My second day at the NYC con was not nearly as busy as the first. I decided that I needed sleep so didn't get up until it was almost time for lunch. Although the food was rotten (when did the food at these things get so bad?!) the key note address by Jennifer Cruise had the audience, and her, choked up.
Whether you read contemporary romance or not, you have to respect Jennifer Cruise for creating her own brand of romance. She has taken her long academic career and turned her romance novels into quirky happy endings for women who are in the prime of their lives (40's) and have either been left by a long time husband or decided that the single life was better then settling for Mr. Not So Perfect. She is also well known for her "true" sex scenes. I experienced her first in CRAZY FOR YOU and was just stunned when I read a sex scene with a woman who was having trouble concentrating on the act because she lived such a busy life. If any of you out there say you haven't experienced a few thoughts like "hmmm do I need milk?" while Romeo is performing…well you're lying!
Jennifer Cruise's talk was about story tellers. Her main point was that there are too many "writers" in the world. Writers are a dime a dozen, it is the story tellers who have to answer "the call". "I am not saying that craft isn't important. As my writing group knows I LIVE for craft, but the epiphany I had this winter while struggling with my newest book was that the story teller in us is the true voice and the craft is just what shapes the book."
She used many quotes (a kickback I'm sure, to her academic paper writing) supporting the need for entertainment and story, but all I kept thinking about was a Richard Bach book I had read in High School. I can't remember which one, and don't have my book shelf handy here in New York to look it up, but I have always remembered Bach's preface. In it he speaks of himself as a reluctant writer. He admits to hating writing, but that the stories won't leave him alone. It seems that Jennifer Cruise has experienced the same thing when her call was to write romance and not something more respected.
"Don't ever listen to what people say about your calling. We write the best stories…stories that teach people the ultimate life lesson – love. Never be ashamed of that, and don't listen to the critics! They just wish they could do what you do!"
Cruise went on to explain the trials and tribulations of her latest book – a book that she felt was her last since she couldn't find any more stories inside her. "I broke all my own rules with BET ME, but the story teller has to be number one, the writer number two, and your editor three. All of these are important, but if I listened to my writer then my book would have been the same bad book that was rejected many years ago and not the fun book it is today."
With tears in her eyes she finished her speech, "Remember their are enough writers out there – God don't I know it. Be a story teller, and tell them to anyone who will listen."