RWA 2015 – reflections of a non-romance writer.

I don’t write romance.

My books certainly have romantic elements and the central theme is love, but I would misleading readers to say I wrote romance. It is clear that I need to rebrand as Erotic Horror and that is why I didn’t pitch at RWA. Rain has evolved to a place that isn’t romance-but that is another story. However, that doesn’t mean that the Romance Writers Australia 2015 conference was not the perfect place for me. Let me tell you why.


RWA and romance writers in general are inclusive. Any large group will have some factions and cliques but overall, I felt welcome and at home among a group of writers who all had the same goal: to write the best fucking book they can.

RWA and romance writers are some of the most organized, well resourced, and most business and industry savvy writers I know. No matter what workshop I attended I learned something new. Writing about love is no different to writing about any other subject. You still have to make sure the readers believe in your characters and plot. You have to convince them of the goals, motivations and conflicts. The worlds have to feel real. You still need to sell ‘love’ even though romance is the top selling genre in the market. You need to know who you are, why you write and who your audience is.

That last point was really important to me. Even though I felt comfortable among the RWA crowd it became painfully apparent to me that I write darker than I thought I did. (You mean you don’t have the devil possessing and killing people in every book? What about decapitation? No? Baths of blood? No? Killing the protagonist on the first page? Maybe not. Hmm.) But this realization was a good thing. Learning what you are not is just as important as learning what you are. So, for writers who think that attending a RWA conference is not for them, think again. I attended workshops on everything from world building, social media for writers, general marketing, self publishing, character motivation, finding your audience, deep editing, authorpreneurship, and scene diagnosis. I even attended panel discussions where agents and publishers spoke about what they were looking for, how they like to be approached and what was happening in the market in general – not just romance.

I have to say my highlights were the workshops with Chris Corbett. His workshop was well presented, fun, real, down to earth, engaging, packed full of wisdom, information and wit. If you ever get a chance to work with him or attend one of his workshops DO THE THING. He really is worth every penny and every minute. He was probably the presenter who made me laugh the most and spoke to deepest level about the craft of writing. Another amazing speaker was Angela Ackerman. She spoke about finding your ideal audience and using social media. I almost cried in this workshop. Attending RWA took all the energy I had. In fact I spent the first morning of the conference in MRI and CAT scan machines. I was able to come back to the conference afterwards because I was lucky enough to have some very caring writer friends to look after me. I am still writing this post from bed. In short, getting ‘out and about’ to sell my book and network is not a particularly viable option for me a lot of the time. Maybe one day, but not right now. As such, social media is my only way of connecting with people a lot of the time. However, I have lost count of the times I have heard people say that social media is just another procrastination tool and that social media never results in book sales. Angela spoke to this myth and put it to bed with some very sound figures, anecdotes and tools. All of which can be found here. In short, hearing her speak gave me, a writer with disabilities, hope that I can use the one networking tool at my disposal to keep connecting in a powerful and meaningful way with both readers and writers. I have lots of new ideas and directions to ponder but none of this would have been possible without the RWA.

I also have to mention just how enlivening it was to be among writers. Three days of talking craft and telling dirty jokes over cake and cocktails? If there is a heaven this is it. I also got to meet two of my long time crit buddies: Elsa Holland and Nicolette Hugo. Until RWA we only knew each other from chatting online and reading each others work. Meeting them was my biggest highlight but I was very nervous about it. Meeting them kind of felt like a blind date. Who ARE these people that I chat to all day every day about the deepest darkest parts of my self AKA my writing? But meeting them was like coming home. It was as if I had known them all my life. Their energy was so familiar and warm. Their words were so encouraging. Their hugs full of love. Their minds sparkled with naughty brilliance. I wont deny that I shed a few tears when they left because it was like saying goodbye to family.

So in short, even though I am in the process of rebranding as Erotic Horror, RWA will always be a place I call home and look for inspiration and information. The stigma that romance writers live with is inaccurate and shortsighted. When you attack or put down the romance genre the only person you are hurting is yourself. They have so much to offer the writing world, both the readers and the writers, and if you can’t see that, I feel sorry for you. If you are looking to connect with a broad community of welcoming, supportive, fun, well connected, informed and helpful writers that have a mass of collective of wisdom then think about connecting with RWA, even if you are not a romance writer. Because at the end of the day, even though people love to draw lines in the sand, we are all writers and we are all in this together and maybe we need to embrace that more.



  1. Smoph says:

    Glad you had a great time Catherine!

    It sounds like a proper industry conference. I attended one in Canada, the Surrey International Writers Conference, and to me, it was wonderous. I wish I had been further along (aka done with my novel length pieces) , because I think it would have been even more beneficial.

    But it seems that these kinds of conferences are woefully lacking in Australia. In speculative fiction, most definitely. If anyone knows of any other conferences like this, I’d love to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really was a proper industry conference. The RWA is really well organized, polished and inclusive. But as far as other conferences go – I am not sure. I have had the same feeling re: speculative fiction and horror. I know there is genre con in Brisbane in October. There was the Melbourne Writers Festival which is great but not always a) affordable or b) suitable to where I am with my writing. I attended a few of the MWF things but to be honest, none of them were as practical as the RWA. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. As I am stuck at home I watch a LOT of writing workshops etc on YouTube and listen to podcasts. I then take my ideas back to my online crit groups. I will be starting an online crit group soon so if you like, I can let you know when I start that? Glad you dropped by!


    • Peta says:

      So glad you enjoyed the conference. I write darker fiction too (urban fantasy, para-rom) and have been attending them since 2011. I always come away exhausted but also energised with new ideas and strategies.

      There are quite a few conferences in Australia for spec-fic. Genre-con is also a good one which focuses on all genre fiction…spec-fic, crime, romance etc and runs every second year (it is on this year) in Brisbane. There is also Swan-con in Perth every Easter. I have attended mini-cons at local writers centres that focus on spec-fic too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Peta,
        Yes I loved it. It really is great value for any writer but I can’t deny I am pretty exhausted. My brain was overloaded. But definitely worth it.

        I haven’t heard of Swan-Con so I’ll have a look. Thank you 🙂


  2. I think there’s always so much to be gained from writing workshops in general – and hey, even though you’re rebranding, I hope you still head along to the next conference!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Catherine, I’m so sorry I didn’t get to meet you at the conference. Nicole Hurley-Moore and I were both looking out for you. I even wore my CBG bag on my shoulder hoping you would see it. Everyone looked so different from their photos so it wasn’t just the fact we didn’t know what you look like, or vice versa. I do look forward to catching up with you in the future. Angela Ackerman’s workshop was superb. I missed out on Chris Corbett so, thank you, I will look out for him. Blessings and love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rhyll Biest says:

    Hi, I was sad I missed you too! Never mind, next time!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It was such an honor to be part of your amazing conference! Very glad you got some great insight from my talk on finding your audience, and hope you are feeling better soon. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

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