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Thanks to beloved author Shirley Jump for this interview, originally published on the Romance Writers of America web site. Whether you’re just getting started or are a seasoned pro, the RWA National Conference is the place serious writers get together. Hope to see you in Orlando!
Shirley Jump, New York Times & USA Today Best Selling Author
This new eNotes column will spotlight the speakers who will be at the RWA Conference this summer in Orlando. This week, we are talking with the brilliant Susan Wiggs.
Susan Wiggs
Susan Wiggs’s life is all about family, friends … and fiction. Today, she is an international best-selling, award-winning author with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her novels have appeared in the number one spot on the New York Times best-seller list, have been optioned for film and television, and have won readers’ hearts around the globe. Her books celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family, and the fascinating nuances of human nature.

1. What are you speaking about at RWA? Why is this vital info for today’s author?

My talk is called “I Can’t Wait to Hear What I Have to Say.” It’s vital info because it’s about the new paradigm of writers navigating the swift and radical changes in publishing and how this shift creates our best opportunities—if we’re smart about it. Have I been smart about it? Well, 2017 marks my thirtieth year as a published author, so that would be a yes from me. But I’m more entertaining and more instructive when I talk about my many mistakes and blunders, so you can be sure you’ll hear about that, too.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) facing authors in today’s market?

The same challenge the writer has faced from the moment the first cavewoman picked up a chisel and confronted her first stone wall: how to start the story, how to sustain it at the highest possible level of craft, and how to end it. If you can do that, everything else will feel like a cakewalk. No wait, I have never, ever won a freaking cakewalk. Maybe the metaphor should be “everything else will feel like eating cake. The good kind, with a moist center and cream cheese icing and those little rosettes on the corners.”
Thus proving that a side issue for some writers would be the undeniable scourge of overwriting.

3. What’s your number one tip for making the most of conference?

Approach each workshop and event with a beginner’s mind. Stay open to new ideas, new possibilities, and new connections. No matter how experienced you are, remember that you can always learn something new, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
Don’t forget to volunteer, too. True story: I met Dianne Moggy, the woman who later took my career to a new level, while organizing a PAN panel.
One of the most inspiring things I see at conferences is how many longtime, wildly successful authors sit in seminars and take notes, the same way they did as newbies.
So take a risk. Find something on the schedule that sounds as though it might be out of your comfort zone, and go there.
You’re shy. That’s a given. It’s part of your DNA as a writer to feel awkward and out of place around people (other than fictional characters). The conference is your opportunity to set that shyness aside and do something bold.
When I was in graduate school, I had a landlady who liked to give me advice. One of her best nuggets was, “Walk into every situation as if you own it. If they’re monitoring the door, get a drink in your hand and back into the room, and immediately start chatting someone up.” I don’t care how shy you are. Do it. This is your shot. Don’t screw it up because you’re too bashful to speak up.
Afterward, you can go curl into the fetal position in your room and maybe raid the mini bar.

4. Best thing to do at Disney?

Go to the outdoor movie (poolside at the resort) when Frozen is playing and sing along at the top of your lungs. See above note re: mini bar.
Get your hair done like Elsa’s or Moana’s, depending on your hair type.
Go water skiing or wakeboarding at Sammy Duvall’s Water Sports Center.
Take a surf lesson at Typhoon Lagoon.
Treat a colleague to a character meal. Really. And take pictures.
New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Shirley Jump has written more than fifty novels for Berkley, Harlequin, Entangled and Kensington books.

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