I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Conference Highlights 1: What to expect...

If you've never been to a romance writers' conference before and you've signed up for one this year, then be prepared for a wonderful weekend.

These events should come with signs like:

You never know who you might meet!
If you come for the full three days (RWAustralia or RWNZ), Friday is usually the special guest workshop day. A full day event of theory and practical exercises or outlining of writing 'tools' you can use to improve or help your writing.

You can bring your laptop to take notes but be prepared to sit in the back row so your tap-tap-tapping doesn't bother anyone. Note paper is provided if you prefer to use longhand. There's water provided as well. Morning, afternoon tea and lunch are all provided. It's a looooonnnnnnggggg day but incredibly worthwhile for writers of ANY genre, romance or otherwise.

Saturday and Sunday are broken up into whole conference sessions and workshops. The morning starts with registration where you sign in and collect your conference bag of goodies. Not only do you get a timetable of events but there can be anything from sponsors items, to free books, to chocolates, to bookmarks, to entry forms for prizes being raffled over the weekend in them.

Some things of note -

Accommodation/roomies - If you can afford it, stay at the venue. Nothing beats the convenience of being where the action is or the freedom of just ducking up to your room to drop off bits and pieces. Try and spread the cost by rooming with friends.

Kristin Nelson - agent
Agents - we've been lucky to have a host of great literary agents grace our conferences (RWA/RWNZ) and this year is no exception! These wonderful people ARE human and very approachable. Don't forget they're usually "newbies" to our conference and as anxious as any first timer and believe it or not, they probably appreciate a normal conversation during morning tea time rather than being bombarded by impromptu pitches.

AGM - stick around for the AGM. Learn about the organisation that supports its members and helps you grow as an author.

Ask questions - don't be afraid to do this. And there's no such thing as a silly question.

Tracey O'Hara
Authors - believe it or not, they actually look like you and me. I can remember my first RWAustralia conference where I was overawed by actually meeting "published authors". I had the typical oh-my-there's...-stars-in-my-eyes, what-do-I-say-to-them? feelings. Don't do what I did when I recognised someone (and hug the wall or remain speechless), engage in conversation, sit at the table with them, say hi in the elevator.

NB. If you'd like a book signed, by all means approach and ask if it's an appropriate time, most authors are VERY happy to do this.

Anna Campbell
Author Day - (RWAustralia) only recently introduced to cater for our published authors and their needs. It's held on the Thursday before the conference weekend. Not sure what exactly goes on at it - I'll find out this year though! :-)

Author Chats - most years there's been a session or two set aside where you our get to sit in on and meet and ask questions of authors published in a particular genre.

Don't miss out on these as it's your chance to ask the nitty gritty about the industry, publishing and details of being a published author. It's a great time to speak (almost) one on one with your favorite author!

Awards Dinner - the showcase of our published and unpublished authors and their achievements for the year. It's a sit down 3 course dinner, sometimes with a dinner speaker.

There's usually a table sign up sheet put up on the Saturday. If you don't know anyone just add your name to any table and by the end of the night you will know someone!

Dress is smart casual to formal.

Bling - on nametags you might find lots of shiny badges or ribbons. This is affectionately known as conference bling. Some represent finalist or winner status in a variety of contests (published and unpublished) ie. the R*BY, the RWA Emerald, RWA RITA or Golden Heart or RWNZ Clendon award, others might have conference volunteer written on it, or it might be an organisation badge (ie.Sci-Fi Romance Brigade), or an e-loop like ROMAUS.

Bookshop - put some extra dollars away because you're sure to find a book or ten at the bookshop. The chances are you'll buy one and be able to get the author to sign it for you! The bookstore usually tries to have as many of our author's books on hand as possible, and this includes our special guests, but be warned, they tend to sell fast, so get in early.
RWNZ Clendon Award

I know Barbara or Peter Clendon, who run Barbara's Books and come to the RWNZ conference, are very approachable and will do their best to supply the books you want.

Business Cards - optional. But they're handy to have if you want to swap details with another delegate and saves you writing out your contact details time and again. Many unpublished authors make their own on the computer. There's some debate about what to put on them but if you put your name/pseudonym and a website or contact email address that will usually suffice.

Cocktail Party - it's noisy but a heck of a lot of fun. It usually has a theme attached to it and most people make the effort to wear something to reflect it. There are drinks and nibbles, so either have dinner before you come or make arrangements to eat afterwards.

Comfort - wear layers as you never know what the room temperature might be like. And unless you're used to wearing high heels all day, wear comfortable footwear. Your feet will thank you for it at the end of the day.

Editors - ditto on the agent spiel above.

Earlybird sessions - these are usually held before breakfast on Saturday or Sunday morning and give you the chance to submit two pages of your work (anonymously) for a "cold" read by an agent or editor and get their feedback on your work.

It's like querying through the slush pile and you get to see what they like or don't like about the work. These sessions aren't for the faint-hearted as they can be blunt and extremely honest but they're always good value to see how an editor or agent operates.

RWA Golden Heart
First-timers - your name tags will reflect this and people will go out of their way to greet you and make you feel welcome. Put in what you want to get out of the conference. You will feel overwhelmed with information, choices and people. That's normal. By the end of the weekend you'll be exhausted. Again, that's normal. But you will have learned so much, and hopefully made some life-long friends by Sunday evening.

Mobile Phones - turn them off. Please. Enough said?

Morning & Afternoon Tea - you can do one of three things during these breaks. Find a quiet corner and spend some time recuperating from information/people overload, visit the bookstore and buy more books, or meet and talk with other delegates and industry professionals. Did I mention the noise factor?

Bling & Nametags
Nametags - all important as these will help you put names to faces from those you've met on e-loops or online. Some will have little pictures underneath their names. These all mean something. For example, a book might mean published author, a star might mean executive committee member, a baby chicken might mean first timer to the conference, a rosette might be a contest finalist.

Networking - this is a great chance to do this. Get to know who's who in the romance community, who writes in the same genre as you, talk to industry professionals and learn what happens on the other side of the fence. In workshops, panels and in conversations during breaks.

Pitching - if you have a complete manuscript and are ready to put your work out there then sign up for an editor or agent pitch. It's the slightly faster way to get your work in front of your target house or agency.

If you have a pitch appointment get there 10-15mins early. Sit towards the back of any workshop so you can slip out quietly when you need to.

What to wear to these sessions - a nice pair of skirt/pants, blouse, jacket. Think smart to business professional. I've seen people wear jeans but it doesn't hurt to project a more professional image.

Perfume/Cologne - keep it to a minimum, none at all if possible. Please. In a confined space it can be overpowering and there are those who suffer allergies.

Raffle prizes
Raffles/lucky door prizes - there's something for everyone, and usually several running each day of the conference.

Romance - this weekend predominately celebrates this genre, in all its forms, but even if you don't write romance you can't go past the incredible information you'll get out this weekend. The skills you glean can be applied to any genre of writing.

RWA/RWNZ executive/committee members - get to know what services and the roles people play in our great organisations.

We have a dedicated bunch of volunteers who provide a diverse range skills and services to our members. Everything from being president of the organisation to being a contest judge or conference volunteer. We can't do without these people and some day you might like to give back some of what you've received. Finding out how you can help out, in whatever capacity, is a good start.

Support - the romance community is one of THE most supportive writing communities you'll ever meet. We encourage, we nurture, we cheer on each other, we appreciate and recognise talent. We're like one, big, humongous family.

Talking - there will be so much of this done over the conference. Your ears will hurt. Your voice might go hoarse. Oh, and laughter, there'll be lots of that too! Did I mention that the conference could be noisy?

Workshop session
Workshop Sessions - Most sessions though will indicate the level of writer they're aimed at. There should be a variety of craft, industry, career, published author only and other related topics on offer.

Sessions may clash and you'll find yourself wishing you could clone yourself. Best thing to do is find a friend going to the other and swap notes on those workshops later.

I'm counting down the days until the RWAustralia conference in Melbourne and the RWNZ conference in Auckland - see you all there!


  1. There will be no water, snacks, smiles, and minimal breathing allowed in the Warrior Writer workshop. Wear camouflage and be prepared to to run many miles.
    Elimination matches will be to the death.
    And there is no crying in Warrior Writer. Just like baseball.

    Seriously, we'll have a fun time.

  2. Seriously Bob? Seriously we'll have a 'good time'??? This is a good time??? Sheesh and I had to go and be a writer...

    Dammit, I knew I should have gone with my other career option. You never have to wear fatigues, war paint and boots when you're a crocodile wrestler. Sigh...

    There's a lesson here people: Keep your options open. Kaz Delaney, wondering if Bob Mayer will accept a note from my mum???

  3. A great round up Kylie.

    Another thing to mention is to remember to leave space in your bags to bring stuff home. Oh and bring tissues, throat lozenges and pandadol/neurofen for when you catch a head cold off a fellow conference goer half way through the conference like I did last year :)

  4. You can see by these comments that conference will be a fun time, folks! LOL

    Thanks for dropping in Eleni, Julieann, Kaz and Bob. Looking forward to your workshop, Bob!

  5. Great blog Kylie, heading to my first RWNZ conference in August and practically counting down the days.

  6. Looking forward to meeting you at RWNZ, Nicki! :-)

  7. Fabulous post, Kylie. I remember at my first conference I didn't know a soul and had never heard of Norah Roberts...long story!

    You have forgotten the fundraiser! Bring money for a wonderful raffle and silent auction on Sunday to raise money for the Otis Foundation - providing retreats for victims of Breast Cancer. We will have real, live FIREFIGHTERS coming along to help us out on the day and they are mean raffle ticket sellers! (courtesy of the Firefighters Charity Fund Melbourne)

  8. That's a fantastic post Kyle. I particularly love the photo of Glenda Leader and Nalini Singh at the top! Glenda will love it.

  9. How could I forget the raffles???? Silent auctions??? And how cool about the fire fighters! Wow, we might set a record for funds raised.

  10. My one and only conference was the very first one in 1991, so I'm a first-timer once removed. Not sure what my nametag will say....

  11. Hey, Chris. Hmm, I think we can classify you as a newbie after such a long absence! LOL

  12. Can't wait Kylie! Thanks for the recap, gets me all excited just thinking about it!