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Archive for November, 2012

Romance Writers of Australia Conference
Saturday, November 10th, 2012

Yes, this was back in August and I’m only writing it up now. I’ve had a book to write (LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL, YAY!) and very little time to do it, so I’ve been underground, much like this Tasmanian Devil here.

Why are there various forms of Australian fauna in a blog post about the RWA conference, I hear you ask? Well, I was lucky enough to receive a visit from my St. Martin’s editor, Monique Patterson here in Brisbane. Monique hails from New York and had never visited Oz before so of course I took her to Lone Pine wildlife sanctuary.

I warned Monique of the possibility of, um, accident when holding a koala, so she wore her trusty leather jacket in anticipation. No such accident occurred, thankfully!

Monique held a koala, fed the wallabies, avoided the emu. Emus are quite bossy birds and very keen to get in on the action when it comes to feeding time. They also have sharp, strong beaks, and I’ve been afraid of them since I was a child and one completely shredded the feed bag I was holding and (unintentionally, I’m sure) pecked my hand.

Monique was no fool and gave the big bird a wide berth.

Then, on to the Gold Coast, with Monique and my trusty critique partner, Denise Rossetti. She and I have very, very bad senses of direction, so it was a miracle we got there in good time and in one piece. (Actually, Denise’s sense of direction is better than mine, but we did once end up at Redcliffe when we wanted to go to Bribie Island–for those SE Queenslanders among you, you’ll know what I mean!)

I met Helen Breitwieser, my lovely agent  who had flown in from LA via Sydney, and she and Monique and I went to dinner at Shuck on Tedder Avenue, where I persuaded Helen to try the creepy-sounding but utterly delicious Moreton Bay Bugs. She loved them!

Helen is an amazing woman. She discovered all the best places to go without any help from the resident Aussie and we dined in style at Omeros the next evening.

I’m on a fitness kick at the moment, so each morning at 5am I was up before sunrise, down at the gym. Except the morning after the Awards dinner. I found it difficult to get out of bed for that one!

The weather was absolute magic while we were there. Unseasonably warm for August. The QT hotel was superb and so funky and fun with its retro-style everything. Food was great, and you receive a kit with lemons, a muddler, sparkling water and sugar syrup with instructions to make your own lemonade upon arrival. So refreshing! This was a wonderful start to our stay.

Penguin Australia held a welcome cocktail function, in which they featured the wonderful authors who are heading up their Destiny digital romance line. There were wonderful readings by Kelly Hunter, Anne Gracie, Jennifer St George (pictured below) and others and much fun and frivolity. I caught up with my lovely Penguin Australia editor, Sarah Fairhall, whose gorgeous clothes I covet. If she finds a certain Alannah Hill coat missing, she will certainly know where to come looking!

On Friday, I went to one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended: Alexandra Sokoloff’s Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. Alex took us step by step through the 3 Act 8 Sequence structure she used when she was screenwriting for Hollywood movies and showed us how this and other screenwriting techniques can be adapted for novel writing.

Alex is such a vibrant, intelligent writer, up for any kind of fun that’s going. You can read all about her on her blog and I highly recommend her books on structure, too.

I had to leave early from this workshop to be gussied up (full hair and makeup) for a photo shoot for Penguin. (Pictured left is Jennifer St George, a Destiny author, waiting for her video interview)

If you haven’t been to one before, photo shoots involve a lot of waiting around. As I tried to force some emotion into my tired eyes while shot after shot was taken, I gained new respect for those chicks on Australia’s Next Top Model. Sadly, my photo didn’t look quite as good as theirs do!

On to the Australian Romance Readers Association book signing, where I met many  lovely readers, one of whom already had all my books on Kindle but bought paper copies at the conference for me to sign. Amazing! Here’s Vicki and me posing together. Vicki is a former barrister so we have a lot in common.

Friday night was the Harlequin cocktail party, where the theme was 1950s Hollywood. I went as myself, as usual. I never seem to have the time or the inclination to find a costume for these affairs–I’m usually on deadline when I’m at a conference. However, Jennifer Kloester (Georgette Heyer’s biographer) wore full Queen Elizabeth Jubilee costume. The struggle to transport the big indigo satin gown from Melbourne was justified, however. Jennifer took first prize.

On Saturday, I had the amazing experience of doing a Google hangout with Eloisa James, Anne Gracie, Kat from BookThingo, another reader and Louise Sherwin-Stark from Google. You can see the hangout on my gallery page.

The Awards night was one of the snappiest and best I’ve ever attended–congratulations to all the winners!

Afterwards, I sat up late into the night (um, morning?) drinking wine and talking with Amy Andrews/Ali Ahearn and Anna Valdinger, editor from HarperCollins. Anna is hilarious, so witty in that English style I find so appealing. I love catching up with her at RWA. And Amy/Ali is a former RWA president and one of the best people I know. The woman could run the country, never mind RWA.

Meeting Eloisa James again was such a highlight for me. I’ve read and loved all of her books and she has been very generous to me over the course of my career. I introduced Eloisa’s speech on the Sunday morning. She made a rousing call to authors to take charge of their careers and be professionals. It was a timely reminder, because sometimes we are too immersed in the work itself to look at the broader picture.

And of course, RWA is always the time I get to see my wonderful friends and critique partners, Anna Campbell and Denise Rossetti. I love that shot of us and it certainly reflects how much we enjoyed the conference.
This year had so many highlights, it was probably the best conference I’ve attended. I love going to Romance Writers of Australia conferences. They always feel like coming home.

Roll on Perth!