July 23, 2010

2010 FWA conference fast approaching

Here's me and Chris Coward
at the 2009 RPLA banquet
Photo by Karen Lieb

The Florida Writers Association conference will be held Oct. 22-24 at the Lake Mary Marriott, which is a lovely facility. The association is expecting about 350 people to attend. Most of these will be aspiring writers who are developing their writing skills or who are promoting their work for publication. Many FWA members are published writers like me, working to take their writing to another level.

Agents and publishers also attend, and faculty members are accessible through much of the conference. And of course the Royal Palm Literary Awards are presented Saturday evening. My science fiction Christmas comedy “The Feast of Stevens” is in the running this year in the published short story category.

Through July 31, the full conference fee is only $289. On Aug. 1 the fee goes up to $309, and on Sept. 22 it goes up to $329. Daily rates are available, as are tickets to the awards banquet only, for people like my patient husband, who yearly sits through lots of writerly talk to see whether I go home with a plastic plaque.

Building your business -- whatever business you're in -- is all about building relationships. The FWA conference is a great place to establish relationships that will build a writing business. For more about the faculty, workshops, and opportunities for manuscript critiques, see www.floridawriters.net.

July 16, 2010

Imparting wisdom, or something like it

Mark Victor Hansen’s seminars for writers are usually pricy, so I readily accepted a colleague’s invitation to attend a three-hour session free. The seminar was held in a hotel dining room packed with a diverse crowd, all ready to take visions from thought to print.

Some of them seemed like Hansen groupies. They laughed excessively at every stale joke (e.g, “I slept like a baby…woke up every two hours crying.”) and recited statements along with him. I felt a little creepy, like an investigative journalist infiltrating a cult of personality.

Free seminars usually conclude with sales pitches. I was prepared to consider buying a book, but I expected to pick up a few how-to pointers from the free part first. I was disappointed.

The best part of Hansen’s talk concerned the future of publishing: audiobooks, e-books, vooks, and mobile distribution, for starters. His proposition that the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen (pictured), which was developed as a note-taking device, could be a medium for interactive audiovisual books is fabulous. Hansen admits to being an investor in Livescribe.

Halfway through the session, I was still waiting for some how-tos.

Hansen offered inspirational aphorisms (“When you are your authentic self you are unstoppable”) and loads of anecdotes about traveling to exotic locales with his high-powered buddies.

He started to lose me early on by dragging out that moldy old legend about Walt Disney being cryogenically frozen, a doozy debunked by the best.

That he got the story about the Princess of Wales being assassinated by the land-mine cartel straight from Mohamed Al-Fayed did not diminish my skepticism.

And his offhand remark that one of his pals “owns the Yankees,” coming so soon after George Steinbrenner’s death, was shocking. (The buddy’s name was not Steinbrenner.) Perhaps he meant his friend was part of the group that bought the Yankees back in the ’70s. But the late Mr. Steinbrenner bought out the other investors years ago.

As the misstatements mounted, my confidence eroded. By the time the sales pitch came, there was little left. That the pitch was high-priced and “one-time only” made it easy to pass.

One of my notes says, “If you know the ‘why,’ the ‘how’ will come.” As Hansen said that, its seemed to make sense, or I wouldn’t have written it down. But now it seems inaccurate. I know why I want the lawn to look nice: so the homeowners’ association will stop leaving those notes on my door. But the hows of lawn-growing have yet to come.

That’s what teachers are for: imparting the how. But Hansen’s free speeches, it seems, contain only motivation. To get instruction, you must buy his products. But here’s the problem: If I can’t trust what he says, and his free talk doesn’t demonstrate an ability to instruct me in my weak areas, why should I buy the product? Maybe there are better ways to invest that money in my business.

As I walked to my car, I recalled a comment Hope Clark recently made in Total Funds for Writers: “…many people who take time away from the day job and family to attend a conference, won’t necessarily invest that same time in the writing itself.”

Those three hours would probably have been better invested in my writing. Ah, well, at least I got a blog post out of it.

July 4, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

This Independence Day, I’m thinking about those who preceded us. The founders who forged a nation of laws, not men. The indigenous peoples who chose to fight no more forever. And the immigrants who came -- and still come -- yearning to breathe free.

My great-grandfather Harry came from England in 1922 and settled in Detroit. Being an auto worker in Detroit was better than being unemployed in Cornwall.

As much as I’d like to believe every immigrant longs to come to America because of the democratic foundation of our great republic, the simple truth is, many come because in their homelands, they were unemployed.

Amnesty is the flashpoint at the center of the immigration reform. Are we willing to forgive those who don’t have proper documentation? For years, I’ve resisted this idea. If Grandpa Harry could go through proper channels, so can others.

Arizona has drawn a lot of fire for its immigration law, even though it mirrors federal law. Kirk Adams of the Arizona House of Representatives answered concerns that "law enforcement can simply walk up to a person and say, "'Can I see your papers?'" in this article. An excerpt:

…officers can only attempt to determine a person's immigration status during "lawful contact," which is defined as a lawful stop, detention or arrest. Any "reasonable suspicion" can be derived only through the investigation of another violation or crime.

I cannot blame the huddled masses for pursuing happiness here, though I do wish they’d go about it properly. And if a person is suspected of one crime, surely it makes sense for the police to see whether he committed any prior crime -- including that of entering the country illegally.

But many illegal immigrants have been living and working here for years, with no other criminal charges against them. The Apostle Paul instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven. Although complete amnesty seems excessive, I’m inclined to allow a path to citizenship for those without proper papers, if they’ll admit their wrongdoing and pay their back taxes.

The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that the problem isn’t the undocumented workers. The problem is the employers. Which is why I was pleased to see the Arizona law also targets those who do the hiring. If no one were giving undocumented workers jobs, they wouldn't be here.

We are a nation of laws, and the laws we have deserve enforcing. But the sentence need not be deportation for those who scrub our floors and pick our vegetables, even if they did jump our sea-washed, sunset gates.