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First Monday Mentoring February – do you have WOSA, the addiction writers rarely talk about?

Hi and welcome to First Monday Mentoring for February 2015, when this blog is open to any and all questions about writing and related subjects.

One subject writers rarely talk about is what I call WOSA – writers’ office stationery addiction, also dubbed a stationery habit by historical writer, Anne Gracie. WOSA is surprisingly common among people who work with words. They’re the ones recognising instantly that blue dragons, purple ice creams, pink butterflies and orange cats are all shaped paperclips.

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I found I had WOSA years ago, during the Incredible Shrinking Exercise Books affair. At my first school in Australia at age eight, I was called by the teacher to explain the disappearing pages. I had to confess that I couldn’t resist the allure of the fresh, clean lined pages and had been carefully opening the staples and removing pages I was sure wouldn’t be missed, so I could fill them with the stories I made up even then. Luckily she was understanding and promised me a supply of gorgeous new paper if I stopped vandalizing my exercise books.

“Happiness is new stationery,” said romance author, Rachel Bailey, who posted a photo on Facebook of her shiny new purple polka dotted clips. In under an hour she had over 150 responses in an atmosphere that I can only describe as confessional.

When I posted about my lion-shaped clips that hold the papers between their butt cheeks, Rachel said there’s “something strangely fitting about clipping draft work that way.” Not something I’d considered but must concede, she has a point.

As more and more writers ‘fessed up, Alli Sinclair described meeting her husband, “Our eyes met in the manila folder section; we shyly glanced at each other over the post-it notes, and fell in love in front of the sparkly gel pens.” A match made in stationery heaven, obviously.

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Nicki Cavalchini Strickland asked, “Does the fact that I hunted stationery in Tokyo, and search for refills online constitute an obsession?”

Savannah Blaize says, “I could happily stay in a stationery shop. Just give me a blanket and pillow.”

Names kicked around as favourite sources include in no special order, Typo, Sweden’s Kikki K, Smiggle, Officeworks, Riot and Daiso, as well as Warehouse Stationery in New Zealand and Ito in Japan. Rachel Bailey adds, “How did I not know Daiso existed? Or that electric erasers are a thing? Three levels of stationery? I might just faint.”

Tracey O’Hara also admits to a pen habit. “My favourites are the pilot erasables, like using a pen but you can rub out mistakes.”

One of the most popular ideas, other than a stationery stand at the Romance Writers of Australia national conference in Melbourne next August, came from Sandi Antonelli. “Why isn’t there a perfume called Stationery or Eau de Officeworks?”

One thing quickly becomes clear – there’s no cure for WOSA and no real desire for one, despite one call for a Stationery Sniffers’ Anonymous group. The addiction is seen as enabling the writing process as much as it satisfies the needs of the sufferers. “Just ask my credit card about my pen and notebook weakness,” says Mel Scott.

Here are 4 ways you can tell if you have WOSA:

1. You take a day job at Officeworks to feed your addiction on a staff discount.
2. You have more than a dozen of any stationery item, staplers in several colours, or clips in purple polka dots.
3. You have a shelf full of beautiful blank notebooks that are “too good to use” that you’re saving for special projects.
4. You keep drafts of your work clipped between the butt cheeks of small yellow lions.

Over to you. Do you have WOSA and how does it impact your writing life? What’s the best stationery item you’ve found recently?

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Happy writing and stationery shopping,

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

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Escapism – in romance novels, there’s no getting away from it

One of the criticisms often aimed at romance novels is that they’re escapist – as if that was a bad thing. Let’s face it, life has never exactly been a barrel of laughs. From the cave days when practically everything was out to eat us – the reason we developed a flight or fight instinct – to the rat race of today, survival is literally impossible. After all, one hundred per cent of vegetarian fitness fanatics also die.  Taking what comfort we can in our entertainment makes more sense to me than miring ourselves in misery and despair. If we aren’t going to get out of this world alive, why not make the most of the ride?

For me, romance novels fit the bill perfectly. Sure, the characters go through every kind of trial we writers can inflict on them. In the writing business, this is called getting your characters up a tree and throwing rocks at them. But we also have an unspoken deal with our readers that everything will end happily, or at least satisfactorily. Modern romances don’t have to end with a proposal of marriage, but there’s always the promise that things will turn out for the best, even if writers sometimes swap Mr. Right for Mr. Right-For-Now. I have a lot of trouble watching movies or reading books where everybody I’ve come to like dies in the end.  That’s real life, and it isn’t what romance novels are all about.

Romances cross all cultural and political barriers. My books have now sold over 30 million copies and are published in dozens of countries and languages as diverse as Icelandic, Bulgarian, Chinese and Korean. They’re sold in “chunks” on mobile phones, as Manga in Japan (adult novels in comic book format). They’re roaring onto ebook readers faster than you can say download. I even have a pirate edition of one of my books from Thailand. Why that excites me I’m not sure, unless it puts romances up there with Gucci and Nike. As far as I can establish, readers in all these languages and formats want much the same thing – an uplifting story that they know will end happily.

This doesn’t mean readers are  living lives of quiet desperation. I think it’s more likely we need escape from a too-hectic everyday life where women take care of everybody’s needs except their own. That may explain why virtual babies are so popular, demanding no time or care. Romance heroines frequently inherit property, giving them instant freedom from mortgage stress. The heroes are rich and powerful. Not hard to see the appeal in a world where women may well be the family’s sole breadwinner, or one partner can be out of work for months at a time.

Then there’s the sex. No matter how they’re written, love  scenes portray closeness, intimacy and consideration, correlating with what women often say they want  from a relationship. Love scenes can be anything from tame to torrid, as long as they emphasise these elements of caring and commitment. When Jennifer Byrne was my publisher at Reed Books, she asked me why women in romances are always attracted to bastards. The answer is that winning against a wimp is no triumph. There are no emotional stakes in loving a saint. Taming a tiger is way more satisfying. And a tame tiger is guaranteed not to trigger your fight or flight instincts.

Why do you read or write romance novels?  I’ve love to know.

Valerie

Follow me on Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

http://www.valerieparv.com

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