes, “Someone who is introverted and shy will behave differently from someone who is introverted and not shy, who will behave differently from someone who is extroverted and shy, who will behave differently from someone who is extroverted and not shy.” And, by the way, this is good information for developing fictional characters.

The bottom line: Both introverts and extroverts may suffer anxiety in social situations. Presumably, based on Dembling’s statement, they would handle it quite differently.

A Comparison
Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D., a researcher, educator, author, psychotherapist and authority on introversion, compares introverts and extroverts on her site
The Introvert Advantage:
Introverts:
▪ Enjoy time alone
▪ Good listeners
▪ Appear calm and self-contained
▪ Consider only deep relationships as friends
▪ Feel drained after outside activities, even if they were fun
▪ Think, then speaks or act

Extroverts:
▪ Like to be in the thick of things
▪ Relish variety
▪ Know lots of people, considers lots of people friends
▪ Enjoy chit-chatting, even to strangers
▪ Feel stoked after activity
▪ Speak or act then think or think while speaking

According to several articles, people who are in between who don't mind being in a big crowd or alone. These people may have a large group of friends but don't mind spending time alone. One expert wrote, “Being an introvert doesn't necessarily mean shy. It means your energy drains when you're in group situations while extroverts bathe in the energy.”

According to the article “
Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted,” by Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig, introverts belong to two distinct groups:

▪ “Group A: Self-sufficient, confident, hardworking, with firm goals, self-actualizing, reserved, preferring activities that involve inner experience and introspection; and

▪ “Group B: Shy, timid, withdrawn with low self-concept, lacking in communication skills, demonstrating fear of people, dread of doing things in front of others, who prefer being left alone.

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP)
To complicate things, throw into the mix the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who has often been labeled as shy or introverted but isn’t necessarily. I’d heard the term but never read up on it. A highly sensitive person is a one who is very easily affected by things. They are said to have a “high sensitivity,” but this isn’t learned behavior or personality type. People falling into this category, which represents about a fifth of the population, are biologically wired so they process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their
nervous systems. People who are HSP are more aware of and responsive to other people's moods and judgments, and to their own inner feelings. They can be either introverts or extroverts, shy or not shy.

The key point: In the past, HSP was often confused with innate shyness, inhibitedness, innate fearfulness, introversion, and so on. People who think of themselves as shy may actually be HSP.

Who are you?
Knowing who you are and why you react the way you do makes a difference when you’re trying to find your personal path in the world of writing and publishing. There are many choices to make. Some may be right for you, others wrong. You may be willing to work at overcoming your shyness, you may not. That’s a decision the individual has to make. Behavior modification is possible, but it’s hard work and requires commitment. Some writers may choose to work around shyness rather than attempt to overcome it.

I overcame shyness in relation to making public presentations before large audiences, TV cameras, and political bodies (such as City Councils) simply because I had to. It was a requirement of my job as a Planning Director, and the more experience I had under my belt, the less anxious I became. I also found that I was less nervous when I knew my topic cold. In some positions, I had to present the work and reports prepared by my staff, and that was much more difficult for me. But I’m still shy about talking to strangers and meeting new people.

After doing this research, I thought about all the writers who I, personally, have heard say, “I’m shy.” Not necessarily as an excuse, but an explanation…even a confession. Then I thought about what my editor would say if I wrote, “She was shy.” She would tag me with the note: “Lazy. How does she feel? What is she thinking? How is she reacting? Show it.”

If we, as writers, take apart our own feelings and reactions in the same way as we deal with our fictional characters, perhaps it will be easier to find what works best for each of us. Be true to yourself.


R. Ann Siracusa has been writing fiction and non-fiction for over thirty years. While working in her chosen career of architecture and urban planning and raising a family, she made time to travel and to write fiction. This talented author combines the love of good story telling and experiencing other cultures into novels which transport readers to exotic settings, immerse them in romance, intrigue and foreign cultures, and make them laugh.

Today, she is retired, lives in San Diego, California, and writes full time [which is as many hours as an Italian husband, three grown children, and eight grandchildren will allow on any given day]. Her first novel, a mafia thriller, was published in 2008. Since then, four additional works have been published by Sapphire Blue Publishing, books one and two in the humorous romantic suspense series “Harriet Ruby: Tour Director Extraordinaire,” and two short stories featuring the same hero and heroine. The third book in the series is scheduled for release in August, and a third short story in September.

She has been active in Romance Writers of America since 1985 and recently served two terms as Co-president of the San Diego RWA Chapter. You can learn more about R. Ann on her website and Facebook.