Tuesday, 23 August 2011

From Here To Eternity

Romance Writers of Australia’s 20th Anniversary Conference 11th-14th August 2011

A chilly Melbourne weekend brought together nearly 350 writers from all over Australia and overseas as they hit the Hilton On The Park with enthusiasm, excitement and a camaraderie that is not often found in an industry where people are competing for the same holy grail. In what other business would you find colleagues cheering you on when you get that wonderful promotion they’ve also been working hard to obtain? Publication is the aim, and the conference is the place to learn some of the skills to get there. It’s also the place to pitch to an editor or agent, network with old friends and make news ones, and let down your hair at the various social functions after working hard all day in the workshops.

From Here To Eternity was the Romance Writers of Australia’s twentieth anniversary conference and it was wonderfully thought out each step of the way. Lots of very high profile published authors, editors and presenters came from all over to make it RWA’s biggest and best conference yet. There were so many lightbulb moments, I could write a book about it J While I didn’t attend all the workshops and plenary sessions, here is a snapshot of the highlights for me.

Special mention must go to Mills & Boon Sweet Romance and Mills & Boon Medical Romance author Marion Lennox’s opening keynote address on Sunday morning, “Your Writer’s Staffroom, with Steamy Bits.” Marion kept us captivated with her witty style, poignant details and telling photos. I wish I’d taken notes because some of her lines were hysterically funny. (And you can blame post-conference brain drain for the lack of examples – that and me refusing to name the people in those funny photos J)

For me, the highlight workshop was Mills & Boon Medical Romance and Carina Press author, Fiona Lowe’s “Writing The Male Point Of View”. Fiona has such a great, easy to understand presenting style and always includes lots of examples. Fiona has a way with words both on the printed page and as a speaker. The clips from a popular British sit-com, Coupling really helped us grasp her points, at the same time giving us a laugh or three. I’ve never watched the show but will be looking out for the series! Interesting we only had one male attending the workshop and he actually said that Fiona was spot on about everything.  

For the perfect ending to a fairytale conference, the closing address on Sunday afternoon, “And They All Lived Happily Ever After” delivered by Jane Porter, was inspiring and everyone there was enthralled and a little surprised by her candidness and perseverance. Jane wrote many books before being accepted by Mills & Boon Presents/Sexy. She claims she has about thirteen manuscripts that will never be published and she read out the rejection letters for many of those books.

While we nodded in understanding and cried inside just a little with each rejection she read out, Jane revealed that it took her fifteen years of constantly writing, polishing and submitting before she got the call. Fifteen years! How’s that for tenacity!

I knew Jane online before her first sale and I remember the excitement when she sent the email telling us that she’d sold. We conversed for many years but lost touch after a while. Nevertheless, I went up and introduced myself and was surprised when she hugged me and remembered me. What a lovely person.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The romance writing industry is full of lovely people. My only regret at this conference is that I didn’t have the time to get around and speak to every one of the 350 people attending, but you can be sure I did try.