Deep Edits and Black Bean Soup

Cleveland Immersion Class, 2017

For the last several months, I’ve been looking forward to the first week in September. I hosted an immersion master class with the incomparable Margie Lawson and eight of my NEORWA friends. We followed the immersion with Margie presenting at NEORWA’s Cleveland Rocks Romance Conference. I learned how to use power words, have memorized rhetorical devices, and can deep edit like a boss.

Now that it’s over, I’m feeling energized and ready to take on the literary world by storm. Okay, maybe not–I’m still too tired and Margie would give me a frowny face for the cliche–but I certainly now have more tools to polish my manuscript.

If you’ve never done an immersion class or attended one of Margie’s workshops or online classes, I do hope you will. And in the meantime, here’s my recipe for vegan black bean soup (we ate a lot of soup), modified from Jonathan Waxman’s original meatier version (which is divine and which you can find in his book, A Great American Cook, on page 62):

Immersion Black Bean Soup
Serves about 8 hungry writers, or 10 less hungry ones

3 cups dried black beans
1 red onion, minced
cloves from 1 head garlic, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large bay leaf
1 to 2 tablespoons canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced (remove seeds from chile if you prefer less heat)
3/4 cup fresh cilantro (including stems), chopped, reserving a couple tablespoons of the chopped leaves for garnish
8 cups vegetable broth
freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt
1-2 limes, cut into wedges
Tortilla chips
Creme fraiche or sour cream, Greek yogurt, or coconut milk yogurt

Rinse beans and soak overnight in a large pot of cold water. (You can also use the quick soak method–boil beans in a large pot of water for 1 minute, then remove from heat and let cool for an hour.) Drain.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and saute until onions are golden. Stir in the soaked beans, chipotle, cilantro, pepper (don’t add the salt yet!), and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until beans are very tender. If soup is too thin, simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes. If soup is too thick, add more broth or water.

Discard the bay leaf and add salt to taste. Use an immersion blender to coarsely puree the soup (if you don’t have an immersion blender, you should get one, but in the meantime, you can puree the soup in small batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot). Reheat.

Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt or creme and the reserved cilantro. (Unless you’re me, and you forget the cilantro.) Serve with a lime wedge and tortilla chips.

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Attending RWA’s National Conference

So I’m a wee bit embarrassed at how long it’s been since I posted on the blog.  I’ve been buried in a novella–you wouldn’t think a 30,000 word book would take me so long to write, but alas. I am easily distracted.

Lately, I have been distracted by anticipation. I have been getting ready for RWA’s Annual Conference in Orlando next week. Workshops have been chosen, hair done, toes polished, fancy dresses purchased, and culinary path through Epcot plotted–seriously, the food in France is to die for.

If you are a romance writer and you haven’t been to Nationals, you must try to go at some point. Although it’s absolutely exhausting for extroverts and introverts alike, the creative energy is incredible. There are workshops on just about every writing-related topic under the sun, and opportunities to meet and mingle with favorite authors. And let’s not forget the free books. There are opportunities to pitch your manuscripts to literary agents and editors from all the major romance publishers.

If you’re a first timer this year, I’d suggest you keep a few things in mind:

  1. Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk. A lot.
  2. Go to the First Timers Orientation. I didn’t, but I probably should have.
  3. Use the RWA17 App on your phone. It will make it a lot easier to figure out what you’d like to attend and where you’re supposed to be at any given time.
  4. Remember that everyone is friendly! Although I know this is hard as hell for an introvert (like me), don’t be afraid to walk up to someone whose name you recognize and say hello. My first RWA National experience was in New York two years ago. When I was checking into the hotel, I spotted historical author Mia Marlowe standing at the desk beside me. I told her I loved her books and she stopped what she was doing (to the annoyance of the clerk checking her in) to give me a huge hug.
  5. Go to the book signings offered by publishers. You can meet your favorite authors, and they will give you a signed book for free. The most popular authors will have long lines, so while you wait for those lines to die down, visit the others. You may discover a new favorite and you just might make their day.
  6. When choosing between two workshops at the same time, go to the one that’s not recorded (there are a few), or to the one with conference presenters you’d like to talk to in person. Recordings of the entire conference will be available for sale, or afterwards you can choose individual workshop recordings to purchase and download on the RWA website.
  7. Remember to take breaks. It’s so much fun, but it can be exhausting for a writer who’s used to living in her own head. If you’re overwhelmed. go hide in a corner with a book, go back to your room, take a swim. Remember that workshops are recorded, so you won’t miss anything. No one will think any less of you, because many of us will be doing the exact same thing.
  8. If you have a manuscript ready to go, pitch! It’s terrifying, but it’s good. If you didn’t sign up for a pitch session ahead of time, fear not. Slots usually open up on pitch day, and you can grab one of them.
  9. Google “RWA First Time” for more articles on what to expect.
  10. And if you see me, say hi. I would love to meet you!
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