Getting by With a Little Help

Louis janmot pub domHi.  Joanna here.  For this week the Ask-a-Wench question is:

You all belong to Word Wenches, obviously.  Is there another writers' group or organization in your life that gives you support and enjoyment?  Or is there another, perhaps altogether different, formal or informal group that influences your writing or help you in your writing life?

Mary Jo says:

There are so many valuable writing groups that it belies the idea that writing is a solitary profession!  Most writers love to get together and talk about writing, the business, and, of course, our work sin progress.  My first group was the Maryland Romance Writers, the local chapter of the Romance Writers of America.  There were only ten members, but they knew a lot more about writing and publishing than I did.  I'm still a member of MRW, it's grown much larger, and it's still very supportive.


typical frantic scene at RWA National Conference


All RWA groups, both regional and national, have been great places where I've learned and met lifelong friends, including most of the Word Wenches.  I have a special fondness for Novelists, Inc. which is for popular fiction authors from all genres.  It's always offered terrific support for the business of writing, and it's become a leader in helping writers master the emerging world of independent publishing.

Yet the Word Wenches are unique.  We all write and love historical novels, and there is structure because we've all committed to posting regularly on this blog.  That's business, but we've gone beyond that to become a sisterhood.  We share information and laughter and offer sympathy for life's downs as well as congratulations on the ups.  Not to mention sharing pet pictures and stories. <G>  We like each other, we cheer each other on, and there is no queen bee.  Which is why we're still here, doing what we do and enjoying it.

Anne says:

I second what Mary Jo said about writing no longer being the solitary occupation it used to be. Email and affordable phone calls has changed all that. I have writing friends all over the world, with whom I can talk over a writing problem or brainstorm Mjputney s fraser pricejobourne use okcropan idea or share a piece of writing.

The Word Wenches have become a friendship group, not only a blogging group, even though we only see each other very occasionally. I have another group of writer friends with whom I go away each year for a week of writing, brainstorming, discussion and friendship. We've been doing it for seven years so far, and we support each other throuAnne jo and andrea at berkleyPrty2011gh life's ups and downs, as well as the writing and publishing adventure. This was our first retreat.
(Joanna slipping in with a comment.  That link above, about Anne's writer group, is just chock full of tips on How To Build Your Own Writer Group With A Great Retreat.  I mean, that link is gold.)

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Novelists Inc Future of Publishing Conference

Patbookmark    Pat here:
Morning Walk
In general, I dislike conferences. I’m an introvert who prefers a small, quiet dinner party to the massive noise and energy of a crowd. (You will notice I even walk on the beach when no else is there!) I love seeing old friends and talking to industry professionals, but the intense scheduling of conferences almost always triggers my flight instincts, so I only attend ones where I know I can get outside the hotel, explore, and relax.

The one exception to this rule is the Novelists Inc conference, and that’s probably because they avoid crowds, intense scheduling, and always hold their annual meeting somewhere that begs exploring. This year, it was in a resort on St Pete beach—in October, when the weather is perfect. And the meetings were fascinating exchanges between industry titans and my friends. Really, it’s hard to beat a venue like that.  (some video interviews of authors attending:  )

For those of you interested in the future of publishing—even NYC publishers agree that e-books have arrived. Sales of e-books have jumped from 3% of the trade View_from_Hotel2market to 9% in the past year. They’re expecting the sales of digital books to expand exponentially after Christmas with the arrival of discounted e-readers. This is causing a tremendous shift in how publishers and authors interact and no one is entirely certain how the house of cards will fall.  One thing we’re all agreed on—we want print books to survive. For now, publishers are using “agency pricing” for ebook sales in hopes of keeping bookstores and print books out there. That might work for another year, in my opinion, while new ebook reader owners explore all the free and $2.99 offerings available on the internet, while continuing to buy paper at discounted prices at Walmart or wherever. But the convenience of buying books without leaving the house is just too tempting for electronic books to be second string forever.

 Since I spent as much of my conference time going to lunches and dinners with fun people instead of attending workshops, that’s the biggest news I have to contribute from the conference. I know we had everything from belly dancing classes to brainstorming with side trips on how to publish electronically—a panel that could have lasted three times as long and still not answered everyone’s questions. But as a result of these discussions, look for a lot more backlist ebooks in the future. (If you want to know where your favorite authors are publishing their backlist, I'd suggest bookmarking this page:  It's a temporary site, but they're adding authors every day, and should be up full strength soon.)

St Pete Sunset2I know it may seem odd to nonwriters, but networking and learning the business is as important in our isolated worlds as it is in the big “outside” industrial world. Are there any questions in particular you’d like to ask about what we learned at the conference? (Here's a list of our line-up: ) Readers need to be really concerned about the future of books, because formats and distribution will be developing wildly over these next few years, and the consumer will be the ultimate judge of how we read in the 21st century.

Or maybe you just want to know our favorite restaurant in St. Pete. "G" Doesn't the scenery look absolutely idyllic? We'll probably be going back there next year. They have hammocks!