Friday, August 23, 2013

Wrap-up of RWA 2013 -- Riding the Waves

Me and the Destiny pirate, who was giving out roses
to all the Destiny authors, in celebration of Destiny's
first birthday. Great party! 
The title of this year's Romance Writers of Australia conference, Riding the Waves, was very appropriate for me. I was riding the waves of back spasms and pain killers, neither of which is the most suitable state to be trying to absorb knowledge, network with peers, and meet and greet readers. But I survived! And although I struggled, the conference was far too good to miss out on, and so I soldiered on.*

Unfortunately it meant that I had to abandon my plan to post updates from each day of the conference, as I did last year. So instead I'm going to give you a wrap-up of my highlights. Without further ado:

Friday workshop - Venus on the Half Shell (The Virgin's Journey)
Loved it! The workshop by Kim Hudson was a proper, true workshop -- she had plenty of activities and variety in her presentation to keep a massive roomful of people informed and entertained all day. I enjoyed revisiting the Virgin's Journey and even though I have a terrible habit of buying craft books and never reading them, I am going to make an effort to read Kim's.

A lot of Kim's points really resonated with me, because I tend to have the most sympathy with the female characters I write. And although the virgin's journey isn't necessarily feminine or masculine, in our world (and the romance genre world) the elements of the journey tend to be more related to women. It was also great to revisit some concepts and to spend a little time thinking about my WIP. I wrote down a couple of key points that have gone into my writing this week, so time well spent!

Main conference
So many sessions! I didn't get to everything (unfortunately due to aforementioned illness, some rest breaks were required) and there were often competing sessions where I wanted to go to more than one on at the same time! I do hope we're going to get to a point where all the sessions are recorded for later listening like they do at RWA US.

I was grateful to Alex Adsett for her informative and interesting session on publishing contracts. It could have been a really dry session, but Alex kept it informative and practical and although I know I'll never be an expert, at least I know now some of the key points to look out for when I'm next sent an inch-thick stack of paper covered in legalese. (Aside: I love how now I think of that as a "when" and not an "if". Hopefully I'm not jinxing myself!)

I also very much enjoyed the opening session on Day 2, Survivor: Submission Island, where a panel of agents and publishers were read the opening scenes from various books and asked to hold up signs as to when they would stop reading if it was a submission they'd received. Afterwards, they discussed why they'd made the decisions they had. (Congratulations to the brave people who put forward their work for dissection!)

My main lesson from this session? Publishing is a very, VERY subjective business. If you know your book is good, have some relatively objective outside feedback that it's good (not just your friends and relatives) but you still keep getting rejected? Keep trying. You just haven't found the agent/editor that's right for you.

I also enjoyed the self publishing panel with Cathleen Ross, Nina Bruhns (linking to her Goodreads account because her website appears to have been hacked, agh) and Kandy Shepherd. Interestingly, talking to a friend who attending the RWA US conference, they said that the conference was full of self-publishing sessions, and that they were among the most popular at the conference. This was the only self-publishing session and I wish there had been more, because the content covered was so broad. I could definitely see a need for beginner/intermediate/advanced style sessions that covered the kind of information relevant depending on your progress in the area.

I'm being nice. My friends, of course,
are nautical.
That said, I definitely learned a lot, including how daunting self-publishing can be. Definitely not the magic train to fame and riches that some consider it to be. But also possibly worth a try if you're willing to put in the hard yards. I'm appreciative of all three authors being so honest and candid in sharing their own stories and successes and failures.

Social events

I did have a lovely time at the "Nautical or Nice" cocktail party. I went with "Nice" figuring there'd be plenty of nautical to go around. I'm not sure if the pink hair is really me, but it was fun for a night!

There were certainly plenty of entertaining and wonderful costumes. I do like a bit of dress up. I wasn't going to bother this year, but then I just couldn't help myself. And I thought about what I already had, and that with the addition of some white gloves and a pink wig I could pull off "nice" I just couldn't resist...

Any rumours about me and my sore back dancing to Nutbush City Limits on Saturday night after having consumed significant amounts of champagne are totally and absolutely false and I completely reject such claims.**

ARRA signing

It was my absolute pleasure to participate in my second-ever Australian Romance Readers Association signing. The ARRA signing is open to people beyond conference attendees, and offers the opportunity meet and talk with lots of wonderful romance authors -- and get autographs!

Julia Quinn and Sarah Wendell were by far the most "in demand" from the crowd, but I'm quite pleased to say that I didn't go too shabbily with giving away a few Emmie autographs across the afternoon! Last year was my first year and my book had only recently been published, so this year was the first time I had people coming up to me who'd actually heard of me before and told me how much they enjoyed my books. (I'll never get sick of hearing that!)
For me, the highlight was when one reader produced a copy of "Just For Today" that she'd brought from home and had covered in Contact! So delightful to see someone treasure a book in that way, and the fact that it was my book . . . Well! Let's just say it thrilled this little black duck immensely.

In conclusion
Yet another fantastic conference from RWA. It's almost unfathomable to me that this event is produced entirely by volunteers. Every single member of the organising committee has my deep gratitude and thanks. Next year the conference is in Sydney and I'm pretty sure I'll be there. But I'm also hoping I might come along fresh from having attended the RWA US program in San Antonio, Texas. Well, that's the plan, anyway! Fingers crossed!

*If you're attending a similar event and are similarly unwell, I highly recommend publicly announcing your state on social media. Having people concerned for my welfare and continually asking how I was feeling and whether I was okay was absolutely wonderful and made me feel very cared for. Thank you. You'll be pleased to know I'm feeling much better. :-)

**"Completely reject" on the grounds that it may or may not have happened.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where are you, Emmie?

I'm frantically working hard to meet my deadline, dear readers! I promise I'll be back soon!