Talking to writers

For the first time, I set up shop at a writers conference as an editor-for-hire, claiming a table at the recent New Jersey Romance Writers’ Trade Expo. And it was fun.

I wasn’t able to attend the actual conference (next year!) but looking over the schedule, I was struck by how similar the workshops were to what I’d seen at other conferences: focusing on plot and characterization, marketing your work, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry. And the other conferences I’ve attended have been either general/all genres, or kidlit-specific.

I opted for candy over swag, per the suggestion of Jennifer Lawler, whose developmental editing classes I’ve been taking through the Editorial Freelancers Association (I highly recommend her classes, and she’s fun to follow on Twitter, too: @JenniferLawler). But I decided to have some fun with it and set out three bowls: regular candy, nut-free candy, and sugar-free candy, with the sign “An editor checks the details.” It got a couple of laughs, which was what I wanted. (For the record, no one took the sugar-free candy.) I had leftovers, but conveniently it’s Halloween, and we get a crowd of trick-or-treaters.

I did worry that I would be sitting there the whole time staring nervously into space, but a steady stream of people stopped to say hello and take my info. And it struck me all over again how universal the conference experience is for writers. I asked everyone how the conference had gone for them, and I got the expected range of answers. One attendee pitched a few manuscripts and had gotten five requests, which is amazing. Another was at her first conference ever and had developed a bit of a deer-in-headlights look; I told her to go relax and take in everything she’d learned. I loved hearing about everyone’s successes, what they were working on, what they were doing next.

The whole experience was a useful reminder that we’re all learning the same things, no matter what we write, and no one is going to understand the process better than another writer.

It was a nice time, and I do appreciate the NJRW for having me. I hope the attendees have success stories to share next year, and I hope to be there to hear them.

How to help

Between the multiple hurricanes and the Las Vegas shooting, it’s been a horrific few weeks. It’s hard to know how to absorb so much tragedy and loss of life. I constantly admire how quickly people step up to help—it’s the bright spot, always, and makes me feel hopeful when there doesn’t seem to be much hope around. So in that spirit, I thought I’d share a few links.

As people in a few of these articles say, giving cash is better than giving things. Cash doesn’t need to be transported, housed, or refrigerated, and it frees up these organizations to use the donation however it’s needed most.

Also, there are inevitable scam organizations that crop up after these sorts of events. Charity Navigator is one way to check whether a charity is legit or to see how much money it spends on staffing and overhead vs. how much it actually spends on the people it’s helping. (Side note: Charity Navigator is itself a charity and accepts donations as well.)

I’ve previously given to the Red Cross (which, incidentally, said as of yesterday that it had enough blood supply to help in Vegas, but if you’d like to help keep them stocked, here’s how to find a blood drive in your area), Austin Pets Alive, and various food banks, but there are a number of other options.

Another caveat: Right now the focus is on Las Vegas, which is completely understandable. But please don’t forget about the hurricane victims. As a resident of New Jersey, I can tell you that there are still people unable to live in their Superstorm Sandy-damaged homes five years later. Hurricane recovery takes a long time.

The kidlit community has stepped up again with PubforPR, an auction to raise funds for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico; you can bid on everything from signed books to critiques from editors and agents.

Otherwise, this is a good summation of things you can do for Las Vegas:

And this offers a good list of charities for Hurricane Harvey and Irma victims:

National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) is an association of organizations that’s been helping communities affected by disaster since 1970. They’re currently helping victims of Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey:

Be well and be safe, everyone.