Friday, August 9, 2013

Friends and Strangers...by Victoria Curran

I haven’t had a chance to blog since the Romance Writers conference in Atlanta, which seems like a dream now…albeit a dream I can’t catch up from! (Some of your agents are expecting a call from me, and I know exactly how many proposals you’re waiting to hear about…soon.) I wanted to point out how unsettling it is to meet people you’ve worked with in shaping their very personal stories, people you feel as if you’ve known for some time, but by appearance they’re complete strangers.

 
The afternoon that editor Kathryn Lye and I arrived in “Hotlanta”—which turned out to be cooler than Toronto—making our way to the Harlequin hospitality suite 15 minutes before the Heartwarming Open House, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At last year’s gathering, it was standing-room only as we announced that we were acquiring for a new line. I had to climb on a chair and scream a welcome and introductions over everyone’s heads; the food was gone within minutes and the second, impromptu order of food was gone moments after the first. Most gratifying, it seemed as if every writer there took the time to jot down a story idea and drop it in the Heartwarming ideas bag.

This year was a little more manageable—oddly, hardly anyone touched the food!—but the early bird writers clearly interested in writing clean romance began lobbing questions as soon as we walked in. I am so glad Rula Sinara was there since her first book to be published was one of the five ideas we requested to see after the open house last year. She delivered the full manuscript in February, revised it in April and The Promise of Rain comes out January 2014. We’re still going through the idea cards from this year with fingers crossed that we find another gem of a Heartwarming romance—stay tuned!

Close to the end of the hour-long event, I was delighted when Kathryn introduced the gathering—and me—to three Heartwarming authors I felt as if I knew quite well but had actually never met before: Cindi Myers, Karen Rock and Jennifer Snow. The realization that they were actually strangers to me took me aback, but I’m happy to say that by the end of the conference, we’d remedied that situation. I’m sure hoping to get to know even more Heartwarming authors in person next year in San Antonio and put faces to the wonderful writing. (I can’t believe we’ve never met, Muriel Jensen. What’s that about?)

About a week after returning from RWA, I had a similar experience of meeting a stranger who I’d actually known of for many years. And this chance meeting also took me by surprise and touched me deeply.

I’d taken a road trip with my sister for a long-overdue visit with my mom’s extensive and tight-knit family. Because of Atlanta, I’d already been separated from Millie the #editorcat, abandoned at the front door of Harlequin in May, and I wasn’t ready to be separated again so soon. Sap that I am, I took #editorcat with us.

On the last day of the road trip, the kitten got me kicked out of the dining room in the seniors home where we were trying to visit with my Aunt Crystal. While the others stayed put listening to the visiting musician, the nurses redirected me and Millie into the double room of two seniors who hadn’t gone to hear the music. “Emmie-May was a cat lady in Mindemoya,” one of the staff told me as she fairly shoved me into the room.

Armed with a Mento as a cat toy, I found myself on my hands and knees beside the bed, successfully enticing Millie to play with this woman I had never seen before, who clearly had dementia but who also clearly loved cats. I very quickly realized that this was “the cat lady” who had lived kitty corner (no pun intended) from my Aunt Margaret in a quaint, well-kept bungalow in my mother’s hometown. This was the woman whose house my mom and my aunt never failed to discreetly point out when we drove by it, lowering their voices as they explained that “the cat lady” lived there, as recently as five years ago. That was before my mom passed away and then Aunt Margaret a year later—before Emmie-May sold her little bungalow and, hopefully, found new homes for her rumoured 25 cats and moved to the nursing home an hour away.

I was able to keep Millie playing around Emmie-May, the cat lady, for about a half hour, while nursing staff kept opening the door to watch the two of them together. I wanted to tell them that this was my aunt’s cat lady; that my mom had always talked about her to me. #editorcat and I stayed until Emmie-May, this stranger who connected me directly to my mother and my beloved aunt, fell asleep.

In this age of social media, where we make connections over the internet without even thinking about it, we sometimes forget how truly complex and deep these connections can be. I’m glad I had these moments in the past few weeks to remind me not to take anyone for granted.

25 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Victoria! And so true:) Even seeing the photos of the other authors on the blog here everyday, it was still surreal to meet some of them in person. And I'm with you-I NEED to meet Muriel at some point-even if it means going to her!

    xo
    Jen

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    1. I know, right? From her picture, Muriel look so familiar to me--hope she's going to RWA next year!

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  2. Victoria! What a wonderful story! It's so hard for me to get away anywhere, though I have Ron interested in going to San Antonio. He's promised to try to stay well, and I hope sheer will power can do this for us. I feel so close to my Heartwarming sisters, I NEED to meet them all. If that doesn't work, they've got to come to me. Millie is such a beautiful kitten! She looks very happy on what must be your office carpet. I wouldn't have left her, either. you're not the only sap around.

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    1. Muriel we need to meet you too!!! (sorry- just had to interject :)

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    2. Yes, come one, Muriel, San Antonio next year, we'll have a blast.

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    3. Chiming in too! I so want to meet you, Muriel!!

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  3. I've got Millie in the office with me right now and she's on a bit of a tear. Hope we're not evicted! Have a good weekend, Muriel. Give Ron a hug from me.

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    1. I took Tyre, my seven-toed furry feline, to the vet this morning. He's have dental work. I wasn't allowed to feed him this morning on last night. He was not a happy kitty.

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  4. It was so lovely to meet you at RWA, Victoria. I agree that is feels a bit strange to meet people that you already know so well via the internet. Yet, once we all got talking, I felt comfortable and happy to be amongst such incredible people. Our dinner at the Ritz is one of the highlights of my entire summer. Chatting with many of us from Heartwarming was magical and reinforced why I love writing for this line... because like most things, it's all about the people :)

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    1. Well, clearly you're the writer, Karen. You've said it much better than me: It's all about the people. Absolutely. (And the animals the people love.)

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  5. I so wanted to be there. Last year, Anaheim, was awesome. I need to get my pictures out. Maybe I managed to get a picture of Rula adding her idea!

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    1. Okay, now that I've FINALLY figured out how to sign in again (sigh, google doesn't make it easy, do they?)--I have to tell you, Pamela, I have a couple of memorable shots taken with Rula, but not from 2013. Someday I'll post them. Maybe once her book's out!

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    2. Pamela, that would be wild. I can't believe we were in the same room and didn't meet or get to chat! Next year :)

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    3. Victoria, that would be hilarious, LOL. I certainly won't ever forget meeting you for the first time! :).

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  6. Major lurker here coming out to say 'hey' in an effort to (hopefully) distract myself from counting off the days on my own Heartwarming submission. *nail biting*

    What a wonderful story, Victoria! I love how you finally had the opportunity to meet the legendary cat lady. And Millie is super adorable. Can I take her home with me? :)

    I'm really enjoying the Heartwarming line and so excited to see how it grows. I'm reading Syndi Powell's debut right now and loving it! Can't pass up a good fish-out-of-water heroine. :)

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    1. Awww, thanks, Noelle. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

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  7. I'm having trouble replying to posts, guys, so I hope this one sticks! Glad to see a lurker come in from the cold, so to speak. Welcome, Noelle. You had no idea how many people ask if they can take Millie home. No, but you can have my six month old cat, Petey. He's hit those teen male years. SIGH. Yay for Syndi's book--enjoy. And I'll keep an eye out for your submission.

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  8. Victoria, I love this post. It is nice to finally meet in the flesh people you've only communicated with online.

    I had a surreal experience in 2004 at the ACFW conference in Nashville. I was at dinner and mentioned that I was on harlequin.com's community website as Synner. The woman across the table stood up and came around the table to hug me. We had talked online but never met until that moment. It was a sweet moment.

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    1. I remember thinking on a Harlequin blog once that people didn't connect Synner to you, Syndi! I hope more people make that leap like the woman who hugged you. I love it.

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  9. I can't believe I missed this post yesterday (I went through and added to the conversation bc you are all too much fun :)! I've been cooking from from scratch for 40 relatives coming over tomorrow, so I didn't get to check in. Sigh. I need a Millie Moment. :)

    Victoria, it was incredible to sit at the same Open House event where my book was born last year! Surreal. And you made me blush lol :). I hope you get some awesome manuscripts from those pitches! It was so great seeing you again!

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    1. I think it's Stephen King who likes to start his books with one great idea: What if the world's most successful romance writer was rescued by his number one fan? Anyway, that's the hope behind the Heartwarming idea cards--that starting with a great idea will help launch that special, publishable book for some writers.

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    2. Oh, and good luck with the 40 relatives! (I read your organic gardening post--I love the concept...but have nightmares about those fat green slugs with no eyes that keep crawling out of my kale, shudder.)

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  10. Victoria, I think staying in touch via Internet has its perks. You get to see a person's soul and that's the key to who they are. I've never met Karen Rock, but I'd know her as a friend no matter where we ended up bumping into each other. Ditto with Pamela, Muriel, Syndi, Rula, actually all of you here, including Dana Grimaldi. The down side? You can't share fudge on the Internet. (David made some, and it's to die for) If you all were here, I'd share some with you. That would definitely bond us for life. (Yes, it's that good.)

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  11. David made fudge? Swoon! My husband's peanut butter fudge is just another reason I fell in love with him. LOL

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  12. Syndi, it's amazing, and it's within Weight Watchers. Since it's made with real sugar it doesn't have the icky taste of diet food. It's truly to die for.

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