first published in the Brisbane Courier-Mail 11 August 2007
This year marked the 16th annual Romance Writers of Australia conference, held at the 4 point Sheraton in the Darling Harbour suburb of Sydney, right on the water and the perfect venue for this year’s theme: A Darling Affair.
I was very much looking forward to the conference this year. I had such a good time at last year’s conference, my first, and looked forward to renewing friendships and starting new ones. And, to my very great delight, not only did this year’s international guests include best-selling authors Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart, but I was also nominated for the Romance Media award (ROMA) again.
The conference has an unofficial start on Friday with master classes, this year run by Jennifer Crusie. But things really start to get going on Friday evening with the cocktail party. This year’s theme was Venetian Carnivale and attendees were bedecked, bejewelled, and bewitching in their feathers, masks, and gowns. There were even some swordfighters and gondoliers. What with all the masks, it was a bit hard to recognize anyone, but Anne Gracie is always easy to spot, and this year was no different – last year her headwear included chilli peppers, this year it was a number of feather boas intertwined. Australia’s most decorated romance author Marian Lennox, who unfortunately missed out on her third RITA this year in Dallas, was also easily spotted, her mask adding a good 4 inches to her height.
The highlight of my evening was meeting Jennifer Crusie, who sported a pair of butterfly sunglasses in lieu of a mask and Anne Stuart, who was dressed inexplicably in a nun’s costume. Both women were consummate professionals and very lovely.
Over the weekend, the writers got down to business with classes and workshops all designed to help them hone their craft and achieve their publication dreams. Topics covered included inspirational romances, police procedure for those interested in romantic suspense, and a historical romance panel. There were also a number of writing tutorials to help with the mechanics of writing a best-seller from the very earliest planning to finding an agent and publication.
It wasn’t all work and no play though; lunches, mornings, and afternoon teas offered great opportunities to meet and greet, have books signed, or just pump some favourite authors for hints about their upcoming books. I commandeered Crusie and Stuart for an hour to chat about their collaborative novel The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. I also talked to Glen Thomas to learn more about the Master’s program at QUT in creative writing – romance fiction.
But the highlight of the weekend was the awards dinner. I was presented with the ROMA for this column, the only one of its kind in Australia media. Special congratulations to Anne Oliver for Behind Closed Doors and Karina Bliss for Mr. Imperfect, winners of the Romantic Book of the Year prizes, and to Melanie Scott and Rachel Robinson, winners of the Emerald for the best unpublished manuscript.
Looking forward to seeing everyone next year in Melbourne!