Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Feedback from the 2017 Strelitzia Contest: Part One

Following our highly successful first Strelitzia contest, the organisers and judges have some valuable tips to share with those considering entering in 2018.

The first bit of feedback might arguably be the most important: read the instructions! 

The contest rules are not arbitrary. They are there for specific reasons, either to help you, to protect you, or to ensure that the contest is manageable and sustainable.

The requirement of this year's contest which was most frequently broken was the file format requirement. We asked that entries be submitted in Word format. At least half submitted in PDF format, which is a locked and uneditable format. We let it go in 2017, but going forward any entry not received in the requested format will be automatically disqualified, and the entry fee will NOT be refunded.

There are very two very valid reasons why we asked entrants to submit their entries in Word format. It is so that we can cut and paste the entries in order to:
  1. Protect the entrants’ anonymity. We are a small organisation. It is entirely possible that the judges and the entrants may know each other. Therefore, in order to ensure the judging is completely fair and impartial, we cut and paste the entry into a new document, stripping out the author’s name, before sending it to the judges.
  2. Correct the formatting. As your work has not yet been professionally formatted, as the Imbali entries have been, when transferred to another device (eg. to a Kindle or other eReader) some of your formatting may either be irreversibly stuck in place, or become strangely formatted (for example, words cut in half, lines of odd lengths, lines too tightly spaced for comfortable reading). We had two entries this year that suffered this fate. Do you really want your entry to receive a low score from a judge because the formatting affected their reading or understanding of your entry? No? Then trust us to format your work correctly so that your work can be judged on its merits, not on its layout on the page.

I can only imagine that the entrants who submitted in PDF either (a) did not read the submission guidelines, (b) were afraid that ROSA and its judges would otherwise steal the entrants’ work. I'd like to address both concerns.

(a) Not reading submission guidelines is a serious career faux pas. Through your career you will no doubt be submitting your manuscripts many times over to agents, editors and contests. If you do not read and exactly follow their guidelines, you are putting yourself at a serious disadvantage. Most agents will not even consider a submission that hasn’t followed their guidelines.

(b) On the second point, we are a professional organisation, and our judges are career professionals who are already successfully writing their own books. They do not need to steal your work. Furthermore, all our judges sign a contract before they are sent any entries, which clearly states that the copyright belongs to the original author (there is a similar clause in the Ts & Cs for entrants). We have a record of every entry we receive, and we keep track of who is sent what, so in the unlikely event that any judge is unprofessional enough to steal your words, you (and ROSA) would be able to prove plagiarism very easily, which would end that published author’s career. However, if you are still of the belief that the published authors within ROSA are potential plagiarists, then I suggest you do not submit your entry to our contest. In fact, to be truly safe, don’t submit your work anywhere, ever! (Since it's way more likely that you'll be plagiarised after you're published!)

In my next post, I'll look at another contest requirement that appeared to be a stumbling block for many of our entrants: the dreaded synopsis.
 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

ROSA's 2017 Award Winners

On the evening of Saturday 21 October, at the ROSA gala dinner in Johannesburg, winners were announced for the various contests run by ROSA this year.

Conference Scene Contest

The first prizes awarded were for the Conference Scene Contest. This is a contest open exclusively to delegates attending the annual conference, and this year's theme was That One Night. We received seven entries. One entry, a scene from Rae Rivers' book Declan, received an honorable mention for its excellent and engaging writing, however since this book has been professionally edited, I decided to take that out of the running.

Which left three entries that were not only well written, but also matched the theme requirement. The prize was therefore split two ways, and a third prize, donated by Tule Publishing, was also awarded. The winners, in no particular order, were Elaine Dodge, Cliffordene Norton and Gene Mathey.

Strelitzia Award

We then announced the winner of the inaugural Strelitzia Award. This contest, open to unpublished authors, received seven entries. One entry stood out head and shoulders above the rest, and the judges were unanimous in their decision.

The winner was announced as Melissa Volker, for her complete novel Shadow Flicker. As Melissa was unable to be present, the award was accepted on her behalf by last year's winner, Suzanne Jefferies. We wish Melissa the best of luck and hope she has great success with Shadow Flicker.

In the coming weeks, ROSA will be announcing the revised guidelines for next year's Strelitzia Award, as well as feedback from this year's judges to help aspiring authors prepare their entries - so watch this space!

Imbali Award - Afrikaans


The other award making its debut this year, was the Imbali Award for best Afrikaans romance novel by a South African author, published between January and December 2016. We received eight entries for this category, all of which were of a very high standard.

The winners were announced as:
Winner - Sophia Kapp for her novel Moelikheid met 'n Meermin
Runner-up - Dina Botha for her novel Vind Mekaar

As Sophia Kapp was unable to be present, the award was accepted on her behalf by ROSA's outgoing Deputy Chairperson, Rebecca Crowley.

We were also very honoured to have several of the Afrikaans Imbali judges present at the gala dinner and prize giving. The Afrikaans judges' support was incredible!




Imbali Award - English


The final award to be presented was the Imbali Award for best English romance novel by a South African author, published between January and December 2016. We received nine entries in this category, some traditionally published and some self-published.

The winners were announced as:
Winner - Rae Rivers for her novel Ethan
Runner-up - Natasha Anders for her novel A Ruthless Proposition

Rae accepted her award and made a short but heartfelt acceptance speech.





Check back here on this blog in coming weeks for tips from the judges as well as the announcement of next year's contests.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Top three things I learnt at ROSACon 2017 by Suzanne Jefferies





Do you think you might have missed something important from ROSACon 2017? You know, because it’s two whole days of talks and workshops with romance writers, editors, agents and publishers? Because it’s all about romance writing? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.


The top three things I learnt at ROSACon2017


1. An imposter lies in all of us (see what I did there?)

Rae Rivers spoke about imposter syndrome
and was the Imbali Award winner
He/she/it lies about your ability, your talent, your ideas, just about everything. It will tell you that you can’t write, shouldn’t write, have no right to write. Your imposter is a lousy, stinking, lying toad, catching your insecurities like flies and belching them back to you. Chain him up, banish him back to the river, or regard his remarks with the disdain they deserve. Even Neil Armstrong feels like an imposter. Neil Armstrong. His toad’s a total dick.

2. Writing is a journey more fraught with pitfalls than an episode of Stranger Things.

Just when you think you’ve got it worked out and you’re on track, something will turn everything upside-down. Contracts get axed, publishers disappear, agents mushroom up with promises of fairy lights and otherworldly reach, and you’re left trying to figure out if this isn’t perhaps some sort of conspiracy. Do we stop writing? No. Do we stop trying? No. Do you put on your boots and confront the demagorgon, sorry, challenges? Hell to the yes. Think of it as a curiosity voyage, and writing as the paddles (with apologies to the Duffers).

3. Heeltyd heeltyd speeltyd.

Looking to write for the US market? They’re looking for hard bodies and hot story lines. But writing sexy scenes requires a few glasses of wine, and a euphemism-free vocabulary. Here are some words you might want to consider editing out of your dicktionary: love muscle, throbbing member, cruise missile, hot meat injection, love sword, eight inches of blunt fury or deep-veined purple-helmeted Spartan of love. Just a suggestion…don’t take my word for it.




Did I say top three? There were about twenty four thousand five hundred and a million other things I learnt. Roll on, ROSACon 2018.
- Suzanne Jefferies is a ROSA committee member and fellow author, read about her here.

If you did miss out on RosaCon 2017, don't forget that the Western Cape Writers' Retreat will be taking place 3 - 4 March 2018. Email: romy@romancewriters.co.za

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Life of a Romance Writer by Aziza Eden Walker






Yes, it is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And yes, I LOVE my job.

Ankara Press recently asked me to reflect on how This Crazy Paradise came about. I think they’re a bit suspicious because  a) Onele is a psychologist turned romance writer, just like me and b) because I live in paradise (a writer’s paradise, you see.) Hence the title of my latest book. They think I might have written an autobiography in disguise.

Wait, there’s more: I met my partner, and the father of my child, at an Erotica party. And yes, he was dressed as a flasher (to Onele’s disgust). And yes, I wanted to write love stories rather than do therapy. And yes, he had insomnia. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all pans out.

Let me explain. There’s a whole bunch of truth in every book I write. It’s all true. I’ve twisted it and turned it on its head and used it in new ways and the characters (who are and are not us) have run away with it and made it their own. But there’s stuff in there that he said to me (yay) and that I did (eek) and it’s all wonderful. I write in celebration of this crazy paradise we live in.

None of it is perfect, but boy, what a ride.

I’m unable to write about a place I haven’t been to. The West Coast of South Africa is one of my favourite spots – windswept, pristine beaches - very romantic. Even so, my research involves looking up all those finer details on the internet! Club Ithaca doesn’t exist, but if you ask Google you may come up with its real name…  And there is a windmill, I just turned it into a tavern!

The thing I like most about the writing process is the beginning. Not the plotting so much (of which I do some, but could probably do more – my editor will agree!!) The best part is when you’ve opened the story, so to speak, and it gets its own life. The way it surprises you. The way my heart beats faster when they fight, or finally get it together. The way it all unfolds. 

Oh, and I love seeing the cover. The cover rocks!

Ankara asked me how I plan my writing day, which made me smile. There is no plan. Right now I am typing this while my son is paddling up a river in front of me with a buddy (I told you, paradise.) I wrote large parts of This Crazy Paradise in a tent, which I love doing. Sometimes with a torch. I write whenever I can and however I can, because I miss it if I don’t.  My heart is in it.

At the end of last year my son had minor surgery. One of those moments where you sit anxiously outside the theatre for an hour. I decided to plot my next book for Ankara in that time. Because I think life is about choosing love above fear. That’s how I became a romance writer.

(By the way, I was an actress once – and knew a rather hunky actor like Andile too … check out The Seeing Place to get the full story on that one!)


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Meet Eden Walker writer of Hot, Humorous & Heartfelt Romance





What is the last romance novel you read?

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes – what a lady. Not sure this one counts as romance though (the hero is a gruff cross-dresser and the book is all about emotional and physical abuse?! Only Ms Keyes could pull this off.)

What type of Romance / what genre do you write?

Hot, humorous and heartfelt! I write both African romance and erotic romance.

Are you published yet? If so, with whom?

Yes, with Ankara Press and Tirgearr Publishing (City Nights series).

What do you love most about writing?

The way it has nothing to do with me. I just show up and the characters do the rest. It’s very relaxing, awe-inspiring and amusing. Oh, and I do the research! That’s not that relaxing! But interesting. For example, recently I’ve needed to work out which are the one-way streets in Denpasar, Bali!

And what is your biggest challenge as a writer?

Not getting overwhelmed. Just opening the document, taking baby steps, trusting.

Do you have a playlist while you write?

Absolutely not. I find music very disturbing – I can’t hear the book then. But it’s cool if the kids are playing in the same room, or even clambering over me! I’ve developed persistence!




What was the inspiration behind your last book?

My hero (One Night in Venice). I had this vision of a very sexy, artistic man whom everyone thinks is arrogant and aloof – but really, he’s wounded – and as he falls in love, this very young student is the catalyst for turning it all around for him. So I liked that, that she’s just going about her business, being plain and ordinary, and suddenly she does this extraordinary thing for someone else, and in the process for herself as well, and her life becomes extraordinary. As does theirs, together. God, I love romance!

What is your proudest achievement as a writer?

You know, it’s having taken a chance. It was saying “I’m going to try that.” “I can do it.” Then, it was finishing the book. I was helped, I really do believe that. It was such fun. I discovered a whole new avenue of joy. And originally I wanted to make money! Plus, write somehow.

What advice would you give someone who tells you they want to write?

GO FOR IT. Nike: Just Do It. Then do it again. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you and never give up.

If you could give your life / dreams / goals a hashtag, what would it be?

#loving it

What keeps you motivated to write?


My life feels so incomplete without it. It’s like this jewel I’ve discovered, a beautiful place I can go to again and again. I’ve tried doing without and I just get grumpy. It’s worth ignoring any fears you might have about it, any judgement or self-criticism, and just getting on with it. Enjoying it is the best way forward. Silence those inner voices. But learn from any critique you might get. That’s very important, to grow.


What is your writing schedule like - do you write every day / a certain time of day?


It’s best if I prioritise writing, otherwise it falls off the map. So I write in the mornings, and more throughout the day or night when I can.


Tell us about the first love story you ever wrote.


This Crazy Paradise is about a psychologist who gets divorced, falls in love, and becomes a romance writer. That’s my life, right there. Not the first story I published, but the first one I wrote (I published it second).


What is the best part about being part of ROSA?


Romy Sommer, who’s a brilliant organiser as well as writer! And the sheer kindness of strangers. I love it, thank you.


What’s your latest news?
One Night in Venice comes out on 27 September and is #32 in the scintillating City Nights series from Tirgearr. It’s an erotic romantic suspense.


Special Offer!
E-mail me at azizaedenwalker@gmail.com and I’ll send you a free digital copy in the format of your choice (first 3 respondents). If you like it, please remember to review it!


Connect: You can also follow Jana aka Eden Walker on Twitter, Facebook or her blog.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Authoring 101: How to Fake It, till you Make It




I’m sure we’ve all, at some point in our writing career (and I use the word ‘career’ ve-ery loosely here!), felt like just giving up. I mean, we write, we edit, we join writing circles and Facebook groups and talk about writing a heck of a lot. It’s all so...inspirational...well, no, it’s actually quite depressing sometimes, especially when it feels like everyone else is ‘making it’ while you just struggle to find time in day to write a couple hundred words…

This is my honest take on what it’s like to to be a writer. It’s flippen’ hard. It’s a ton of work with so little credit it’s almost as insane as having kids - the ultimate around the clock job with no 13th cheque, I mean, no pay cheque at all, in fact the exact opposite: a bottomless financial and time leak that just won’t go away - because it’s still so worth it!

I hope this post is for you.

I hope I’m not the only one who feels this way…

So last week I felt just like this this, and then I exchanged a mail with Romy Sommer and admitted I felt I wasn’t sure if I should bother renewing my ROSA membership. I had a shopping list of reasons: I still haven’t finished my book, my beta readers ripped it to shreds, I’m not a real writer anyway etc. etc.

You know the refrain.

I know you do.

But then, a teeny tiny voice, from the very depth of heart whispered: “Do not give up on your dream.”

What did you just say?

DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM.

The kids will grow up, and if you raised them right enough, leave the nest to chase their own adventures. The people who love you, get it, and will support your efforts, don’t underestimate them, tell them how you are feeling.

Own it.

Own the fact that you are writer - and take yourself seriously even if your WIP is in a bigger state of crisis than the Western Cape and the current drought situation. You can do this. You CAN, but it’s up to you. No-one is going to give you what you need (time, money, discipline) those are things you are going to have to make contingency plans and trade-offs for. Recognise that it (time, money, discipline) will come at a price - and pay it. And you must if you are going to make it. Because the only thing that separates a struggling writer from a successful one is Perseverance. With a capital P.

So here are some of my strategies to Fake It Until I Make It as an author.

  • Be your own PR person. Get a professional photo taken, website and FB page and share your writerly thoughts on it. Put yourself out there in the world as an author.
  • If you have a book, brag about it, talk about it, tell EVERYONE about it.
  • Immediately ditch the idea that you are going to be discovered. Give copies of your book to local libraries, offer to give talks and go knocking for the exposure you want. Local radio stations and newspapers are looking for fresh news - be the fresh news!
  • Get your fans together (on mailing list) and ask for things that will help you sell your book: reviews, reviews and more reviews.
  • Mingle with other writers, collaborate, learn and show your support of their work.
  • Read books in your genre like it’s homework.
  • Write consistently. Don’t overthink it, just write. A messy first draft is better than No Draft.

Most importantly: DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM.

Why should anyone believe in you, if you do not believe in yourself?


Words by Cindi Page 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

Meet Elsa Winckler - Multiple Award Winner, who writes in English and Afrikaans






In an effort to really get to know each other, we thought it would be a good idea to publish a series of interviews with fellow ROSA members to learn more about who they are, what they've published and what makes them tick. We'd like ALL our members to feature, so please drop our chairperson, Romy, an email on romy@romancewriters.co.za and she'll send you some questions to answer.



Meet the lovely Elsa 



What is the last romance novel you read?
For seven nights only - Sarah Balance

What type of Romance / what genre do you write?
Contemporary

Are you published yet? If so, with whom?
Escape Publishing, Etopia Press and HarperImpulse

What do you love most about writing?
Creating characters

And what is your biggest challenge as a writer?
To find time

Do you have a playlist while you write?
No, I don’t listen to music while I write, but songs definitely inspire some stories

What was the inspiration behind your last book?
An article I read about an animal communicator





What is your proudest achievement as a writer?
Three awards

What advice would you give someone who tell you they want to write?
Sit down and write

If you could give your life / dreams / goals a hashtag, what would it be?
#happy

What keeps you motivated to write?
All the voices in my head

What is your writing schedule like - do you write every day / a certain time of day?
On a perfect day, I write from 9:00 till 16:00 when I have to start cooking

(Okay, we all hate you a bit now, Elsa!)

Tell us about the first love story you ever wrote.
It was in Afrikaans. At the time I was the admin lady at the English Department at the University of Stellenbosch and we had a professor from the Engineering department who enrolled for English I. That got me thinking - what if …?

You probably get this question a lot...but are you related to Heinz Winckler?
Yes, I'm his mom!

(Okay, we love you again, Elsa!)

What is the best part about being part of ROSA?
My fellow Rosas are all formidable women and everyone is so supportive.



Connect with Elsa on Facebook. And visit her website: http://elsawinckler.com/