Romance Writers of Australia 2013 Conference: Riding the Waves

So, I’m little (okay, a lot) late in writing about the Romance Writers of Australia conference (RWAus13) which was held last weekend in Fremantle, Western Australia. I didn’t really know what to expect from the conference, having never attended one for fun before and still being in the reader more than a writer phase.

Conference venue – The Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle

Well, I can tell you it was super fun and super exhausting. Authors know how to have a good time! The two days were packed with socialising, plenaries, raffles, lucky numbers, breakout sessions, chill out rooms, fangirling and food. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a fun-packed weekend in Perth, and I live here! Plus, the conference bag…wow! The icing on the cake was it being perfectly acceptable to tweet and take pictures throughout the conference! Plus, to be able to live and breathe writing for a weekend was incredibly relaxing in an intense way!

The Destiny Romance display

Before I launch into the sessions, let me tell you about the raffles and lucky numbers. All the prizes were books and book related things and there were heaps of them! I didn’t win a raffle prize, but I was lucky enough to have my number called. What was the prize? At the front of the stage was a huge bookcase filled with books, and winners got to pick one. I think I dithered quite a lot, but finally chose a copy of Kaz Delaney’s
Dead, Actually.

The day opened with our MC Jennie Jones introducing Julia Quinn. Yes, the Julia Quinn. For someone who has written so many books, I was expecting her to be older…but she’s not – she’s so young! was the cry that went round my table. (RWAus is also perfectly okay to attend when you don’t know many people- everyone was so friendly and I met heaps of people over the weekend). Julia was funny and lovely – she held the audience captivated, particularly with her list making! She also said to make the time to write (no matter how little it is) and to have a life outside of writing. (I’ve extended that to apply to a life outside of work – exactly why I am writing this now!) Julia’s also a fan of the Lizzie Bennet diaries and she has a treadmill desk!

Julia Quinn speaks!

We then had a panel discussion about third party publishing (i.e. when you don’t self-publish). I found the whole publishing business fascinating as a reader – there are so many hurdles to that book getting in our hands! There were many publishing houses represented – Simon and Schuster, Entangled Publishing, Harlequin Mills and Boon, Hachette, Escape Publishing and Twelfth Planet Press. Each person brought a different dimension to the process and it was interesting to compare similarities and differences. Harlequin have a new range coming out soon and have signed many new authors so far this year. Likewise, Hachette have some exciting books released later this year.

The third party publishing panel

Followed by morning tea (oh Booktopia – those jam filled cupcakes!) and a browse through the conference bookstore (the Co-op Bookshop), we headed into our first breakout session. There was the choice of five sessions to attend and I found it quite difficult to choose which ones to attend! For this session, I went to Buy this book! by Abby Zidle from Simon and Schuster New York. Abby had us act out an editorial meeting (yours truly was the Director of Sales – which I took very seriously, partaking in a lot of market research in the bookstores of Perth over the next few days…who needs petrol when you can have books?). Once again, it was eye-opening to see the number of things that must be considered when publishers are thinking about buying a book. There’s how the book will be marketed – is there room at the publishing house and in the target market for this genre? How can we publicise it? Where will the audience buy it from? (Very interesting that those top 10 books you see may be top 10 in price paid for the position – not based on sales.) Is there cross-marketing potential? Will the publisher say yes? (I hope this book does get published – historical with pirates sounds tremendously cool).

Then it was lunchtime and the RWAus organising committee should be commended for having a great lunch feast – no sandwiches for us, but a buffet lunch at the Atrium restaurant at the conference venue (The Esplanade Hotel). There was hot food, seafood aplenty, salads and a ton of desserts! Plates piled high, we had time to eat, chat and stroll around Fremantle. I also had to confess to Bernadette from Hachette that I have never been to Rottnest!

Back to breakout and this was a tough choice to make – Julia Quinn talking about dialogue or a panel with some lovely authors who have published with Random House? The fangirl in me won out and I went to a panel of Alissa Callen, Loretta Hill, Kate Belle, Margareta Osborn and Jaye Ford, joined by Beverley Cousins (publisher at Random House). The panel discussed the schedule of how a book is published – from editing to marketing, covers and publicity. Sometimes the turnaround is very fast, but it can also accommodate for unplanned events. Loretta Hill shared with us some funny (and quite scary) emails she had received, one asking for the contact details of Dan (hero from The Girl in Steel-capped Boots)!

The panel

For the last breakout session of the day I attended Waves of Muslin: Bringing the Regency to Life. Jennifer Kloester took this session – she is THE expert on Georgette Heyer. She had wonderful photos of Heyer’s notebooks and shared with us how Heyer conducted her research. We then had a go at taking boring source material and changing it into wonderful prose. I found this quite difficult as my day job often requires I take boring source material and turn it into…boring summarised referenced material. Others did it brilliantly, evoking a sense of emotion and pace into the prose.

I then met up with the lovely Rebecca Raisin and attended the final session of the day, the AGM, followed by raffle draws and lucky numbers. That brought the first day to a close, but there was still the ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association) book signing to attend…

To be continued…

Monday 26th August: What I Bought at RWAus13

ARRA Signing or Why I Am a Total Fangirl

Day 2 of RWAus: Coke, Tim Tams, Smart Bitches and Why Romance Rocks

What’s On My Wishlist post RWAus13

Monday 2nd September: The contents of the conference bag and more!

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