by Melanie Page
August. Winter winds and the Royal Queensland Show. Lots of birthdays in our family and a busy time all round. And the RWA conference; the highlight of the romance writer’s year. I set off this year on my annual jaunt, less a pilgrimage and more a family reunion, with all the laughter, hugs and general warmth that the word conjures up.
The Romance Writers of Australia conference this year was in Sydney, at a large central hotel with plenty of space to hold literally hundreds of noisy, boisterous women. And it is mostly women. I think I saw half a dozen men and about four hundred ladies. All ages, all builds, all walks of life. All genres were represented; from the YA writers to the historicals, the paranormals, dark thrillers and the super spicy. And there was one overriding, overarching common thread that bound us all into a sisterhood. Romance.
The RWA conference is the one place where we can talk about sex scenes, murders, things that go bump in the night … and no one bats an eyelid. And for three glorious days we heard from experts and practitioners about the complexities of romance in a #MeToo world, the dark world of the serial killer, throwing a twist into Young Adult fiction and the fabulous opportunities that come with Historical Romance.
This is collaboration at its finest, a real commitment to pay forward all the kindnesses and assistance that experienced writers have received over the years, into the newer generation. Because the presenters are people who have been there, done that, got the royalty checks and the publishing deals. Every writer there was challenging herself to be better, to write a killer story with more authentic characters, weave a richer romantic tapestry.
And to party!
Did I mention the cocktail party on Friday night? And the grand dinner on Saturday? But really, every lunch and morning tea was a party, because we were among friends.
The RWA conference is vital, even in the social media age where we are all as close as our Facebook accounts. It is a way of bringing a community together; a community that is broadly spread geographically across the nation as well as by age, genre and experience.
Writers recognise that their occupation is a largely solitary one, chained to a computer. But for one weekend a year, we remember that we have the love and support of all the other women in Australia who are JUST LIKE US. We need that. We need it even when we are overwhelmed by the noise (several hundred women all talking at once), and the busy program and the wealth of workshops on offer. It is an embarrassment of riches.
So farewell Sydney 2018. I am looking forward to Melbourne 2019 and the great speakers, the new knowledge, the upskilling and the laughter… and the hugs.