Friday, September 20, 2013

Southern Speak - RWA Conference - Always Worth It!

by Eleni Konstantine

I have been a member of RWA for a number of years now and the one thing I love is the feeling of excitement and camaraderie from the annual conference. It’s even more exciting to see how things come together when you are part of the conference team. I have been on the conference team for two years in a row. I have to say though with a bigger team, I was able to see more of the actual conference than I had last year.

This year’s conference committee - those in sailor hats - has been at it for over two years (some three as they had bid for the conference to be in Fremantle). Lots of emails, chats, discussions all culminate to the well-oiled machine delegates see. I never knew myself as a delegate how much planning it takes. Every single little thing that you see had be organised by somebody.

Photo by Eleni

This year’s Riding the Waves conference at the Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, had been headed by Leah Ashton and Nikki Logan, the dynamic duo as I like to call them. Nikki is also RWA’s president! (amazing!) I truly want to be like these women when I grow up. They led the way in making this a chill-out and green conference, and I as a delegate and team member was ecstatic with the result.

So what did the conference have to offer?

  • Destiny Romance had a lovely welcome reception, which was a fun night of catching up with faces I haven’t seen for a long time. They also had these groovy bags and books as gifts. 
  • The first ever Academic Conference (the Elizabeth Jolley Conference) by Curtin University in association with RWA. It was a day where academics and romance writers met and discussed the academic side of romance writing. 
  • The Friday Workshop with Kim Hudson, author of The Virgin’s Promise, which introduces a new feminine story structure in the way that Joseph Campbell introduced the structure for The Hero’s Journey.
  • The Nautical or Nice cocktail party was fun. Being the co-ordinator, I was so happy with how my team of helpers took my instructions and run with the set up. Presented by Harlequin Australia, the costume competition was a highlight. There were palm trees (Ms Paula Roe), pirates, wenches, sailors, and even Julie from the Love Boat (Ebony McKenna) and a whole lot of niiiice. 
Our own Maggie Mundy came third with her Sea Witch costume. First was Olive Oil and Popeye (ie. Melanie Milburne and her hubby). I had fun going as a Spongebob Squarepants (squareskirt, I should say) Pirate . But my fave thing from the whole night - Captain Jack Sparrow!
Photo by Nicole Harris. Delwyn Jenkins and Maggie Mundy (R)
Photo by Nicole Harris. Me (L), Paula Roe, Alison Leake
Hands off ladies - me and Capt'n Jack :) I know don't give up my day job. :)

  • Julia Quinn as keynote speaker. I loved her tales of being disorganised (I soooo related!) and her belief you won’t hurt your career by helping another writer. Go Julia! 

  • The wonderful selection of workshops wrangled by Rachael Johns was so hard to choose from. On Saturday, I attended two workshops. 
    • Laura Bradford revealed home truths about agents, making them less scary. They are people too you know J While it’s hard to get an agent because of the number of queries, I came away thinking, that there is an agent out there for everyone and that timing is a key factor. 
    • Margie Mason’s Presenting with Pizzazz was a great session of tips and pointers of how to feel the nerves but to get on with presenting with fun and confidence. We even blew bubbles! 
    • I moderated three workshops on the Sunday:
      • Sarah Wendell’s Blogging 101. Sarah is funny, astute, and such an advocate for the romance writing industry. I loved her honesty and how she interacted with the audience. 
      • Kim Hudson’s The Voyage of a Writer, was a continuation on the Virgin’s Promise but for the writer themselves. I regretted not having done her workshop on Friday as she was a warm and generous presenter. 
      • Shona Huk and Nicola E. Sheridan’s Beating the Tsunami: getting ahead of the paranormal trends. I loved this workshop by the vibrant tag team. I mean the session started with a mean track by Rob Zombie. How appropriate! They went through unusual creatures that could be terrifying but could have hero status if you dared but try. Such fun! 

Nicola E. Sheridan (L) and Shona Husk (R) with their wonderful world of mythological creatures

  • ARRA had their signing again this year in conjunction with the conference. This was my first time at the conference where I was also signing, so while I saw the other authors there, I didn’t get a chance to go around and grab books and get said authors to sign. I must admit that was good for my budget! :) 

  • The Awards Gala was a glitzy event organised by Carolyn Wren. Baci had a giant fountain of chocolate, and a big lip couch for photo ops. Going on a different format as a trial - it was dessert night. Yum yum. Like last year I was running the slideshow so I was in the AV corner. After the Awards show, the Escape Publishing After Party - Escape the Ordinary - was proved that writers like to boogie and woogie! There was a lot of it going on. I breathed a sigh of relief as everyone on the dance floor seemed to be having a wonderful time as I had composed the playlist (phew!) and the best thing I did all night was keep my boots on instead of wearing strappy heels. Dance, my name is Eleni. :) 

  • Submission Island - an excellent panel where stories were read out anonymously and the agents/editors had to put up a card saying ‘stop’ or ‘more’. Hearing what the panellists liked and what they didn’t like and why, was invaluable. Good luck to those who got requests. 

  • I have to say all the plenary addresses by Kim Hudson, Nina Bruhns, and Sarah Wendell were all inspiring. 

  • The Chillout lounge by Rachael Johns and Carolyn Wren was a nice touch. I know the newbies met in there on more than one occasion. 

  • The Pitching was so well organised. I have to give a shout out to Michelle Diener who was the pitch witch J. Pitching is always nerve-wracking, but I think the cool, calm work done by the pitch team helped settle nerves. Again the list of editors and authors was impressive. There was something for everyone. 

· Simon & Schuster USA: Abby Zidle (Pocket, Gallery, Pocket Star)

· Bradford Literary Agency LLC: Laura Bradford

· Entangled Publishing: Nina Bruhns (Entangled Suspense)

· Harlequin Single Title (MIRA, HQN, Luna): Margaret Marbury

· Harlequin Mills & Boon (London): Sheila Hodgson

· Harlequin Australia: Sue Brockhoff

· Harlequin Escape: Kate Cuthbert

· Destiny Australia: Sarah Fairhall

· Random House: Beverley Cousins

· Momentum (Pan MacMillan Australia): Joel Naoum

· Literary Agent: Alex Adsett

· Penguin Australia: Belinda Byrne

· Hachette Publishing: Bernadette Foley

Twelfth Planet Press: Alisa Krasnostein
I did get a request from Alisa from Twelfth Planet Press, so fingers crossed.

Photo by Nicole Harris
  • The wonderful bookstall set up by the Co-Op UWA. They even had free postage to an Australian address. Now that’s service! 
Photo by Nicole Harris
  • There was a goodie table, a swap table, a fundraising table - this year the fundraising charity was Read Write Now, a literacy organisation helping Western Australians with literacy issues, and of course the lovely door prizes. 

  • An amazing MC in  Jennie Jones. What a wonderful voice! 
  • I was also impressed as a sponsor (I sponsored - I, wi-fi for Saturday as HelzKat Designs). 

I have to say the only negative about conference is that you can’t have a long conversation you want to with everyone. It’s the nature of the beast. But a quick hug is better than nothing, I say.

I have to give a shout out the Freo team (it sure does take a village):
Nikki Logan - Conference Coordinator, Sponsorship, Hotel Liaison
Leah Ashton - Conference Coordinator, Website, Communications

Claire Boston -  International Guest Liaison, Editor & Agent Liaison, Merchandise

Michelle Diener- Pitch Program

Fiona Gregory - Conference Team

Rachael Johns - Workshop Program

Jennie Jones - Bookshop Liaison | MC

Neely Lyon - Volunteer Coordinator, Secretary

Jodie Morphett - Registrar

Tracey Turner - Raffles and Giveaways

Carolyn Wren - Special Events (Awards Gala)

and to all the volunteers who helped on the weekend. You are all stars!

So why not see a conference from the other side - as part of the conference team or a helper. It's definitely worth it.

Riding the Waves truly was a great weekend!


  1. What a fantastic round-up, Eleni, but you missed one person off the list who deserves a shout of thanks...YOU! Thank YOU for all your work.

    I loved the Freo conference. It was very well organised - not that I expected anything else from an RWA conference team - and the vibe was brilliant.


    1. Aw, thanks Claire.

      I'm so glad you loved the conference. It's music to my ears.

  2. It was a totally awesome conference, and I'm so glad you liked our session! :)

    1. Indeed. It was fun and inspiring, and you guys worked really well together.

  3. Fabulous wrap-up Eleni! It was awesome working with you on the conf and I totally related to Julia's keynote speech too. Long live disorganisation!! Good luck with your sub! x

    1. Totally a joy working with you too, Rach! LOL - yep long live disorganisation!!!! and thanks for the well wishes. You know the sad thing with conference over is that the emails from the team have stopped :( so miss hearing how everyone is doing.

  4. Wonderful post!

    fingers crossed for your sub to Alisa.

  5. Awesome wrap-up, Eleni!

    Crossing them for your sub.

    E xx


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