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.