January 23rd, 2011

crossed heart

first RWA meeting, and Suhalia Salimpour

Originally published at Cassie Alexander. You can comment here or there.

(In which i ramble muchly --)

So I had a busy weekend, this past weekend off. I went to my first RWA meeting on Saturday.

Um. Why the hell was I not doing these earlier? Okay, i know the reason for that -- in my head, i wrote "fantasy" or "science fiction", not romance. Heck, I don't even really think of Nightshifted as a romance book right now, really, but it sort of is. Anyhow, I drove very far, very early, on my day off, and had breakfast with about forty women who were all gathered together to talk writing, books, and business.

I really wish i'd done something like this earlier on in my career. Or that SF&F had this sort of thing. (Do romance writers have conventions, other than their big two? Maybe that's what it's all about for them, and we get the cons?) I know they outsell other genre stuff something fierce, but man, how much i wish SF&F could herd us cats to make stuff like this -- meetings about learning craft and meeting editors, with orderly communication and genuine care -- happen much more frequently.

They had a romance acquisitions editor visiting from NYC come to speak, and she was great. She went through her entire thought process in regards to buying books, and then broke down how well all the assorted categories, of which there are a lot in romance, were doing. Even though my books have already sold, it was fascinating to watch and learn. (Did you know that no one buys historical romances set after 1900, if they are not set in Scotland? I did not!)

It was a little bit awkward introducing myself, and jumping in, (tho there's a fair chance all that awkwardness was just inside my head). Instead of being "Cassie the Writer Who Tries Very Hard" I got to introduce myself as "Cassie Who Has Books Coming Out", which i swear i did not do in an obnoxious way, but i felt sheepish saying, nonetheless. I know when I met people like who I am now, back in the day, I secretly hated them.

Hate is probably too strong a word but -- even as late as last year, finding out that someone who'd started after me, was "getting ahead" of me, could cause me almost physical pain. Once you've invested so much time into your writing career -- Nightshifted is my 10th novel, and I'm almost 15 years into this -- it's hard to not feel territorial about your right to not get passed in line.

So i hated being that person in there, because there's no good way to give people you've just met a frame of reference -- and what would i know, perhaps they've written 20 books, and they've been at it for 18 and a half years, anyhow. And there's no good metric for when it's someone's time, and some people never get a time, and writing is a horribly nebulous habit that no one with a nervous or jealous constitution should undertake, anyhow, heh ;P.

And then today I went to a Suhalia Salimpour bellydance drill workshop. Being human, i'm fond of being good at everything i do. Let me tell you that i will never, ever, be good at this. I went with a friend who takes lessons, because I like to challenge myself and expand my horizons, lalala. I'd gone with my friend a few times in the past to her lessons, from another lady who is a former student of Suhalia, and she breaks down everything into very intense, isometric drills. You really get a great foundation and core workout, from this style.

I gave it my all, and did my best. And about an hour in, I was trying to use telepathy to tell my friend that i had had a sudden family emergency, and i would just leave for a little bit, if only she'd give me her car keys....and then i remembered she drives a stick, and i do not, so i kept my brainwaves to myself. It was so intense, and painful, that my glutes are still burning now. I've never had to take advil because of my ass, before.

At the end, she had a question and answer session, and one of the comments she made was really fantastic. Her big thing is to break down bellydancing into an actual dance form, like ballet, with form and structure, drills and corework, to build on. She was talking about classes, and levels of classes, and she said this (I paraphrase): "Anything you can be at an advanced level in, in two years? Come on."

Which is so true. Everything takes work. Long, hard work, if you want to get good at it. When I think back to what kept me going for books 1-6 -- it was only the misperception that I was good, even though I wasn't, heh. Thank god I started young enough to be very, very good at lying to myself, and very, very good at swallowing those lies ;). I know young Cassie, meeting now Cassie, would totally hate me now though, because she'd think she cut in line.