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Desert Rose Chapter, Romance Writers of America Workshops


Last Saturday the Desert Rose Chapter of Romance Writers of America and the Scottsdale Civic Center Library teamed up to present an all day series of workshops for writers of all genres. This was the Ninth Annual Free Fiction Writers’ Workshop. I’ve attended a few of these over the years and am never disappointed. The workshops are professional and informative. The day always runs smoothly and everybody is friendly and helpful.

The only problem I saw was that there are three workshops held at the same time and as most of my readers know I don’t like to make decisions. I tried to get a variety of information and will share a few tidbits here along with introducing you to more fantastic Phoenix (and Arizona) writers.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell used her long career in counseling as a basis for her talk on “Challenging Your Characters.” Laurie is sweet and friendly but she told us right off to make those characters suffer. From the very beginning our stories must provide conflict, between the characters, internal and external. That is what keeps the story moving. Conflicts can include gender roles, loyalties, privacy, money, power and sex. What the hero/heroine learns, how they grow and change is what creates a satisfying ending.

Vijaya Schartz’s topic “The Fun Thing About Plotting” was informative and energizing. She started out with a discussion about “pantsers” and “planners” or “outliners.” Pantsers are those people who sit down and write by the seat of their pants with no plan or outline. On the other end of the spectrum are those who practically write a book in the form of some kind of outline. Vijaya believes we are always plotting, in the shower, while driving and while writing. Those who write their ideas down in some kind of format are ahead of the game when it comes to meeting publisher submission guidelines which often include the first three chapters and a thirty-page outline to sign a contract for a series. She also believes that if you have some kind of outline or plan you won’t have writer’s block. She stresses the need for research. Research your characters, the time and place. Watch for plot clues as you go. What are their strengths and weaknesses, what do they want. Be specific. Develop strong villain with motivation, another clue for the plot. Decide what the absolute WORST thing that could happen to the character and then make it happen. The main thing I noted was that Vijaya said to picture your story as a movie and then imagine what the trailer is going to look like. What will it show? That will help define your story.

Following book signings and lunch Tina Gerow spoke on “Living The Life of a Writer.” She pointed out that through all the fads in writing and publishing romance stays solid as a big selling genre. She explained that a “line editor” looks for pacing, plot and inconsistencies in the manuscript. The “copy editor” looks for grammar, misspellings, wrong word usage and inconsistencies in the small stuff. Writers today have to develop branding. They must have their name and a following before they even start looking for an agent and publisher. Then book signings are more about name recognition than selling books.  She explained terms that pop up regularly in the publishing business, such as: advance, royalties, print runs, sell through and advertising and promo. With the basics covered Tina went in to the everyday life of writers and how each writer has their own system and time of day that works for them. Building a presence requires social networking, speaking at workshops and conferences, publishing a newsletter and numerous other ways to get your name out there.

Sandra Leesmith introduced us to “Motivation & Focus For Writing as a Business.” She started out by having us write a list of reasons why we write with the most important at the top. Then she shared ideas on how to use this list to develop positive thinking and the road to success. Take time to meditate and internalize affirmations for a successful writing career. She emphasized how important it is to set up a schedule for writing, reading, promotion, and to study writing. Take workshops on writing and social media and apply what you learn. Join groups such as Romance Writers of America, America Christian Fiction Writers and their local chapters.

The day closed with a panel discussion on “Traditional Publishing, Self-Publishing & Hybrid: What’s the Difference?” The panel consisted of Jennifer Ashley, Virginia Nelson, Erin Quinn, Vijaya Schartz and Shelley Coriell; authors who have been published in all formats.

Virginia Nelson has only self-published. Self-Publishing puts everything on the author. She has to either do it all; editing, formatting, cover art and promotion or hire people to do some of the jobs.

Vijaya Schartz said small presses are more open to cross genres and have editors and illustrators. She also self publishes.

Shelley Coriell is traditionally published and received five figure advances, editing, book tours and promotion. She doesn’t get to choose her covers or even the titles of her books.

Erin Quinn writes dark paranormal set in Arizona. She has written for Simon & Schuster for twenty years but has now started self-publishing novellas between the books so she can keep her name out there between the book releases.

Jennifer Ashley has run the gamut. She was traditionally published by Berkeley and is now doing self-publishing. She stressed that working with small publishers can be dangerous. If they go under the print rights stays with the bankruptcy and it is near to impossible for the author to get them back. She suggests using a broad range of publishing houses and possibilities. She is also doing novellas and adds an excerpt from her book as an e-book for 99 cents and considers it “promo I’m getting paid for.”

Here are all the authors who were at the event:

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Jennifer Ashley is a New York Times bestselling author and has more than 80 published novels and novellas. She also writes as Ashley Gardner and Allyson James. You can find her books and access her blog on her Web site. 




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Laurie Schnebly Campbell’s Web site contains information about her books and workshops. She also has a link to the journal about her current work-in-progress so you can follow along in her writing process.





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Shelley Coriell writes romantic suspense and teen novels. Her books include award winning The Broken and Goodbye, Rebel Blue. Find more about her books here.

Shelley (left) teamed up with Virginia Nelson (right) for this photo. Virginia writes paranormal romance “where ancient legends and new worlds are forged together.” Learn more here.



Connie Fldesert rose 004ynn writes under a number of genres and formats. They  include a romantic suspense novel, Know When to Run and First We Kill All the Zombies. You can find more about Connie’s books through www.ConnieFlynn.com. Connie’s blog is full of fun and inspiration.






desert rose 002 Tina Gerow is an award winning author who  also writes under Cassie Ryan. You can learn  more about her books and follow her blog at  www.tinagerow.com.




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Sandra Leesmith writes “sweet” romance with a Christian slant. She travels the country in her motorhome gathering ideas and seeing the sites with her husband. Her books include Current of Love and Love’s Refuge. You can find her books at www.sandraleesmith.com. Sandra is also part of Seekerville a blog of Christian authors sharing experiences and advice on writing, contests and the road to publication and beyond.


Cheyenne McCray is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has over 1.5 million books in print and eBook formats. Her books and contacts are listed on her vibrant site. She is an Arizona native. (No photo.)

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Erin Quinn writes dark paranormal romance and is a New York Times bestselling author. You can learn more about her books, blog, newsletter and even book trailers here.








Deena Remiel writes urban fantasy, paranormal romance and suspense. Her site links to her blog, book trailers, short stories, book desert rose 008

lists, awards and upcoming events.






desert rose 001 Vijaya Schartz was born in France and likes to include action and exotic settings in her books. She has received many five star awards and literary awards. She has numerous books listed on her site including romance, science fiction, medieval and contemporary titles.

Pamela Tracy writes contemporary, historical and suspense inspirational romance. Broken Lullaby won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year award. She has numerous books listed on her Web site along with links to her blog and upcoming events. (No photo.)

Kris Tualla is active all around the Valley of the Sun. She is the author of historical romance and suspense. Her stories are set in Norway which she says is the “new Scotland.” Information about her Hansen series and the family genealogy can be found here.

It’s hard to summarize so much information. The main things that stand out are:

*The only way to become an author is to write, submit, write and submit again. Keep going. Most of these ladies had numerous rejection letters before the doors opened up.

*Social media is essential. As you visit the Web sites and blogs take note that these ladies also have Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and numerous other types of social media. They stay on top of their sites and keep their names out there for the world to see.

*Writers should be a part of whatever communities they can. National organizations such as Romance Writers of America and local chapters such as Desert Rose. It is important to network and share with other writers. We all learn from each other and there is a wealth of information right here in our own Valley of the Sun.

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  1. Sounds like a fun and informative day! 🙂

  2. sandraleesmith says:

    Great article. Thanks for recapping the day. Workshops like these really help the unpubbed as well as the pubbed. We all need that shot in the arm and a boost of inspiration.

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