Noted authors to shed light on writing process

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 12, 2017

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TROY — Aspiring or established authors face the challenge of putting words to page — all alone. 

With the intent to make the writing process easier, the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America will host the Word Nerds Writers’ Conference Oct. 21 at the Detroit Marriott, Troy, 200 W. Big Beaver Road. The event will feature workshops and critique opportunities, as well as chances to pitch stories to book editors and literary agents. There will also be events the evening of Oct. 20. 

Writers working in all genres are welcome. 

Deb Dixon will conduct two workshops at the conference. 

Dixon’s book, “Goal, Motivation & Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction,” described as a “how-to bible for writers,” began as an interactive workshop, according to her website. She has authored 10 books, contributed to 12 anthologies and served as vice president for the national chapter of Romance Writers of America.

Beverly Jenkins, winner of the RWA 2017 Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award and a southeast Michigan resident, will be the keynote speaker. 

Jenkins, a USA Today best-selling author,  grew up in Detroit and majored in English literature and journalism at Michigan State University. She has authored over 30 historical and contemporary romance novels, with a focus on 19th-century black life. She was a nominee for the NAACP Image Award for Literature for her novel “A Wish and a Prayer,” and she has won a Golden Pen Award from the Black Writers Guild. 

“Every story and every character in any story needs a conflict, a motivational force and outcome, whether it’s a suspense, horror or romance story,” said Patricia Barnett, president of the GDRWA. Barnett said writers and aspiring writers would be hard-pressed to find “two more seasoned and well-versed authors in one place.”

Barnett added that the conference also offers valuable networking and critique opportunities from writers and readers. 

“New writers feel like they’re doing a solitary thing. Here (at the conference), you can get expertise,” she said. 

She added that writers often have to travel out of the metro Detroit area to hear the caliber of speakers who will be at the conference. 

“I think this is a great opportunity, whether you’re in your first or 51st book, to get great perspective,” Barnett said. 

Jenkins said via email that she hasn’t settled on a topic for her keynote speech yet, but it will “probably combine the journey of a writer with ways to stay and be inspired.” 

In response to the question of how romance figures into other genres, Jenkins said, “I think it’s not so much romance figuring into other genres as it is other genres fitting into romance. Romance authors write the gamut: from mysteries to science fiction to fantasy to westerns to inspirational and everything in between. I don’t believe there is any genre that is not represented in some way.

“My journey to writing began in the fourth grade as the editor of the newspaper at my elementary school in Detroit, but I had no desire to be a writer. All I wanted out of life was to work in a library,” she said. “I’m an avid reader and I read across all genres, including romance, and in the early ’80s began writing one for me. When I showed the manuscript to a recently published colleague, she insisted I seek publication, but I had no idea where. Mass-market fiction was all but closed to African-American fiction until Terry McMillan’s ‘Waiting to Exhale’ hit the New York Times’ best-seller list because mainstream publishers were operating under the mistaken belief that we didn’t read.

“Despite this, I found agent Vivian Stephens, who is an editor with Dell. … With her guidance, my manuscript was picked up by Avon Books and published in 1994 as ‘Night Song.’

“I think what may surprise people is the diverse professional backgrounds of romance writers. Many are lawyers, some are surgeons, others are educators,” Jenkins said. “There are also numerous writers with advanced degrees in scientific fields. I’m continually inspired by the need to be a teller of stories of people whose history is not well-known. I’m drawn to romance because we write about the hope and challenge inherent in being human.

“I hope writers of all genres will attend the conference and take advantage of the workshops, the fun and the opportunity to connect with other writers,” she added. 

The cost to attend the workshop is $85 for members of the GDRWA, $110 for RWA members and $120 for non-RWA members. Register at Pre-registration is suggested. Payment may be made on-site the day of the conference.