Currently, I’m attending a romance writers conference in Seattle. I’ve wanted to go for several years, but I’ve never been able to get the time off from my day job or afford to go. This year, I’m lucky enough to have both.
Romance novels come in lots of different sizes and heat ratings. Friday, I sat in on a session and learned of a new sexual practice: edge play. Do you know what this is? I didn’t either, so I raised my hand and asked the editor to clarify the term. She said it’s when lovers use knives – yes, knives – in their sexual foreplay. Okay. I did not know this. I felt really dumb until I overheard one of the conference keynote speakers, a New York Times bestselling romance writer, admit she didn’t know what it was either.
Yesterday, during another session, a very successful author shared her experiences with the biggest publisher of romance, Harlequin. She said she knew her relationship with the publisher was over when her editor asked her to rewrite her manuscript seven times and then said she realized she had taken the author’s voice completely out of the book. This author said she had a book published (for which Harlequin owns the rights for 30 years) that she is ashamed of. She apologizes to readers for the poor quality of this book. Wow.
I came to this conference to pitch my Celebration House Trilogy to a film scout. And I did that. Will anything come of the business card I palmed off on her? Hard to know. She doesn’t represent women’s fiction, stories that would be a perfect fit for the Hallmark Channel. Her connections at Universal Studios and Paramount Studios are looking for edgy, dark stories. Ones that probably involve knives.
So, I returned to my hotel room and stared out at the amazing view of Lake Washington and Bellevue from my room on the 15th floor. And I’ll be honest: I felt discouraged. It’s like I told my husband, “I don’t fit here.” I don’t write stories where men rape men or molest children or partners use knives to find sexual pleasure. I just don’t. And I will never, never publish a book I’m ashamed of. I’d rather work a day job.
I felt like I just don’t fit. And this made me sad, it really did, until I checked my email. There I found two questions/comments left on my website:
#1: From Pamela, on my Return to Celebration House page: “How in the world can I get this book? I have been looking for months for it.”
#2: From Bonnie, also on my Return to Celebration House page: “Looking forward to reading book 3. Hope you’re busy writing.”
I wish I could convey to these two women who threw me a lifeline of encouragement how much I appreciate them for taking the time to send me a message. Please trust me when I say: this was just what I needed at just the right time.
These two simple messages prompt me to remember my priorities:
- I will write and publish books I am proud of.
- “Readers are the only validation that really matters.” It’s not just a stolen phrase. It’s my mantra. I think I forgot for a short time.
As I finish writing Return to Celebration House, I’m confronted with the idea of legacy. Melanie will do whatever she needs to protect Carrie’s legacy. And I ask myself, as I’m sure many of us do at one time or another, what’s my legacy? I think it’s time to make peace with the idea that I may never sit in a dark theater and watch my stories come to life as only Hollywood can do. I may never sit on my couch and flip to the Hallmark Channel and watch Carrie’s story unfold before me. But I will always, always be proud of my work, the books I publish. The stories I share. And I will always be grateful for the emails from readers that keep me going. Always.
ADDENDUM: Later in the morning after I published this blog post, I attended a session entitled, “Sexy but Sweet: The Art of the PG13 Bedroom Scene Done Just Right” by author Brooke Moss. Have you heard of her? I had not either. Brooke just released her 10th novel, some traditionally published and some indie published. None of her books contain graphic sex. She doesn’t write it. It’s uncomfortable for her. She doesn’t want her daughters embarrassed to read her books, just as I don’t want my Aunt Mary Rose to be embarrassed to read my books. During this 60-minute session, Brooke and other members of the audience talked about the very reasons why they don’t want sex scenes in their books. I looked around at the 30+ members of the audience, and I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I do fit.”
Here’s where to find Brooke: Brooke-Moss
Hands and arms inside the cart: finding a way to get the work done.