Skip to content

Posts from the ‘#conference’ Category

OMG! I won an award…

IMG_6804Last night I was HONOURED to receive the Romance Writers of Australia’s Lynne Wilding Award for Meritorious Service.

While I have to admit to being a bit bummed that we weren’t all together for the awards, it’s probably a good thing as who knows what babble might have spilled from my lips! Knowing the other nominees, I certainly did not think I would win, I did not give any thought to what I might say if I did win and I probably would have had a drink or two (or maybe three or four) by the time the announcement rolled around. So, it’s probably a good thing that I’ve had time to sleep on my ‘acceptance speech,’ so to speak.

But, I do want to say something. I promise I won’t take too much of your time.

I want to start by acknowledging the other finalists. I KNOW how hard all of the nominees have worked, or are working, for our organisation, squeezing time from all of their other commitments, and I want them to know that their contribution is seen and APPRECIATED.

Our organisation is a membership driven organisation. We have one part time paid employee, and we aren’t rolling in dough. We can ONLY continue to grow and thrive if our members step up to the plate. And there are plenty of opportunities for members to do that.

So, if you are already volunteering in some way, shape, or form, THANK YOU. And I see you.

If you aren’t, why not?

117391634_10159547209911808_964694527113813950_oI completely get that we’re all busy. I care for my Mum (my Dad passed away last year). I work full time (sometimes more than full time). I have family commitments, friend commitments, wanting to curl up and introvert commitments. I eek out time to write (and, frankly, lately, it’s not been a lot). But I also take time in my schedule to volunteer.

I’ve volunteered at conferences to help with newbies, I’ve introduced presenters, read from the slush pile and organised and manned the pitch desk (with a friend!). I’ve judged contest entries, I’ve coordinated contests, I’ve taken on the judge coordinator role, and now I’ve put my hand up for committee.

I volunteer because I think it’s IMPORTANT. And because if I don’t, who will? I mean, I can’t expect everyone else to carry the load just so that I can enjoy all the fun.

And so, I’m putting out a call to arms.

If you’ve got other stuff going on in your life, I get it, I really do. But if you truly think RWA is valuable (and I’m assuming you do if you’re a member) there’s always SOMETHING you can do. It doesn’t have to be massive.

Start by putting your hand up to judge a comp (yeah, I know, this one’s near and dear to my heart -we’re always looking for judges). All you have to do is read some great stories and give some KIND feedback. Some of our comp entries are really short. And you don’t have to read hundreds. Two, or three or four will do. A couple of hours of your time.

If you can commit a bit more time, think about Committee, or some of the other volunteer roles that are going around online at the moment. If you don’t know what’s up, contact me, or anyone on the Committee and ask. We might sometimes be slow at coming back to you because… you know… life, but we will.

68284523_862568540779923_419858900297187328_nAnd, when conference rolls around again, think about putting your hand up to help there too.

Because RWA doesn’t work unless you do.

And I really want RWA to work.

After #RWAus20… What’s Next?

ViewBecause of COVID-19, the Romance Writers of Australia took their conference online this year with five full days of jam-packed craft and business sessions.

With the benefit of all online sessions, conference goers got to ‘see’ everything and, frankly, I think we should all be careful what we wish for… It’s funny how, even when you’re just sitting at watching, and not engaging in all the social extras that you’d have at an in-person conference, you’re as exhausted by the end of it as you would have been had you been there in person!

Tweet1

Anyway, despite the conference exhaustion and general day job woes, I’ve been trying to process all my takeaways and tips and trying to figure out how I can fold all these into my writing practice. And, of course, I figured I needed to blog about the experience.

So, here goes, my top fifteen takeaways from #RWAus20 (I was going to try and get to 20 because, you know 2020, but too many words!)

  1. Storytellers are bestsellers.

Day one of the conference was a full day workshop presented by Liz Pelletier of Entangled Publishing. I’m going to say here that I’m aware Entangled has had some questions asked of it over the last 18 months or so, but even acknowledging those, I’m a fan of Liz’s style. She has a clear way of working and she’s not shy about it. And she prioritises a good story – which is where we get our first takeaway – Storytellers are bestsellers. This is pretty true. Think of Fifty Shades, or Twilight. They’re not the best crafted books ever written, but both authors spin a tale that clearly engages readers.

  1. Voice is everything

Another piece of wisdom from Liz. And again, I think this is true. You can teach craft (to a greater or lesser extent). But, you can’t teach voice as easily (if at all). And if the voice isn’t there, the story’s pretty boring…

  1. Define what success means for you.

Despite this being #3, it’s actually what’s been taking up most of my thinking following the conference. What do I want to achieve in my writing career? Not what do others think I should achieve – but what DO I WANT? I’m pretty sure the answer to this is hybrid author bringing in enough money to reduce the day job to part time (as much as I whinge about it, I like the day job, and it provides plenty of material for books) but I’m still refining that thought.

  1. Edit less. Write more. Rewrite rather than edit.

Another takeaway that burned straight into my soul. I’m a perfectionist writer – and while I’m working on those tendencies, I do tend to like to have things (be that chapter, paragraph or sentence) ‘right’ before I move on. That said, the more I edit, the more I lose my voice… and/or the story I’m trying to tell becomes a jumbled mess, and so I need to write – or rewrite – more, rather than editing.

  1. Don’t be afraid to rework or repurpose anything.

I have SO MUCH stuff on my hard drive. I’m keen to see what I can turn it into… I’m particularly hoping to repurpose some shorts into an anthology next year. They’re better on Amazon and its ilk than on my hard drive… they can’t be bestsellers there!

  1. First impressions count.

I did know this, but Tanera Simons, Agent at Darley Anderson made the point in her session on agents and the slush pile and it bears repeating.

Tweet2

Don’t try to be clever with your agent submission. Be professional.

  1. Work smarter not harder. Keep it simple, stupid.

Well, no shit Sherlock. This also resonated given I’d just completed Becca Syme’s Write Better-Faster course as I came into #RWAus20. But hours sitting staring at the manuscript (or, more correctly, scrolling on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) is not ‘working’ no matter how good I am at it. And I’m REALLY good at it. So, now I’m working on trying a few new process tricks to see if I can get more words on the page. I’ll let you know how I go…

  1. The hard stuff. The STAKES.

We all know, to get to the Happy Ever After, we have to pass through the Dark Night of the Soul (or whatever you call your bleak moment). This is where I get perpetually stuck. Even though I have Anne Gracie’s voice in my head telling me to ‘make it worse’ I don’t like making my characters suffer. I just like giving them all the sex. But I digress.

I’m going to HAVE to work on my STAKES. Because stakes are EVERYTHING.

  1. Write the books. Get them out there. Do it again.

This is how publishing – traditional or self – works, right? I have lots of half finished stuff. And I think it’s okay. But unless I get it finished, and in the hands of readers, I’m not actually an author, right? Time to WRITE THE BOOKS.

Tweet3

  1. Ellipses can be a crutch word. Who knew?

I use ellipses… and em-dashes­— ALL THE TIME. And all the editors out there just flinched. I know. Sorry. I particularly love ellipses and em-dashes in dialogue. My characters are always trailing off… or cutting each other—

Tweet4

I’m hilarious.

I’ll limit them. I promise.

  1. Cut the boring bits from your dialogue

As Rachael Bailey told us… dialogue isn’t real speech. We don’t need the boring bits. Cut!

  1. Stop blogging.

Hahaha. I saved the best for almost last… I’m unlikely to stick to this one because I like chatting to you all from time to time. But, I won’t be holding myself (or, at least, trying to hold myself) to a schedule. I’m just going to keep on popping by when I have something to tell you. Eventually, I’ll shift this to a newsletter… but am going to focus on getting the words done first.

  1. Online conferencing is worse for my bank account than an in person one…

I bought WAY TOO MANY books because, you know, my Amazon account was RIGHT THERE as people mentioned them.

Oh, and, do you like my new t-shirts… I blame Tanya Nellestein and Kerrie Starbuck…

If you also want to match, check out jordandene.com Photos also from jordandene.com.

  1. Delight in the dull.

So, the order in which I’ve attacked these takeaways is a little all over the place. But I wanted to finish with a few other points from Anna Hackett’s keynote, which closed #RWAus20 on Sunday night – and was fabulous.

Tweet5Tweet6

  1. Romance sells joy.

Life in the time of COVID-19 has been hard work. Everyone’s had their trials and tribulations – and they’ve been different for everyone. I’m still counting my chickens. My family is well, thankfully, and I can still work from home. Both of which make me very privileged in the current environment.

But to balance the dark, there is always some light. And hopefully, for some, that has been romance. Romance sells joy (so said Liz Pelletier). We’re writing, and selling, the fantasy of the billionaire, the brother’s best friend, the friend turned lover, the enemy turned lover, the happy ever after.

68284523_862568540779923_419858900297187328_n

My peeps at #RWAus19… joyful exhaustion…!

We are selling JOY, damnit.

And the world needs more of it.

So, go forth, Romancelandia, and spread your JOY!

#RWAus17 #LoveGoneWild

It’s been almost A MONTH since #LoveGoneWild wrapped up and, thanks to a little family stuff and a little work stuff that all hit the fan when I arrived home, it’s taken me that long to wrap my head around the whirlwind! But never fear, I’m now here, with a delayed recap of a few shining moments from #RWAus17 #LoveGoneWild.

#1 Marion Lennox and Kate Forsyth are wonderful

Marion Lennox kicked off proceedings with a keynote speech Saturday morning. My two biggest take-aways from her speech were:IMG_2105

  • Treasure your magic (even if it’s dragon themed, Bible-belted erotica).
  • Feel your gumnut (see photo), and let it remind you of all the things you love about writing.

Kate Forsyth brought up the rear (so to speak…) giving the closing keynote. It’s a tough gig – everyone is exhausted (and a little hung over) by this point – but, as you would expect from Kate, she was magical (and I was too mesmerised to tweet!). What did stick with me from Kate’s story was… keep on writing!

#2 Tattoo has hit the street

Tattoo, the 2017 RWA Spicy Bites anthology was launched Saturday morning, and awards were presented Saturday night. My writing besties (the Love Sabrists) had a lot to celebrate… Nardia also has a story in the Spicy Bites anthology while Tanya took out both first and second place in the Selling Synopsis competition this year (too clever!)

 

#3 Learning lots of stuff

The conference proper really kicks off on Saturday with 400-something writers going every which way. It’s frenetic. And amazing. And just a little bit scary.

Ally Blake’s session on The Organised Writer was fantastic. I took a lot of notes in this session but some of the simplest – and likely most useful – tips included:

  • Don’t be busy. Just be productive.
  • Words fly when you’re having fun.
  • Finish the damn book.
  • Be prepared to work.
  • Plant your backside in the chair.

I was also completely overwhelmed (in a good way) by Liz Pelletier’s session on growth hacking. We needed a full day to really do justice to her knowledge and general awesomeness, but her application of business and marketing principles to writing made a lot of sense to me. And I now have ‘ALL THE FEELS’ post-it-noted on my computer…

Then there was Amy Andrews. I love hearing the stories of other authors and I opted for Amy’s roundtable because I LOVE her Sydney Smoke rugby series (so HOT! If you’ve not already started it, do yourself a favour and get them now! #4 Playing with Forever is coming soon). Amy was completely generous with her time and her stories and, I appreciated the fact that she gave really honest answers to our questions including letting us know what has worked, and hasn’t worked, for her. I walked away from that session completely inspired and ready to work on my manuscript (see #4 Pitch Perfect below!)

#4 Pitch Perfect

IMG_2150

 

I was scheduled for a pitch at 9.10 am Sunday morning.

9.10 am.

Sunday. Morning.

Which is, really, the ass-crack of dawn after two nights of partying with a bunch of introverts.

But, I got up and, after copious amounts of coffee and a doughnut or two (#breakfastofchampions), dressed up and showed up and scored a request for the manuscript for my trouble! In fact, I pitched twice – and got two requests – so now I’m polishing that manuscript to make it shine before I send it off.

 

#5 Catching up with the writing buddies

There was a lot of drinking. Caffeinated and otherwise. There was also a bit of planning, some goal setting, a lot of selfies, a little outrageous face painting and general silliness. In particular we rocked an eclectic menagerie at the ‘Bring out the animal in you’ cocktail party… with a peacock, butterfly, parrot, owl, cheetah, leopard and a deer.

IMG_2282

 

And then…

It was over and I was drinking coffee at the airport, bemoaning the fact that it was all over for another year. My coffee cup may be empty… but my writing spirit is full. See you in my hometown at #RWAus18 #Sydney #cannotwait

It’s 19 days to #LoveGoneWild

OMG! Squee! T -19 days and counting until we all go wild at #LoveGoneWild #RWAus17 and… well, I’m just a little bit excited.

IMG_6366Love Gone Wild is my third conference, so I’m now an ‘old hand’ – ha! I remember how nervous I was at my first conference (Get Fresh in Melbourne in 2015) and how I made myself a promise going into the event that I would say yes to everything – no matter what it was. That promise was hard for me – I’m normally cautious and don’t often say yes to anything that I’ve not been able to plan, organise or research. But I did it for conference and it was the best thing I have ever done.

So, in the spirit of passing some good advice onto anyone attending for the first time, here are my ten best tips for getting the most out of conference.

1. Step out of your comfort zone

Make yourself a promise to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Set yourself a challenge to meet five new people. Introduce yourself to five of your favourite authors (this is a tough one but try it, I dare you!). Try to work your elevator pitch into every conversation you have, or learn ten new things from the workshops. If you’re a newbie – go to all the newbie events.

That being said, think like a professional. DO NOT bail an agent or publisher up in the loo (yes, it’s been done before…). DON’T interrupt your most favourite ever author when she’s in deep conversation with someone (yep, that’s been done too). DON’T get yourself into a fight with a publisher or agent (yep, this has also been done before…). It’s okay to fangirl a little – but don’t be a stalker. If you happen to rub shoulders with Valerie Parv at the scones – introduce yourself. If you happen to be in a lift with Anne Gracie, say hello. If you happen to be standing behind Kate Cuthbert in the coffee queue, smile and ask her how she’s enjoying the conference. If you happen to be sitting at a table with Amy Andrews, ask her when Ryder will be let loose on the world – her #SydneySmokeRugby series is hot!

IMG_63762. Take time out if you need it

There are a lot of people at the conference. If you need to take a little time away from people, then do it. Duck back to your room, take a walk around the block, go get your caffeine hit from a café outside the venue. You don’t HAVE to go to every session… if you’re inspired by something and want to take some time out to brainstorm how you’re going to use it then do it. Do what works for you.

3. Set yourself some goals

Writing is fun (in a kind of sadistic way…) but you’re likely at conference because you want to be a ‘professional’ or ‘published’ writer. This means treating it like a job – and most jobs require you to set some performance goals. It costs a lot to get to conference – so what is that worth to you? What do you have to achieve while there to make that outlay worthwhile? Don’t forget to make your goals specific, realistic and timely – and relevant to you. Everyone’s at a different place. If you’re only just finishing your first novel and want to sell it to Harlequin Mills & Boon, don’t compare yourself to Marion Lennox (but read her stuff, she’s amazing!

4. Take a bigger suitcase than you need

For those coming from interstate, believe me the hassle of having to wait for your baggage to be deplaned or manhandling luggage on public transport will be nothing compared to trying to shove your book booty into your carry-on. And then there’s the horror of having to debate which books you must leave behind. There will be loot. It’s unavoidable. So be generous with your luggage sizing (or maybe bring some sort of hardy tote bag with you that you can fill up as carry on for the trip home).

5. Layers, layers, layers or let’s talk about clothes

Advance weather forecasts have Bris-Vegas in the early 20s temperature-wise for Love Gone Wild, but the air-conditioning in hotel conference suites is always low to combat the body heat of hundreds of people. Pack wisely – and think layers. Most people wear something in the broad realms of business casual. Neat, tidy, professional. You may want to try something fancier if you’re pitching but it’s not required. As long as your ass isn’t hanging out of those trendy jeans, you’re good. For the cocktail party and dinner –some people go all out and some don’t – so wear whatever makes you feel fabulous, and confident (but beware, you’ll be walking/standing some so make sure the shoes are comfy).

Also, finally, remember that Love Gone Wild is advertised as a fragrance-free event (to ensure that everyone can focus on the event and not get sick/sneezy/a headache from the eau de whatever on their neighbour).

6. PensIMG_8505

I love pens. And, as was pointed out to me by the awesome Janet Gover, you’re going to want to have something with you to capture all the brilliant tips you’re going to learn. So, conference is an excellent excuse to hit Kikki K right? Alternatively, you can bring your laptop, or tablet. Whatever means of capturing information works for you.

7. Engage on social media

Whether you’re a Facebooker, a Tweeter or an Instagrammer, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved online. I’ll be tweeting some (find me @wordsbykc) so please say hi! And, maybe think about bringing a portable charger for your phone/tablet… because trust me, that battery will drain and you don’t want to be caught short when [insert fabulous author name here] agrees to have a selfie with you.

8. Drink water

There can be a lot of alcohol at these events 😊 so remember to alternate between the champers and the H2O. Bring a water bottle with you and fill it/chill it in your room. Also remember you’re at a professional conference so naked runs down corridors at four in the morning* should be left to the rugby league players please. Limit your liquor and don’t forget to eat.

* No, as far as I am aware this has never actually happened at a conference but… there’s a first time for everything!

9. Be ready to pitch at (almost) any opportunity*

Even if you’re not ‘officially’ pitching, you should have an elevator pitch about your current work in progress. Or about you as a writer. If you’re in that lift with Anne Gracie and she asks ‘so, what are you writing?’ you want to have something to tell her. Any sensible opportunity to pitch is good practice. Also, think about investing in business cards (check out Vistaprint or moo.com, and you can design some great stuff on canva.com). They make you feel professional, and they’re a great way of keeping track of your new friends.

*Except the loo. Pitching in the loo is the poo.

10. Find your tribe, love them hard

IMG_8570

At the 2015 conference, on the last day, I found myself sitting at a table with a bunch of women I’d met at various times over the weekend. These ladies are now my tribe. We all write within different sub-genres of romance and live up and down the eastern seaboard. We’re all at different stages in life and on our journey to publication. But we’re besties. They’re my tribe (and if you don’t find us at conference, you can come hang out with us at lovesabre.com).