My Conference Experience
Long post warning. Although it is just a summary there was so many things to go through.
It has been over a month since I attended the Romance writers Australia conference. I have been busy following up on things that I learnt at the conference and launching my podcast Finding Elara. I did have an amazing time at the the Sydney conference. Not just from the overwhelming learning but also the people that I was able to spend the time with.
I was so fortunate to share a room with two of the loveliest writers who are also in the aspiring group, but I know that they won't be there for long. When you are surrounded by amazing people that have the same passion for the art of writing, how can you not leave without feeling like the world is your oyster. I arrived in Sydney on Thursday and attended the conference Friday through Sunday. I tried to stay mindful and absorb all of the information that was swimming around me that I am sure I missed heaps. That just means that I am going to have to find a way to save up and try to get to the next one!
My Conference Journey
I attended the a workshop run by the talented Rachel Bailey entitles the Construction of a romance Novel. It was a whole day of info bombs and interspersed with definitions and entertaining relate video clips. I stopped taking notes half way through as I knew that I couldn't take it all in. The saving grace was that Rachel is going to send the PowerPoint slides to everyone that attended. The big take away for me was that although this is serious business and you have to be committed to progressing your art. Every step of the way you need to be able to find the right story for you. Rachel had a way of teaching breaking down the different aspects of a novel so she could explain things that I didn't even think about. Then she would summarise each section nicely so that you would be able to have some clear take homes about the subjects in question. The picture below is one of the slides that she started with. If you would like an idea of what we wen through.
After a whole day of learning it was time for a little bit of fun. The Harlequin cocktail party was so much fun and people dressed up for the occasion. Some of the costumes were amazing. Pictured below was my favourite.
It was a fairly tame night though. I was entertained by some of the people wearing sashes that I had to fill in the blank of, or ask what they said. But where is the fun in that.
A lovely welcome speech followed by a keynote by Kate Cuthbert - Consenting adults.
In the Keynote Kate spoke about what romance looks like in 2018 and how Romance runs on hope that women's Lives can be better. She spoke about how writing about active informed consent will help readers feel empowered and anything after the fact is natural. She spoke about how the heroes in these novels need to be crafted to reach their potential. It was a great way to start the day, it got me thinking about my takes and how I can add depths to my heroes.
The second Keynote by DR Amy Mathews, DR Lynn Ward, and Elizabeth Rolls - "Name the Bits: an academic discussion of the struggle to name the magic foo" was very confronting in its detailed approach but highly illuminating. They discussed the paradigm between the naming of male and female genitalia, how it can effect a woman's confidence. They veered in to as women we worry because we simply don't have all the information and generally are too shy to look. There has been a number of negative terms associated with the female body parts being dirty and that it is a mystery how it all works. They described in details some of the terms used to describe the Vagina over the years and the mis-representation that had has been spread throughout history. THey corrected some of this information to the people in the audience and spoke about how female empowerment can be achieved by sharing this information. Again it was so informative and interesting.
Then the gem for next year was announced which had immediately sparked some ideas of how I would like to move forward with my submission next year.
Then there was a short break where there was lovely snacks and Tea. There was a possibility with the water that I drank that there was going to be too much blood in my tea stream.
After the break I attended my first Panel.
Penguin random house Panel - Love between the pages.
Helene Young, Anthea Hosdon, Christine Wells, Fiona McArthur, Jenette Paul/J Ford.
Multiple combinations of these ladies toured around three states of Australia and shared their messages with a wide variety of audiences. It was illuminating to talk about their experiences on the road and how they made life long friendships. They shared some tips how to best maximise your exposure on these journeys and to make the most of it. It was described as a Win-Win for all of them. For a few of the ladies it was not their first tour so they had the experience to compare notes.
Top Tip: Always talk about your backstory and make sure the your have something to hand out with contact information and newsletter connections.
Lunch - a moment to refresh and share with some friends who attended different rooms.
Subverting Tropes in YA - Shivaun Plozza
I was looking forward to this one. I categorise my stories a YA and it held my particular interest. Shivaun started the session by defining a trope and opening discussion about different tropes that are out there in the romance category. She said that Tropes aren't inherently bad, it is when they Perpetuate power imbalances that they cause real life consequences. Diving into the YA category she spoke about why kids are reading. They are well informed, vocal and are still in the process of developing their moral standpoint. Saying that readers have expectations of tropes and to subvert them means to undermine the inherent power imbalances. We were placed in groups to subvert some tropes and then write a pitch to sell to her. It was interesting to work with different writers that I had only just met. There was much discussion with the group and it was a very engaging presentation. Her final thoughts summarised that tropes were not all bad but they do need to be identifies and understood in the projects that you are working on.
Then there was another break to refill my tea levels.
Next Keynote was by Harper Collins
There were four people on the panel but unfortunately I didn't write down their whole names. They bounced off each other, stepping up when it was something that each specialised in. They went into detail about the different information required to bring a book to market. All the factors that influence the purchase of a romance book were separated and discussed. It seemed incredibly involved with all the factors that have to be considered by the publisher. They spoke about the different areas in which they prefer to publish. There are a few different options available with Harper Collins as it is such a large company. It was a high value keynote and I wish that I would be able to hear it again to really understand everything that undoubtedly went in one ear and out the other.
A panel of Agents, judges and publishers all lined up to hear the introductions to peoples anonymous books.
Once someone reached a point where they would stop reading they would raise their hand. The people in the audience were engaged wondering if it would be their book next. It was good to people watch at this stage while I was listening.
After the end of the slushpile that was it for the day. I was feeling a little stifled after being shut in all day so I went to see some of the sites and I was fortunate enough to find a park. Oh the the blessings that only nature can bestow. I walked around for awhile until I felt re-energised enough to face the rest of the day. It was a double bonus that there were pokemon everywhere that needed to be caught.
Yet again, people dressed in their best for the Gala dinner. It was lovely to see so many people in frocks. During the meal there were a few awards presented to great applause. It was a great opportunity to network and meet new people. My heart was touched by the kind nature of all the people at my table. I was last to be served (I have an alergy to pork) and every one waited. I didn't think that kind of generosity and consideration still existed in this world and it was just beautiful.
Escape the after party
Once all the meals and presentations were complete we let our hair down, so to speak. There was a dance floor and we all made good use of it. There wasn't any superstars busting a move on the floor, everyone was just in it for the fun. I had a ball.
Grit for writers- Tamar Sloan
The way that Grit was explained by Tamar was the mindset of our beloved JK Rowling. She started with the rejection letters, family trauma, depression but she stuck with it. She showed her Grit to stick through the hard stuff and follow her story to the end. Tamar said, that to have a grit mindset helps you push for your purpose, it can be motivating through the lulls. She mentions that the two components for grit are passion and perseverance. There are so many obstacles that you have to face as a writer that you need to have grit to stick with it. She gave some mindset techniques that you can use and elaborated on gritty actions that will help you reach your goals. There was a lot of talk about fixed mindset and growth mindset. She encouraged us (in the audience) to consider what success means to us. What is a successful author to us? One of the activities that we went through was thinking of something that brings us down and adding Yet to the end. For example, I am not published... Yet. The also said practising without feedback is like bowling through a curtain. I have shared that with my kids. I really enjoyed the presentation and found a heap of ideas and strategies that I hope to put into place.
The next level; how we build your career and craft your book. Jo Mackay and Annabel Blay
This was another high value panel. The ladies from harlequin broke down exactly what happens after the pitch. what processes that they need to go through and all the meetings with acquisition teams and layout formulas. The cover changes over time. I was surprised at everything that they had to commit to when they said yes to your book. I had been to talk last year where I was told all the information about publishers but it wasn't as detailed. I was stunned and it was awesome. There was 10 top tips that they would recommend to new writers who were looking at pitching their work that I found really interesting. I was getting a little exhausted by this time though and all of the people that were running a little low. They should have had chocolate on the tables instead of mints that would have perked me up.
Valery Parv, Melony Melbourne, Kaz Delany/Kerry Lane, Alison Stewart/Alyson Brydeson
The ladies that were on this panel were amazing inspirations. Their industry experience shone through with the witty discourse. The ladies shared their stories of how they started writing with the first competitions that they entered and then told us how the conference rejuvenated them every year. something that they looked forward to. They had many differences in the journey that brought them to the panel but also there were many milestones that joined them together. Mostly related to the community of RWA. They were asked about their lightbulb moments that brought them back every time and kept them interested in writing and they were unique. But, they all agreed with each other. It was a united panel.
1. Understand you have a core story to be true
2. Never Compare
3. Sleep on responses
4. Fear of the blank screen never goes away, write in spite of it.
Raffle Draw -
The fundraising raffle was drawn and it made a tear well in my eyes when one of the members stood and pledged a donation to double the raffle money, know that it was earmarked for people who are in financial strife. Yet another piece of kindness in the world shining through RWA.
It looks like next years show will be amazing and I hope that I will be able to attend. They announced the theme for next years cocktail party, twisted fairy tales. That is right up my alley.