The Big Squee

The 2012 Annual Conference for Romance Writers of America has just wrapped up, and I think it’s pretty much true a good time was had by all. This, to me, is remarkable.

Take 2000-plus, articulate, talented, determined women, put them essentially in competition with each other for very scarce publication resources, add some alcohol (some is a relative term), sleep deprivation, travel hassles, and awards-ceremony tension. Toss in the zipper that sticks just before a pitch session, the room key that won’t work, and the crises at home that MUST pop up when Mom or Wife goes AWOL for more than a day, and…

You get one of the nicest gatherings of any professional association I’ve ever attended. I put off attending any writers’ conference at all until I had nearly two dozen completed manuscripts. I dreaded giving up any of my precious unstructured time to a gathering I was certain would be a cross between Survivor and Sorority Carnivores From Outer Space.

I could not have been more wrong. Maybe I’ve spent too much time around litigating attorneys, maybe I don’t understand my own gender; more likely, romance writers are a culture unique on the planet. They believe in true love, they believe the big prize is a chance to live a life based on honor and integrity, they believe in an abundant universe despite any and all evidence to the contrary.

I was nominated for a RITA award this year, which went to the very talented and gracious Tessa Dare. She deserves it–she deserves several RITAs, come to that–but being nominated made me ponder what I’d say to my professional community if I had their attention for ninety seconds.

I’d say what every award winner said when it was her turn in the spotlight: Thank you. Thank you for being such a supportive, adult, generous, constructive group of people. Thank you for offering a sense of community, regardless of our differences. Thank you for writing all those wonderful books, because the world needs happily ever  afters and the people who believe in them.

OK. Now, over to you. You have the microphone, the spotlight’s on you. If you could tell your immediate community anything, if you could focus their attention in any direction, what would you say?

To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Joanna Bourne’s RITA award winning historical romance, The Black Hawk.


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25 comments on “The Big Squee

  1. If I had to opportunity to personally talk to the people in our community that are responsible for raising our local property taxes on homes that have decreased radically in value because we have the 2nd highest unemployment in the country I would tell them to instead stop and think about how they are only driving the prices lower and making their community not only a less desirable place to live but forcing both the young and old further into dept.

    Most young married couples both must work at whatever jobs they can find which are often low-paying and part-time. Because of the high cost of daycare they often end up having little left over and many families have one working days and the other at night just to stem the loss of cash to pay for childcare. Because of this families no longer have quality time together and in families where both or either can even find emhployment the situation is dire. If they own a home they can’t sell it but the property taxes on these properties, which have diminished in value have dramatically dropped, continue to rise.

    We’re fortunate in that our mortgage has been paid off for years but at the same time our hours have been slashed at work and my husband or I are making about half of what we did just two years ago. While the wealthy can afford to hire a babysitter to watch their children to attend Town Council meetings and ask that town salaries be increased and money spent for dog parks the young couples who struggle to make ends meet are unrepresented because they both are working part-time jobs to put food on the table. How can they give raises to town workers when the people who pay their salaries have taken pay cuts or can’t find jobs at all? How is it helping the community to have even more foreclosed houses when with prudent cutbacks of unnecessary “frills” they could ease the burden on those that are doing all they can to stay solvent? Don’t they realize that they are just making the situation worse?

    I would tell them to instead cut back on the unnecessary expenses like school buses that carry less than 10 students and put that money toward creating jobs! Why not have parents indicate whether their children will be taking the bus or being dropped off because with “new rules” passed by the same said
    Town Council, a parent has to be with the child at the bus stop! That means that ANY family where both parents are working they HAVE to take their child to school in order to get to work on time!

    If I propose this I’m told that I don’t have children in school so I don’t understand but the parents who have children often can’t get to the meetings!

    While the members of the community who are in the most need are cutting back any way they can to make ends meet our town officials are giving themselves and town employees raises.

    We are all suppose to be in this together for the good of the community – all the community, not just the vocal and rich.

    The senior citizens, that are able to, are moving out of state. While here we pay $4000/year in property tax we have found out that if we moved to South Carolina and bought a comparable home we would owe NOTHING and our yearly state taxes would dropped by over 50%. So why are we still here? To put it bluntly only 4 houses in our entire town were sold last month and if they were selling our town would be a ghost town like happened in the “old west”!

    Dear Town Leaders,

    My message to you is to open your eyes and realize that you need to change your ways or soon you will no longer have a town to rule!

    Jeanne Miro

  2. Jeanne, you address a difficult topic, and I see part of the problem as the demise of the free press. You could have dashed off those sentiments in a letter to the editor, and found a torrent of support. The Town Council would have seen the support…. except many towns no longer have a local newspaper, and that creates a significant gap in the landscape of representative democracy. Then too, the majority are too busy keeping body and soul together to even consider running for office, and that leaves local government in “unrepresentative” hands.
    Glad you’re speaking out–keep it up!

  3. I think I would address the topic of apathy in our society. Because we are continuously bombarded with negative information concerning our elected “representatives” we have more or less ‘thrown in the towel’. Most of us see politics and politicians as crooked. Honest people don’t seem to want to run for office any more and IF they do they don’t seem to stay honest very long. I would love to see a President, Congress, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court that actually defend and uphole the Constitution.

    • I’ll go you one better, Betty: Because the founding fathers could not possibly envision every challenge the Constitution would face (women voting, women running for President, manumission of slaves, etc), I would be happy to see politicians who held themselves to uniform standards of civility in their debates regarding that Constitution, and who actually listened to each other with an open mind.

      Maybe if somebody set such an example, the rest of us might be inclined to follow it.

    • Somewhere in my master’s degree studies, one of the other students made a list of the faith traditions with a peacemaking branch of their theology. The Big Monotheists were there (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) but so was just about every Native American tribe you can think of, every Asian philosophy and faith…. Nobody has the corner on wanting peace.

  4. I would talk about being an actual community, being good neighbors. People are so busy with their own lives now and do not stop and say hello to their neighbors or lend a hand when needed without expecting something in return. We we moved into our current neighborhood a few years ago I was really disappointed with the fact that none of my neighbors seemed very friendly. We like to help our neighbors, I cannot tell you how many times we’ve fixed cars, sent food, fixed the neighborhood children’s bicycles and toys, etc. But we are the only ones in the area that do any of these things. It used to be that most people did these things, now hardly any of them do. And then we wonder why someone in our community does something crazy and no one know why or knew anything of that person.

    • WHAT an excellent point, Rhiannon. One of the best books I ever read was “The Different Drum” by M. Scott Peck, which was about true community, how hard it is to build, and how powerful it becomes once we invest in it.

  5. To any and all communities: Always look on the bright side! No matter what happens, things could always be worse. We live in a country that celebrates freedom and individuality. We have opportunities that are non-existent in many places throughout the world. We have the opportunity to get an education, get a job and to make a difference in this world of ours.

    While the news bombards us with negative news on a daily basis and popular media bombards us with images of “ideals” that are not attainable to most folks, it is easy to get sucked into the vicious cycle of negativity and lack of self-worth.

    My challenge to YOU, my community is this: Smile! Smiling makes everything better. If you can find one reason to smile once every hour, than you are on your way to creating a better world for you and everyone around you. Smile for the fact that you live in a place of such opportunities. Smile at a stranger on the street and make their day. Smile when you receive a phone call or other communication from a friend or family member. Smile at the good-news story buried at the end of a newscast or on page 23 of the paper. Smile when you see an old photograph of good times. Smile through your tears: what seems like a terrible day is one more learning experience to grow from.

    Don’t be afraid to laugh, especially at yourself!

    And above all have a nice day!

    • Christina, you’re right: it is easy to get sucked into the awful-izing, when crime is in truth on the decrease, especially violent crime, especially violent juvenile crime. Literacy is on the rise. Divorce rates are dropping like a piano from the top of a tall building. The AIDS epidemic is admitting of the first hope in decades, and so on.

      There will always be bad news, but that will never be the whole story, and sometimes not even the most important story.

  6. Congratulations on being nominated!!

    I’m a big animal advocate and wish everyone would stop treating them as possessions to be thrown away when no longer wanted or never taken care of to begin with. Children and animals need to be protected since they can’t do it for themselves. I care for ferals/strays and then get grief from some neighbors. My answer is always, I’m not the one that caused the problem, I am trying to fix it.

  7. Congratulations on being nominated, there is nothing like a vote of peer admiration.

    And, thank you for the phrase “Sorority Carnivores From Outer Space.” Can see it keeping me and my tribe of girlfriends giggling all week. We’ve encountered those individuals in the past, and now, thanks to you have an accurate description for them.

    What would I say to my community? Thank you. Because the people who would actually stop for a moment, listen, and care, are the folks working each day someway to be a positive.

    • Larisa, I’m sure you could come up with more to say, but Thank You is a wonderful place to start. When I lay me down to sleep, I don’t say my prayers, so much as I say my Thank Yous. It’s a nice way to end the day, and not a bad way to start it, either.

  8. I would say to the community around me-Be kind & helpful to the people around you. Kindness is free and it leaves you with a good feeling inside.

  9. Slow down. And I don’t just mean how fast you are driving down the street. Slow down because life goes by too fast as it is why make it worse by constantly being in a hurry to do something.

    Several people mentioned being a better community, a community that knows and and helps one another. To do that you have to slow down and look at who and what are around you.

  10. Feed the Children! The thought that many thousands of (if not more) children in our country go to bed and wake up in the morning without knowing if there will be enough food that day breaks my heart and makes me angry all at the same time. It’s been proven time and again, the best way to improve school performance and childhood health is to offer free breakfast and lunch to every student via school cafeterias. Make it healthy and make it available to everyone so there is no stigma. This has to be more important than bridges to nowhere or military aircraft that will never be able to fly. My favorite charity: Thank you for the loan of the soapbox!

    • I donate to Heifer too, usually a knitting basket in honor of my editor, and because nobody is being raised for food.
      Oddly enough, another way to improve grades, attendance, morale and school safety is to start an instrumental music program. I can understand how hard it is to learn when you’re chronically hypoglycemic, but what does a Sousaphone have to do with reducing truancy?

      • that’s pretty neat! and then there are all those good connections between music and math.

      • Perhaps because it gives the kids a sanctioned place to make noise, joyful noise, funny noise? It doesn’t feel like those other classes requiring writing, stillness and silent attention.
        And yet with those statistics what are the pressured districts putting on the budget chopping block? Music.

  11. You wrote 24 manuscripts before attending an RWA conference???? Good heavens! No wonder you have so many books to throw out into the universe now! I think we must be very different personality types, Grace. Yes, I’m an extrovert (as in I clock in max points for E on the Myers Briggs test). I sold my 2nd manuscript, and the one piece of advice I give authors is this: Kick fear to the curb. It’s a writer’s greatest enemy.

    I think all the nominees in the Regency Historical Category deserve high praise. It was a very competitive category, but what the heck. Stefanie Sloane & I had professional makeovers in my room (along with my wonderful Aussie roomie Nicole). The best part of RWA in my opinion is the sisterhood. Rock on, Grace!