Charging Forward

Typical conference purse

I attended the Malice Domestic mystery conference this past weekend. Malice lasted four fabulous days, and if you know anything about math (or me), you understand this four-day event required four bags: one medium-sized purse; one small clutch for the banquet; one large tote for my panel; and one getting-bigger-every-trip zipper bag for chargers.

The perfect bag must be practical, comfortable, attractive, and functional. Since these four requirements never seem to appear together in any single bag, one must buy multiples, for multiple occasions. This is not news.

malice handbag 2
Who doesn’t love velvet?

What’s news—to me, anyway—is that I now own enough electronics to require a bag just for chargers. These cords and plugs can’t be let loose in the wild kingdom of my office or suitcase, can they?

(I could stop here and ask why no one has invented a universal charger that would fit all electronic devices, but that is way too rational for a blog post about bags.)

malice handbag 3
Big bag for panel books!

I have been on the hunt for the perfect charger bag. I had one but it was too small, then I bought a larger one but it was too big, and now I have one that seems right. I say “seems” because Malice was its test run. I’m going to the Pennwriters conference in two weeks, so we’ll see if the bag passes the long term commitment test.

A plug and a cord, tucked into a cute bag, takes care of charging a device. Pretty simple, and it if doesn’t work, you buy a new one. When that device is your brain, it’s a little more complicated. You can’t buy a new brain, even when you wear the one in your head down to a nub.

I adore conferences, and Malice is like Mardi Gras: big, loud, colorful, and friendly. I loved every moment, from the Vera showing on Thursday to the New Author Breakfast on Sunday. I did not, however, write one word those four days. I got the sprint threads posted in the mornings, but I was usually packing a bag and taking off for the day after it posted.

charger bag 1
Too small
Too big

I am writing this on Monday. Regular life has resumed, and my brain must get back to the routine. The wonderful thing about a rigid writing habit is that your brain knows what to do when your body is placed in a particular chair in a particular spot at a particular time of day. Four days of disruption, however, and my brain still wants to think about handbags and panels instead of my work in progress. I could sit in my writing spot and fight to get my mojo going, or I could take one more day of reprieve and recovery to bridge Mardi Gras to work day.

I took the day. I discovered, though, that while I took photos of my bags and unpacked my new books, the little pings and pricks of writing began firing. This premise looks interesting. What an intriguing setting. I’ve never heard of this historical event! Oh, I love this author….

The right size–and perfect theme!

It doesn’t take much to lure a writer back into the fold, does it? Panels and parties are great fun, but stories are the raison d’etre. When this posts on Tuesday, I’ll be moving forward, getting back to storytelling and my writing habits.

How long does it take you to recover from a conference? Do you have any tricks to get your brain back into work mode? And, how do you store your chargers when you travel?

Pennwriters Interview

Coming soon, the Pennwriters Annual Conference, May 18-20, 2018, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I will be presenting two workshops:  “Old School Scene Planning” and “Damsels, Dames & Darlings: Writing Realistic Women.”

PW 2018

Each year before the conference, Pennwriters does a Q&A with its faculty. Below are the 2018 questions. Below is a copy of the interview from the Pennwriters Facebook page.

Pennwriters: What do you think is special about the genre you write in?

Ramona: I write in a couple of different genres, but I’ll choose creative nonfiction. CNF is special because it allows me to write about real events with the freedom of a fiction writer. For example, I’ve published personal essays about surviving hurricanes as a child and also about the impact of drug abuse on my family, citing facts and figures but also sharing how the experience affected my world. CNF is unique in that allows a writer to smoothly place factual information in a personal story.

PW: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? Did you ever encounter a serious roadblock and how did you overcome it?

Ramona: I have a maddening and pushy internal editor, which is ironic for someone who works as an editor. If I am not careful, I can get mired in a scene that isn’t working and I stay there, grinding on the problem, rather than moving on and coming back to it. I have to make the concrete decision to let this poorly executed scene sit for a while. That can be tough.

PW: What’s individual or unique about your writing space? Do you have a memento or good luck charm on your desk?

Ramona: I have a home office for my editing work, but I find it difficult to do my creative writing in that spot. I have adopted the desk in the guest room for my writing, and I do have mementos, among them a cardinal ornament from my mother and a seashell from my mother-in-law. My two moms encourage me to tell stories. I am very much into establishing a regular writing routine, so I only sit in that chair, in that spot, when I want to write. That gives the signal to my body and brain that we’re here for that purpose only. So much of writing is a mind game, so I’ve learned to make that writing space work for me mentally as well as physically.

PW: What has been the most satisfying or significant project of your literary career?

Ramona: It’s a tie. A few years ago, I had the privilege of co-coordinating an anthology of poetry and prose by Delaware writers, through the Delaware Division of the Arts. The State of Delaware is very supportive of its artists, so that opportunity to give back—and to have a wonderful collection of work from my writing tribe—was a big gold star in my career. The second is contributing to and editing Into the Woods, a brand new anthology from the Mindful Writers Retreat authors.

PW: What is your favorite tip or advice for writers?

Ramona: Give your writing the priority it deserves and develop a regular writing habit! Same time, same place every day is the optimum, but if you are a weekend writer or an after-the-day-job writer, choose a specific time to write and stick to it. Our stories are our legacies to the world, so it’s important to give writing its proper due.

PW: If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?

Ramona: A very thick blank notebook, a pen that would never run dry, and a handheld blow torch. The last because I was never a Girl Scout so I don’t know how to start a fire by rubbing sticks, and I also like to be prepared for any crème brûlée emergencies.

PW: If you had a time machine, where and when would you be right now?

Ramona: In the galleries of the US Capitol on August 18, 1920. That’s the day the 19th Amendment was finally ratified by Congress. I would love to witness women’s right to vote made the law of the land. Then I’d rush out and party with my sisters!

Conference Bio: Ramona DeFelice Long’s writing has appeared in numerous literary and regional publications, and she’s a multiple fellowship winner. She is an author, editor, and writing instructor. As an editor, she specializes in short story anthologies, crime novels, and women’s fiction.