After a virtual Romance Writers Conference in 2020, the organisers of the 2021 event were determined to make sure this year’s milestone event went ahead for their excited participants. After a change of dates, borders opening then being slamming closed again and amidst major uncertainty, the conference team led by Tanya Kean has performed a miracle.
With almost 100 participants from around Australia, the 2021 Romance Writers of Australia Conference went ahead in real time, with real people. Although our writers from New South Wales and Victoria were sorely missed, many Southern speakers still presented via Zoom or recorded talk. Guests live streamed the Gala Awards Dinner and those who did attend had a joyous time on the beautiful Gold Coast. From the 10 – 12 December, the Mantra on View hotel was awash with love, a sea of pink and hearts, and laughter, oh so much laughter. SheSociety were privileged to attend this milestone event and share this unique story.
It was fitting that the popular Opening Night cocktail party had the theme – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Guests dressed as historical figures, romance authors from the past, sixties love children, classic book characters and futuristic space travellers. It was thirty years ago, back in 1991, when Lynne Wilding decided to bring writers together to share information, ideas and contacts.
Remember, these were the days of no internet, no mobile phones in every handbag, where manuscripts were posted off in hard copy. These writers became the Romance Writers of Australia and even though the organisation has weathered many storms, it still stands on the shoulders of those pioneers. People like keynote speaker, Alison Stuart, the late Emma Darcy and Valerie Parv, and legends like Amy Andrews, Anne Gracie, Rachel Bailey and Anna Campbell.
Alison Stuart reminded us that, “Romance writers are resilient and romance writing has never been more important. It signals better times are to come.”
She told the story of someone saying to Lynne Wilding that you didn’t want to be, “tarred with the romance brush “.
Her reply, “Well, bathe me in bitumen.”
Participants at the Conference were treated to workshops from some of the best writers in the land and the tips and advice proved invaluable to aspiring, emerging and established authors alike. Leisl Leighton zoomed in with a helpful workshop on her ‘Top Tips for Improving Your Manuscript ‘. Victorian author, Maya Linnell, gave lots of helpful advice on writing rural romance. Christine Wells shared her knowledge for those who were writing dual timeline novels. Jake Corvus spoke about writing ‘ Transgender Characters’. Rachel Bailey taught us all how to ‘Supercharge your Scenes‘ and I enjoyed learning from Barbara Hannay how to refine ‘Your All Important Opening Pages’.
There were panel talks and talks from publishers and industry insiders. I particularly enjoyed hearing the success stories from those who had the courage to pitch their manuscripts during the much sought after pitching sessions. Sharyn Swanepoel was the very capable Pitch Coordinator this year. She seemed to be everywhere making sure writers made their pitch on time even when their watch stopped, who comforted them when they were overcome with nerves.
Readers were not forgotten with an ARRA or Australian Romance Readers Association Book Signing on Saturday afternoon, where readers could meet and greet favourite romance authors like Charlotte Nash, Anna Campbell and J.F Lowe plus many more. African Thriller author, T. M. Clark and historical fiction favourite, Christine Wells, were furiously signing and enjoyed chatting with their readers.
The Gala Awards Dinner was delicious and celebratory after a hiatus and I’ll be sharing the prize winners in my next article. We learned that romance writers love to dance the night away. We said goodbye to some icons of the romance writing world and author Rachel Bailey gave a tribute to 30 Years of Legends. Finally was the launch of next year’s Romance Writers of Australia Conference. It will be across the country in the beautiful city of Fremantle.
So if you’ve ever felt a yearning to write a romance story why not join this fabulous organisation, where you can learn from the best whether you are an aspiring , emerging or established writer or even a USA Today bestseller with 60 books under your belt. The next Romance Writers of Australia Conference will be held from August 12-14, 2022 in the gorgeous state of Western Australia. Thinks beaches, wineries and natural beauty. I hope to see you there. It’s a conference filled with love, hope and generosity of spirit which is something the whole world needs right now.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).