Grace Management 101

RTI spent last week at the Romantic Times conference, a wonderful get together for authors, readers, editors, agents, cover models, and other romance industry professionals hosted by Romantic Times magazine. I got to spend some time with Mary Balogh, met Courtney Milan, hung out with some of the other wonderful ladies who write for my publisher, and learned about a drink called a Dark and Stormy from a swain of most charming and handsome attributes.

Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh

I also spent time with some readers, and that’s always a treat. Writing can be a lonely, lonely business, and it’s easy to focus on the one-star reviews, looming deadlines, and market uncertainties. Time with the readers restoreth the soul, and helps keeps the priorities where they ought to be.

Something else that restoreth the soul: Having whole milk in my mini-fridge to dump in my decaf tea. Little Ghiradelli dark chocolate squares to start and end the day with, comfortable shoes, plenty of water, a quiet room to go to when the noise becomes overpowering.

dark chocolateI used to dread these conferences, but I’ve found that by paying attention to small comforts, my endurance is significantly fortified, and instead of managing my anxieties and discontents, I can instead focus on the positives–like meeting readers, meeting one of my idols, and hanging out with writing buddies.

And one of those comforts will always be a good book on my nightstand.

What small comforts fortify you against life’s challenges? To one commenter, I’ll send a $15 Amazon gift card.




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42 comments on “Grace Management 101

  1. Hugs from the grandkids, plenty of good reading material, chocolate when needed and comfortable shoes on my feet go a long way toward helping me face life’s challenges with a smile on my face.

  2. A good romance novel to escape with is high on my list. Also, creating in my kitchen, driving in my car and listening to music that soothes my heart and soul. At the end of the day, closing my bedroom door and hearing that special “quiet” that is in no other room in the house. Apparently, solitude also is one of my comforts.

    • Tracey, I considered cutting my costs by sharing a room, but…. nah. I’ve done that at previous conferences, but knew I’d be connecting with writing buddies the live long day any way. Need me some solitude, too–lots of solitude.

  3. Having a book at hand to read is what fortifies me, since I’m usually pretty shy and uncomfortable when I’m in a situation where I don’t know anyone, if I can read I’m good. If I’m away from home I usually bring a few favorite snacks with me along with my reading material, so I feel comfortable whether I’m in a hotel or at my sister’s house.

  4. I’m in the middle of a similar meet the public weekend. Strangers get to wander into my art studio and I get to see them either relate or not relate to my life’s work. It can be very stressful for someone who wants to please everyone (a bad habit I have) but who naturally creates art that is out of the norm. It is going well (people are naturally polite), but I still found myself reaching for chocolate covered anything, raw almonds (crunch crunch crunch), and water (wish it were a martini but the migraine…) and (nervously) my drawing pen when no one was in the room. (Someone made the comment that perhaps I draw tiny chaos scenes as a means of controlling my life. Good point.)

    When I got home, exhausted, I looked for a book of hardships overcome by heart/compassion/hope (always soothing). And now I’m starting my second such day reading your blog… finding comfort in community from cyber space. It’s an odd type of connection, to find community with someone I don’t know plus the people who also find connection with that person, but it is grounding somehow. Especially today, seeing Mary Balogh’s photo. She’s another writer who really gets it. Please don’t include me in your competition… I’m just thankful to have found you and your wonderful community of commenters and will probably just continue to visit every now and then, kind of like old fashioned social calling (virtual gift to hostess: dark chocolate covered cranberries and cherries.)

    • Leigh, you might also enjoy Peanut Butter on the Keyboard. It’s a blog that initially focused on the parenting years and how we survive them, particularly how Writer Moms survive them, but it has become a Community of the Heart, and we can never have too many of those.

      Hope the showing went well enough that you’ll consider another. Yes, creativity is a joy, but sharing that creativity shares the joy, too.

  5. Having cuddles from my Children and cat and my lovely Hubby, a good Romance book and a glass of win makes me feell better and fortify’s me

  6. A bit of a lie-in on a quiet weekend morning, a cup of my favorite coffee or tea (laced with real cream), a favorite shirt (or sweater in the winter), a good love story, a quiet stroll in the neighborhood on a sunny day, a hug and/or a compliment from a friend… I could go on and on!

    And this year I’m trying something a friend mentioned: keeping a comfort/blessing/happy times jar. High points to the day, things that make me smile, moments of pride and happiness — each one gets written on a colorful strip of paper, folded, and tucked into the jar (a half-gallon glass jar). At the end of the year, I’ll pull them all out and revisit the highlights of the year, even the small ones — and even now I can pull a few out for a quick pick-me-up. The jar is over half full already, and I’ve even mashed the papers down a time or two — it’s a good visual reminder that even on rough days there are so many things for which I can give thanks.

    • I bet the colors are part of why the jar works, too. I tried an alphabet of things to be grateful for earlier this week on Facebook–it was fun, a little creative, and encouraging, but not the same as something you can see and handle.

  7. When I travel, I MUST have at least 1 book with me, now a days, it’s my Kindle. I can do all things in life with my Kindle. If I’m traveling, I really must have my robe. I’m so much more comfortable with a robe.

      • I do the same thing with the pillow/pillowcase and unfortunately left the pillowcase at home last week. I was so sad when I realized I forgot it. I was so happy to have my pillow last night. I even told it how much I missed it.

  8. First I must thank you again for spending so much time with this reader the last few days. You were such a comfort to me.

    I always have to have a book with me and this trip I loved having the quiet room to go back to when things got to be too much. I would go to the hotel gift shop and buy a little treat to take up to the room to eat while I sat with my feet up and enjoyed the quiet.
    My comfort coming home today was seeing my little three year old’s face when he saw Mommy out the van window at the airport. His reaction was priceless and made coming home when I wasn’t ready to worth it. My eight year old was also quite excited. The twins didn’t seem to have much of an opinion one way or the other.

    • I’ve only recently developed an appreciation for getting my feet UP. It’s kind to the heart and circulatory system, and it just feels good. Glad you got something of a positive reception–start planning the next getaway!

  9. A nap or even just pretending to nap makes things better. My mother teases me and says I’ve taken a nap every day of my 35 years. She’s not entirely wrong.

    • My brother claims a 20 minute nap at mid-day adds two hours to his productivity at night, and MANY very productive cultures swear by that afternoon nap. Some judges do too–even when they’re on the bench.

  10. HOT baths. Nothing soothes quite as well as scads of hot, hot water (sometimes with bubbles) and a comfort read. I have a certain set of books I refer to as Bathtub Book, many of them are romances.

    • This is the best, and probably only convincing, argument for keeping my bathtub scrubbed. Forget the champagne, forget the massages and chocolate covered strawberries. Gimme my bathtub and a keeper and I’m good!

  11. Books are my main comfort. I also love plain cold tap water. At heart I’m a simple soul and am really only wild in my mind…through my books. LOL

    • Marcy, I’m quickly heading for Sweet Little Old Ladyhood, but in my imagination, I’ve got rapier wit, lightning reflexes, muscles of steel, and snappy repartee… well, my characters do. Some days, I’m not sure why there aren’t a lot more people writing fiction.

    • WE MUST CHAT. The heroine I’m trying to write now (she’s being coy, but Dante has plans for her) tries to compensate for feeling plain and boyish by designing and making beautiful clothes. She loves the feel, swishy sound, drape, scent EVERYTHING about fabric…

      I, unfortunately, barely pulled a C in seventh grade home ec, and was so horrified by the sewing teacher, in eighth grade, I was the first girl in my school district to take shop.

      So… fabric. Get your thoughts together, because there’s interrogation coming your way.

  12. A good strong rich cup of espresso laced coffee in the morning and a good book. I’ve discovered yours through Discover a New Love (appropriately named don’t you think) and I’m actively seeking out your backlist. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED The Bridegroom wore plaid.

    Thanks so much for sharing your gift with we readers. I’d love to meet you someday at a signing.

    • And I would love to meet you! You will be pleased to know the next Scottish Victorian will be out in August, working title, “Once Upon a Tartan.” I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE “Tartan,” and hope you do too.

      Not so keen on espresso, though…

  13. My self flagellation continues and there is no comfort in sight. I am an IDIOT for not going to the RT convention. It was in MY town. In MY neighborhood. When I figured out what was going on, it was too late to take time off of work to go {whipping myself with a wet noodle right now}. It looked so fun! So many of my favorite authors in ONE place. {sigh}

    Usually, books are my comfort. I retreat into the fiction. But today, it will be a tall, cold adult beverage. {big sigh}

  14. A small comfort is to use a cup from my wedding china to drink my morning coffee before I leave for my day as a school teacher.

    Grace, your books are a pleasure, too. I just finished reading Darius’ story last night.

    • Jeanne, I have my tea in a cup I bought at the British Museum in a day the memory of which I treasure. If that cup should come to harm, I have the one I bought in Edinburgh. These are my Courage Cups–they remind me that I have had adventures, and more adventures await me if I’ll seize the opportunities when they come near me.

  15. For me it’s coffee, my ipod, and a book. I’d say my kindle works but I still travel with a book as well — so clearly I have trust issue with the kindle. Coffee can sometimes be be subbed for chai but Java is my clutch and it helps zen me out.

    • I’m amazed by the number of people who calm DOWN with coffee, and I even know a couple who claim coffee puts them to sleep. The book thing works for me–a good read helps reset all my stress dials.

  16. Erika – I too, travel with both iPad and book (or journal) in paper format, especially when I’m traveling by plane. As much as I love books, they’re heavy and take up more space than an e- reader – definite consideration. On the other hand, e-readers have to be turned off at certain times in the flight (generally when one is at the most engrossing part of the story!), and, on really long trips, need to be recharged at some point.
    (Actually, in the pre-911-hysteria era, I used to travel with whatever embroidery project I had going, but the restrictions on pointed objects, no matter how small, put a kink in my outpu, which I still resent: I’ve never been convinced that a good set of long, strong finger nails couldn’t do more damage than the scissors on my mini Swiss Arrmy knife.)

    • Mary, I keep a little Swiss Army Knife on my key chain, and ye gods, is that thing handy. Have to take it off every time I bop over to the courthouse though. After twenty years of representing foster children, I’m likely to go rogue someday and clip off a hangnail in public or something.

  17. Hugs from the grandkids, plenty of good reading material, chocolate when Revision Skellefteå needed and comfortable shoes on my feet go a long way toward helping me face life’s challenges with a smile on my face.

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