Fangtastic Friday Goes on Tour

I’m not sure three speaking engagements constitute a tour, but the second week of October was busy in my day planner, and I learned a lot about independent booksellers and college programs for writers, as well as meeting an icon in the romance industry.

On October 5, I spoke at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville as the kickoff to Malaprop’s “Vampire Week.”  My presentation focused on the genesis of vampire fiction, why I believe it’s so popular, what’s coming, and a contrast of the characteristics six popular authors give their creatures of the night.  This was the fourth time I’d given this talk, and it’s always great fun and interactive.  I could babble all day about vampires, but the main point I want to make here is that I’m a big supporter of independent bookstores, and Malaprop’s is consistently ranked one of the country’s top 10.  The folks there are true book lovers, which sets them apart.  I’m not going to dish the chains, but have you ever gone into one of the big box bookstores to ask about a release date for a favorite author only to find that the salespeople were clueless?  You get my drift.  Hooray for Malaprop’s!

I love talking with students about writing.

I headed to Florida on October 7, where I spoke on October 8 at the Burnett Honors College of the University of Central Florida (my alma mater).  The audience consisted of about half public relations students and half creative writing majors.  I talked about my career path from public relations to fiction writing, my years as spokesperson for the City of Orlando, and a bit about the future of publishing.  I shared with them some information I’d gleaned from Writer’s Digest about the MFA degree.  According to Writer’s Digest, this is the degree that writers should include in their queries.  Agents aren’t impressed with any other degree (unless you’re writing non-fiction about a nuclear plant blowup, and you’re a physicist with a Ph.D.).  Anyhow, I’m coming back as a professor in my next life.  Love those kids!

Kristal Lee (left) and me at CFRWA's "Super Saturday" event in Orlando.

Saturday, October 9, found me at the Central Florida Romance Writers of America’s “Super Saturday” event, again delivering my presentation on “Writing about Vampires.”  Always fun to speak to a group of peers, and those gals in Orlando are stellar.  Many thanks to Lorena Streeter, Kristal Lee, Jeanan Davis, Chudney Thomas, Jean Shilling, and all the members who made me feel so welcome.  The day was a special treat for me because I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Heather Graham, who regaled us with ghost stories.  I found out that Heather’s a Civil War buff like me, and I e-mailed her following the event about our mutual fascination.  She graciously pointed me in some directions that will be a great help in writing my Civil War steampunk.  Heather Graham is the antithesis of an egomaniac.  She’s so genuine and humble.  Meeting her was a real treat!

Now, I’d appreciate your feedback.  Respond to one of the following questions, and I’ll “eenie meenie” one commenter to receive his or her choice of a download of one of my titles. 

  1. What’s the future for independent booksellers?  Share an experience you’ve had with a special bookseller. 
  2. Do you think the MFA degree is the “be-all-end-all “for authors these days?  Has your education opened doors for your writing career?
  3. Have you met one of your author idols?  Were you inspired?  Tell me about the experience.

Thanks so much!

13 Responses to “Fangtastic Friday Goes on Tour”
  1. I’ve met Nora Rorbets, who gave me the advance copy of one of her books for a friend who already had everything Nora had published to that point. I’ve also met Sandra Brown. Both are lovely, gracious ladies, and Sandra gave me the best piece of writing advice I’ve ever been given–Start on the day that was different. It’s stood me in good stead through approx. 40 books, so I know it works.

  2. Wow, you have been busy, Susan. i have heard of Malaprop’s. Seems like a really interesting place.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Malaprop’s is amazing. Their line-up of guest authors rivals any of the big stores in major metropolitan areas. I’m talking Ron Rash, Diana Gabaldon, Sara Gruen, David Sedaris, Barbara Kingsolver, etc.

  3. Do you think the MFA degree is the “be-all-end-all “for authors these days? Has your education opened doors for your writing career?

    I don’t think you have to have an MFA to be a successful writer. I say this for two reasons. 1. Look the the most successful writers out there. Now, tell me if they hold and MFA. Right. Most don’t. 2. Most MFA programs focus on literary fiction. I recently went to see Justin Cronin speak about his new best-seller The Passage, a dystopian vampire novel. Cronin holds an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop. He discussed during this interview how his type of writing does not fit that literary fiction mold. And that’s perfectly okay! Not all readers enjoy literary fiction. Commercial fiction out-sells it for a reason. And just because a book falls into commercial fiction, does not mean it is low quality. On the contrary, some of my favorite books have been commercial fiction.

    One interesting thing to note while discussing MFA programs–Romance author Nicole Peeler is teaching in a new type of MFA program at Seton Hill University. This MFA program focuses on commercial fiction. While this is the only school that I know of doing this type of MFA program, I think this could be an excellent program for authors who write genre books.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jesi Lea. Yes, I know Nicole and am acquainted with the program at Seton Hill as one of my good friends in Orlando is enrolled in it . (They have a distance learning program.) I’m so glad you brought up the Seton Hill program. I agree with you that an MFA isn’t necessary to become a successful writer and most of them do focus on literary fiction,. The point Writer’s Digest was making is that if you’re just trying to break in, listing an MFA in your query to an agent gets you a nod. Nicole’s program also contains a marketing component, which is fabulous. I think more MFA programs will need to include curricula on marketing and publishing in this fast-evolving marketplace.

  4. Pamela Seres says:

    Wow! I am going to have to let you do ALL the DCL panels! lol
    Another great blog Lady Susan!

  5. The bit about the MFA caught my eye. As a high school drop-out, there have been times when a degree might have come in handy. As it is, I spent 15 years in the IT industry re-teaching college grads everything they learned to get their degree, because not one lick of it worked in the real world. I learned the old fashioned way. By doing. But, more doors would’ve opened for me had I had a piece of paper that said I knew what I knew.

    For writing, as a published author without any degrees, I’ve never heard of the MFA. None of my publishers have ever asked if I had one. I’ve never heard an agent, editor, publisher or even other authors that I network with, mention any degrees. A masters won’t sell a book. A good story will. Grammar can be fixed. At least in fiction. A master’s of fine arts might help if you’re writing about fine arts, but it offers little relevance if you’re writing a creepy paranormal thriller.

    I would think 4-6 years obtaining your MFA is better spent writing, reading, networking and learning the craft. If little ole me can do it as a HS drop-out, you can too! Now, that said, I encourage anyone and everyone to further their education. Education is ALWAYS a good thing, but the lack of a degree is only a barrier if you let it be one.

    • Susan Blexrud says:

      I hear’ ‘ya, Brindle, and kudos to you for your success. Writer’s Digest was citing the MFA in terms of it being the only degree that really catches the eye of an agent (if you’re a fiction writer). Nothing substitutes for good writing and a good story, that’s for sure.

  6. I was one of those crazy people who took classes that looked interesting rather than working toward a degree. To this day, I don’t regret it.

  7. Do I think the MFA is the ‘be-all end-all’ for writers? I have an MFA degree, but I think so many things go into the making of a writer. If you want to teach, then yes, probably an MFA is necessary. My MFA program was annoying, a lot of snotty, competitive, know-it-all types who I doubt have published anything. Maybe it gave me confidence and we did have to write the equivalent of a book to graduate from the program. Come to think of it, during the last class I wrote what to this day is one of my best pieces of work, a short story called Cat’s Eyes. That story has gone on to win a number of contests, including one in Paris. It was so exhilarating to get that overseas call saying I won. I was pumped for weeks after that. I read something a day or two ago that sums up what needs to happen for every successful writer and I’ll give it to you for free. It is thisL READ. READ. READ. WRITE. WRITE. WRITE…

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