My spring calendar is bursting with writing activity.
In April, I’ll be attending Long Island’s Local Author Fair with fellow members of LIAG (Long Island Author’s Group) and other local writing associations. This event will take place on Saturday, April 6, at the Tilles Center on the LIU/C.W. Post Campus. Admission is free, and it runs from 3 to 8 pm. There’ll be over fifty authors participating, keynote speaker, Steve Israel, panels, and book signings. I’m looking forward to a great day meeting and chatting with authors and readers. If you’re in the Long Island area, I hope you can make it.
In May, I’ll be traveling to St. Louis, Missouri for the 25th anniversary conference of the Cat Writer’s Association. I recently received a Certificate of Excellence in their annual contest for my cozy mystery, Love on the Rocks, and will be up for a special award at their banquet. I’ll also be signing books at a fundraiser for the Humane Society on Friday night, May 17. This event is open to the public and will take place at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch.
Also in May, my new mystery, Sea Scope, will also be released, but it’s on pre-sale now.
Sarah Collins needs an escape. Mourning her brother’s death and the impending breakup of her marriage, she accepts an invitation to return to her childhood home in South Carolina, where her family operated an inn.
She hasn’t been back to Sea Scope for twenty years; not since she and her brother Glen discovered a body by the nearby lighthouse. She never understood why her parents left Sea Scope so suddenly, or the reasons behind her father’s suicide.
After Sarah returns to the inn, she faces long-buried memories, text messages and strange clues. Something is not right in Sea Scope.
Reunited with people from her past, she tries to figure out what’s going on in her childhood home. As the past and present collide, she must face truths about her family, and what happened that summer day by the lighthouse. But will she survive to tell the tale?
It started on a clear Friday morning, the 2nd day of June, as I boarded an early train to Penn Station along with my friend and fellow Long Island author, Lisa Diaz Meyer, and her son and husband who were also on their way to BookExpo in New York City. Lisa was exhibiting her three wonderful dark-fiction collections while I was representing my library. Although, as a librarian and author I’d been to other local library and book-related conferences, this was my first time at BEA.
Walking through the glass doors of the Javitz Center, I noticed the huge signs of publishers and booksellers such as Simon & Schuster, Ingram, Publisher’s Weekly, etc. People in business attire were walking around with coffee cups and conference schedules, their registration badges hanging around their necks identifying them as librarians, authors, editors, and others involved in the book world. Spanning four floors and including conference rooms, stages, and exhibitor booths, most of the action took place on the main level. That’s where Lisa set up her table with the other Indie authors. She had been exhibiting since Wednesday and planned to remain for BookCon which took over on the weekend.
When I received my badge for the day, I was interested to see that it advertised Michael Connelly. As a librarian, I was familiar with the appeal of his books to thriller lovers. One of my patrons who once received books at home when she was homebound was a particular fan of his, and I always had a hard time keeping up with her request for his titles. When I learned he would be appearing at a booth that afternoon to sign copies of The Late Show, his latest release, I thought of Mrs. Nelson and knew she would love to receive her own autographed copy of this book. I made a point to attend the signing and, although the line was long, I managed to get the book, meet Michael in person, and even have a photo taken with him. It was the highlight of my day.
During BookExpo, I also attended the library programs that previewed upcoming summer and fall titles. At many of these, I was able to receive advanced reader copies of these popular forthcoming books. Since I order the fiction and mystery titles for my public library, I found these sessions very informative and knew they would help me select the most anticipated novels for my community. In addition, since we are starting an adult summer reading program this year, some of the ARC’s and exhibitor giveaways can be used as door prizes for our closing event.
Besides the signing with Michael Connelly, there were two other pleasantly unexpected events that happened to me at BookExpo. The first was discovering the Librarian’s Lounge, an oasis hidden away in the far corner of the main floor. Sponsored by Publishers Weekly and open only to librarians, this wonderful area featured food and refreshments throughout the day along with authors and book signings. In the morning, there were bagels and spreads with coffee; and, later in the day, a sweet treat of ice cream and cookies for tired librarians in need of a pick-me-up from the long day of walking around the conference center. During this afternoon break, several authors were also present to sign copies of their books.
The second nice surprise was the number of cat items for sale. At a conference for book people, I actually should’ve expected this. I picked up a black cat tote and a shirt as souvenirs and nabbed a free copy of a Grumpy Cat book.
At the close of the conference day, toting twice as many bags as I’d entered with, my friends and I headed to Penn Station for the train back to Long Island. Unfortunately, it was rush hour, no taxis were available, and the conference shuttle was nowhere in sight. We ended up walking, and I was glad I’d taken the advice of my co-workers and director and brought along a rolling suitcase and comfortable shoes. The day was still pleasant, one of the best of the season so far, so the trek to the station was an enjoyable end to a great day.
Multitasking is counter-productive. Although I’ve suspected this for some time, Robbi Hess of All Words Matter in her seminar, “Overworked & Overwhelmed? 4-Step Process to Reinventing Your Writing & Your Routines,” stated that “multitasking is not your friend” and that the only way to get things done effectively is to focus on one task at a time. Hess also outlined a way for conference attendees to organize their goals.
You’re Perfect the Way You Are. This was one of the ending remarks of Kathleen Gage’s keynote address, “The Delaney Factor: Discover How to Overcome any Obstacle and Achieve More Than You Dreamed Possible.” Gage emphasized, through personal example and those of other people who have achieved their dreams despite setbacks, that the only person we need to compete with is ourself. We are all unique with unique talents and abilities, and we should not let fear or insecurity stop us from reaching higher goals for ourselves.
Content Differs by Medium. Twitter users know that they are restricted to 140 characters and that images are the primary focus of Pinterest and Instagram, but how are similar posts fashioned to reach audiences of various social media sites? Susan C. Willett, CWA member and award-winning blogger of Life with Dogs and Cats, explained with examples how this can be done in her presentation, “Telling Tales: How to Write & Craft Posts that Attract, Engage & Keep Your Audience Coming Back for More.”She also went over some important blogging facts such as keeping posts short, how and where to find ideas for posts, and the average length of a link that sets engagement (it’s longer than you think).
Networking in person at conferences and events adds a dimension beyond online networking. Although it isn’t always possible to attend in-person events because of costs or travel issues, the benefits outweigh the problems. Even if you are restricted to a local author event or book talk, meeting people in person, even those you “know” online, can forge a deeper connection. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Amy Shojai, CWA founder, CABC, and nationally known bestselling author and pet expert who writes the September Day series of novels, or “Thrillers with Bites,” as she calls them. Amy and I met for the first time years ago at one of the CWA conferences. We have been in touch online, but seeing her in person again after all these years was like reuniting with an old friend. I also enjoyed meeting Mollie Hunt, another CWA member and online friend, for the first time. Like me, Mollie writes a cozy mystery series, The Crazy Cat Lady Series. A new CWA friend, Dawn White, who I met at the conference and had not known online realized that we live very close to one another despite the fact that CWA has members all over the U.S. and several in other countries.
Attending Conferences can be stressful and tiring but also a lot of fun. While traveling and networking carry
some anxious and exhausting moments, they can also be enjoyable and fun. During the joint conference of BlogPaws and the Cat Writer’s Association, cats and dogs were seen throughout the conference center and were guests during sessions and at meals. The exhibit hall was full of booths featuring great products, information, and creative displays, some of them interactive. One of the sponsors, Red Roof Inn, a hotel chain where pets stay free, held a Sip and Paint Night where attendees painted a sunset beach scene with pets and, for those who wished, could have their paintings shipped home free of charge. The CWA kitty lounge included a feline/human astrologer, Ellen Zucker of Practical Astrologie. The CWA Happy Meower and awards banquet was a great opportunity for members to chat, grab a bite to eat and drink, and dress up in their fanciest cat clothes. Food was plentiful, and desserts beyond delicious especially one memorable Key Lime Pie. And, of course, the overflowing swag bags by the generous pet exhibit sponsors, made all the pets left at home happy when their person returned from the conference.
I had many other wonderful experiences at the BlogPaws/CWA 2017 conference. These are only some of the highlights and important concepts I learned.