I had a wonderful time at the Romance Writers of Australia conference two weeks or so ago, and enjoyed every minute of it. I learned from my experience last year, when I overdid things with two conferences one after the other, packed full, and instead took things easy this time. The Published Author Day on the Thursday was a first for the RWA conference, and had some great sessions. The three I found particularly interesting were psychologist John Barletta, media/PR professional Jennifer St George, and the woman (who’s name I have temporarily forgotten, but if I go searching for my notes I might never finish this blog post!) who co-wrote the scripts for the Underbelly TV series, about organised crime in Australia. I found it fascinating hearing about the decisions they had to take to turn complex, real-life crimes and criminals into a cohesive TV program. There were definitely lessons in there about choosing what to focus on for dramatic cohesion and effect!
My take-it-easy strategy meant that I didn’t register for the workshop on Friday, and I was glad of that decision! Instead, I went into Newtown (an inner Sydney suburb) and met up with my good friend, librarian Vassiliki, for morning tea, in one of Newtown’s many cafés. Then a stroll down King Street, and short visits to an amazing button shop, a bead shop, and A Coffee and a Yarn. I managed to resist the temptation of pretty things, however, and didn’t buy anything.
Friday afternoon was the booksigning, organised by the Australian romance Readers Association in conjunction with RWA. It was great fun! We authors were seated alphabetically – so I was between my good friend, Valerie Parv, and fellow Outback Romances author Fiona Palmer.
After the booksigning came the cocktail party. There’s always a fancy dress theme, although no requirement to dress up. I had originally planned not to wear a costume, but then had an idea that fell in to the Fantasy theme, and was easy to execute. I fast-forwarded to 2012, and wrote up a series of frontpage newspaper articles, announcing major literary prize wins for various romance authors. I stuck them onto two sheets of cardboard, which I wore as a sandwich board. It was a fun bit of fantasy, and gave a few people a good laugh.
Highlights of the rest of the conference included, of course, the awards dinner on Saturday night. It’s always a lovely night, friendly and buzzing with positivity, and this year was no exception. I didn’t win the R*BY award in my category, but huge congrats to my good friend Tracey O’Hara, who did! The winners in the short romance categories were the lovely Sharon Archer, and wonderful Madam Res of RWA, Amy Andrews. The long romance category went to historical author Sophia James, who I haven’t met, but I’m sure she’s fantastic, too!
The workshops on Sunday included a very interesting, if somewhat unsettling one, by a Forensic Pathologist. A lot of very valuable information, sensitively delivered, about investigating the cause of death. After lunch, I attended quite a different workshop, delivered by a martial arts expert who trains the military, police, journalists going abroad, and airline staff, in fighting techniques. Not only did he know his stuff, he was a great performer, too, with expert comic timing. I guess it was less serious because we’re fiction writers, and not frequently confronting potentially dangerous situations in real life ourselves. But I learned heaps, both of relevance to writing fight scenes, and to real life. Hopefully I’ll never have to use any in real life, but at least I have more knowledge than I did!
Another part of my take-it-easy strategy was to stay on in Sydney on Sunday night, instead of racing home Sunday afternoon. I am SO glad I did. It was so much more relaxed, and I enjoyed the winding-down with friends, having a cocktail in the bar with a few others, then going out to dinner with a small crowd.
On Monday, I drove home with the wonderful Kelly Hunter, and we had a great trip. She drove, and I took notes while we brainstormed ideas for her next book series. It was a heap of fun, bouncing ideas and possibilities around, and now I can’t wait for her to write the series!
Since getting home, life has continued on, quietly busy. I’m still waiting on word about my next surgery, but it may be some weeks yet before I know the date. In the meantime, I finished putting together a photo album for Gordon’s mother’s 80th birthday, and posted it off – only a day or two late! (She didn’t seem to mind!)
Yesterday was another pleasant trip ‘down the hill’ to Bellingen, two hours drive away, for a meeting of the north coast 4 Points Author Network group of RWA. It’s a a great group of women, and a lovely drive amongst the peaks and ridges of the Great Dividing Range to the Dorrigo Plateau, and then down the escarpment to Bellingen, nestled into the river valley at the foot of the hills.
I’ll leave you with a couple of views from the road to Dorrigo: