What I Learned from Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy on Jul 15 2012, 10:40 am in , , , ,

Rogue’s Pawn releases tomorrow!

Rogue’s Pawn releases tomorrow!

Rogue’s Pawn releases tomorrow!

I know – I’m a little over-excited. This is my first novel release (as opposed to novellas or shorts) and it’s a book I worked on for a long time and have shed tears and blood over. Release day for Rogue’s Pawn feels like a step into a new world for me. A new stage in my writing career.

Thus, it was interesting to spend the day yesterday with a thirty-year veteran of the field. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is one of the Big Names in genre fiction/women’s fiction/romance/whatever the hell you want to call it. I shelled out $27.91 for her new hardback yesterday – as I imagine a lot of people out there are. She’s a fixture on the bestseller lists. Her career longevity is enviable.

She’s also a really lovely person.

So, as Susan spent an our with the LERA chapter yesterday, chatting with us and answering any questions we posed, and as we ate dinner with her and then at the library, where she gave a presentation to an enthusiastic crowd, I carefully noted the lessons I learned from her. Not so much her advice on writing, on the changes in publishing and how to use a timer to make sure you write. That was all great stuff, but I’ve heard quite a bit of it before from her talks at conventions. What I learned is how a Famous Author should conduct herself.

1. Don’t be a diva.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is so not a diva. She’s a regular person who appreciates the RWA community. She talks honestly and openly about her career, her strengths and weaknesses and the joys and difficulties of the career we all share.

2. Address both the published and pre-published writers with equal respect

The first thing Susan did with our chapter was ask for a show of hands of where everyone was in our careers, and she made sure to offer advice to all levels of writers.

3. Talk to everyone

Susan has social skills. This might seem like a no-brainer, but she did everything my mother taught me to do. At dinner, she got up and talked to people at both ends of the table – just like a bride making sure to talk to everyone at her wedding. She asked people questions about themselves – not tail-sniffing questions like what do you write and are you published yet, but about our lives and our day jobs and our hobbies. I left feeling like I’d made a friend.

4. Your presentation can be fun

How does a Famous Author talk to a crowd of people who’ve come to see her? No – she doesn’t read an excerpt from the new book. She doesn’t tell them how and when to buy her books. She talks to them like friends. She plays with the babies. And she plays a little quiz game, giving people prizes for identifying lines from her books. Even after spending the better part of the afternoon with her, I enjoyed her presentation at the library.

That’s saying something.

And now I know who I want to be when I grow up.

 

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How to Have the Happy

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy on May 20 2012, 9:50 am in , ,

First things first – I’m in the newspaper today! The local paper, The Santa Fe New Mexican, asked if they could do a feature on me. I checked my very busy schedule and managed to squeeze in an interview.

I’m cross-posting today, from the group blog I’m part of, The Word Whores. We have weekly topics and this week’s is “the one that/who got away.” I confess it kind of stumped me.

I don’t fish and I’m not much for regrets. I’m trying to think of something, or someone, I’ve lost that I fought to keep. I suppose I’m lucky that way. Blessed even.

I’ve lost people and beloved pets to Death, that final and inevitable loss. But I know better than to fight it. Those haven’t so much gotten away as moved on. I hope to find them again someday.

My heart got broken by one charming boy, dramatically and twice over. At the time, I wept for that loss, but now I know he would have been terrible for me. Things turned out just as they should have.

I think of moments that escaped me. Chances for success I came close to but didn’t quite catch hold of. Like the agent who contacted me after a review of my essay collection, wanting to see what I was working on. It wasn’t what she wanted and that door closed. But did it really get away from me?

The article I linked to above implies that I walked away from a science career, which isn’t entirely accurate. That degree still pays the bills. But I did give up that dream – the rosy hopes for a Nobel Prize and a place in the annals of science. Still, that isn’t the trophy fish that slipped the hook. I weighed it, thought about the price I’d pay and cut bait. Amusingly, given the metaphor I’m using today – I’ve always referred to my quitting the doctoral program as “I cut bait, took my Masters degree and left.”

In many ways, this might be a reflection of my trust in the universe, that things happen as they should. If something I wanted fell through my fingers, then I wasn’t meant to have it. More, it wouldn’t have made me happy to have it.

And having the happy is the most precious thing of all.

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