Among other appearances this summer, I will be speaking at the New England Chapter of RWA about my top eleven tips for using Canva to produce quality promo images and more. The visitor fee is only $5, so do not feel you have to be a member to show up.
Who am I to tell you about Canva? I do not represent the company, first and foremost. I am a fan, a power-user, and maybe even an addict. I have used Canva to make most of the graphics used on this website. Look at the menu to the left: peruse the history, glossary, and location posts to see some examples. I have also used Canva-designed slides in my History Ever After presentation, as well as conference promotion materials for NECRWA.
My eleven tips—Spinal Tap fans, anyone?—will be targeted to an intermediate audience. This means you have already set up a Canva (or PicMonkey) account, attempted a few designs, and have explored the premade materials available to you. While I do give more specific guidelines for Canva use, many of the principles will apply to PicMonkey or other programs, as well.
Please bring your laptops. If we have wifi (or you can use your phone as a hotspot?), you can design as you listen. I can also help you troubleshoot.
Logistics: This workshop will be presented at the 19 August 2018 meeting of the New England Chapter of RWA, from 1 to 3 pm, at the Old Town Hall at 16 South Road, Bedford, MA, 01730. Again, the visitor fee is only $5—a bargain! Hope to see you there.
I don’t usually spring for the master class at conferences, but to hear Ms. Beverly Jenkins?! Yes, please! I was doubly excited when she said that this was the very first master class she had ever given. And triply excited—I know that’s not a thing—when she said her talk would be about world building. Perfect for a historical fiction author!
She talked about a book being like a painting: your hero and heroine are front and center, but the background is full of the details of your world. The beauty of the painting depends on these details, no matter what genre of fiction you write, from science fiction to historical. The geography of our stories should not just be what town or state or country they are in, but all the small details that add life to that image—from weather to topography to points of interest.
Ms. Bev illustrated each point with examples from her own writing, especially two of my favorite books of hers: Indigo and Forbidden. But it was the Blessings series (a contemporary saga) that stole the show. I was completely smitten with the tales of Cletus, the 600-pound hog who wore human clothing, killed a man by sitting on him, and then went on the run from the law. (Yes, a hog went on the lamb. Awesome, right?) The whole audience very quickly felt like we knew the town of Blessings better than the one we were sitting in. Ms. Bev is a master world-builder.
We were treated to a long Q&A session next, and if you have heard Beverly Jenkins speak you know how clever and funny she is. There was a lot of nodding along with her insights on publishing, and also a lot of laughter. You bet I asked her about stuff relevant to my History Ever After talk at IASPR next month. When I asked if any editor or industry representative had ever asked her to change anything historical about her books, she said, “No, not a thing.” That is enormously refreshing, to be honest, given that Ms. Bev writes all kinds of underrepresented American history. She calls it “edutainment,” and there is not a duke in sight. What she did say, though, was that when Forbidden came out in France, they chose a white woman for the cover—and Eddy is not the one who passes, the hero Rhine is. “Oh, Jesus, is right,” Ms. Bev said.
She ended with some inspiring advice for all us writers out there. I could not get it all down, but here are some of the pieces I did quote:
“The 38th book is just as hard to write as book one.” (Note: This is somewhat scary news since the fourth is hard enough for me right now!)
“It’s your book. Write it the way you want to write it.” (Yes!)
About writing the tough stuff from your own experiences: “Tell your story. [The readers] are not looking for you to sugar coat it.”
The woman is not a legend for nothing. Beverly Jenkins was such a wonderful person to talk to and to learn from—a highlight of #NECRWA18 for me. Thanks so much, Ms. Bev!
There are so many other amazing workshops, including Namrata Patel’s two-workshop series on SEO, or search engine optimization. Honestly, that’s worth the registration fee right there. And whether you are a reader or writer, you do not need to register to come to the amazing book signing this Friday night from 6-8:30 pm. Admission is free and there are over 35 raffle baskets you could win! And look at those authors!
For example, you could win the basket that Jen Doyle and I made:
The theme of this location-driven romance extravaganza is a throwback to Jen and my amazing #RT17 road trip, but without the Peachoid—because honestly that you have to see to believe.
Don’t just research history—live the life of your characters! See how cooking their feasts, wearing their clothes, and recreating their dances or battles will make your writing better. Join practical historian and blogger RedHeaded Girl of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and Jennifer Hallock, history teacher and author of the Sugar Sun series, for the latest online and offline trends.
Red is an experienced practical historian and officer in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group of over 30,000 members worldwide who are “dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe.” Dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance that she makes herself, Red attends “tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.” Oh, and she cooks and bakes for those feasts. Our workshop will tell you all about her adventures and how it gives her insight on daily life in historical times.
Do you see those shoes? People had small feet. I learned that. Also, as Red pointed out, shoes were made from the same fabric as dresses, which is why they had so little durability. If you have read that a character danced right out of their shoes, that description may be literal. It was possible to wear through the soft soles in a single ball, especially in flats. Heels helped.
I loved the colorful clothes at the Concord Museum. These dyes must have been quite expensive, which may be why they were so treasured and therefore survived—more on that below. We saw dresses for every stage of a woman’s life, too. Below (going backward, from right to left) you can see the dress of a young girl, who then grew to be a young woman and required a formal gown to attract a husband, and then with that husband needed a maternity dress. If your family was frugal—and they probably were—they saved your baby dresses for your babies, and so the cycle went.
As Red showed me, the fabric of these dresses often predated the styles they were recrafted into. It was not uncommon to see an 1860 dress made out of an 1820 dress, which may have been sold first in 1790 in a slightly different pattern. In fact, clothes were so often repurposed that it is hard to find surviving pieces of a working-class person’s wardrobe because they were worn to the bone. What is left to us is often clothes in odd sizes—especially small pieces, Red tells me—or the clothes of the elite, who bought new duds every time fashion changed. And fashion changed a lot. Do you see the photo above, with the blue dress? Look at the dress on the far left with the big sleeves—you see the one? Yes, the 1830s were a rough time. Sort of like the 1980s.
And going to a museum with Red makes you look at things differently. For example, at the display above of life for a woman lying-in after the birth of her child, my first thought was: “Are those tea cookies real? Because I’m hungry.” My second thought was, “Look how pretty this room is!” (And our friend Namrata Patel—also a presenter at NECRWA, giving a must-see workshop on search engine optimization—said: “Where can I get this wallpaper?”) But Red’s question was, “Where is the chamber pot?” because she has lived this period (or, rather, earlier) and knows what is truly important. She also admired the washstand in the corner and wished she had one of those for her SCA “camping” retreats.
This trip was just the beginning of my education—and yours. I hope you can join us in Burlington in April! You can see all the great workshops and speakers, as well as register, at the NECRWA conference home page.
The Weare Area Writers Group who has been a think-tank of beta-readers for the upcoming Sugar Moon (along with Teresa Noelle Roberts, who read the earliest draft, bless her heart). I stumbled upon WAWG last summer at the beginning of my sabbatical. I had lived in Weare for five years at that point, but because my day job is in Massachusetts, I had not met many folks. WAWG has provided both wonderful feedback from talented writers, as well as strong friendships in my new hometown. I cannot thank them enough for both. The day I started WAWG, I was joined by another newbie, Connie Evans, who had a few chapters of her Pine Tree Riot novella drafted. A year later, before I left, she sold out (!) at our table at Weare Old Home Day!
Though farthest away from me geographically, the #romanceclass group in the Philippines is conveniently located right in my heart. Founded by Mina V. Esguerra (author of Iris After the Incident), this tight-knit group of authors: publishes books to well-deserved worldwide acclaim, organizes educational workshops for authors, puts on reading events with professional actors, started their own stock photo sales with Filipino models, produces a podcast, and even sponsors scholarships to local universities! Check it all out at their instagram account @romanceclassbooks! And they are so nice! They were amazing hosts during my jaunt to Manila. I was so thankful to have such a wonderful reception at my History Ever After talk at the Ayala Museum, where I released Tempting Hymn. I especially loved the swoons at my “inspiration” photos for hero Jonas Vanderburg and future hero Padre Andrés! In addition, I was able to be a part of the Romance Writers of the Philippines Steamy Panel at my old stomping grounds, Ayala Alabang Mall, and Ana Valenzuela wrote about my series in the Manila Bulletin! That shows you the reach of this group of authors—and how they support each other and their friends. I am so, so lucky that they let me tag along.
I am sure I will be updating this post with others to thank, but the day job calls. (This is going to happen a lot now.)
Just because I am going back to school, do not fear that I will not be writing or blogging. I have lots of good post ideas coming up, and Sugar Moon is fully underway in edits! But I have to head off to football preseason practice right now. See y’all later!