Romance Writers of America Convention Experience

From July 23rd to the 25th, I plunged into life in NYC, which meant dodging cabs, and running across streets as the blinking yellow light counted down the seconds, all to survive another Romance Writers of America Convention.

These conventions remind me of a big-tent circus because there’s constant excitement. Amanda Quick is doing a workshop on the 5th floor, Elizabeth Hoyt is on the third, Julia Quinn just strolled past me, Eloisa James is signing in the Broadway Ballroom. Meanwhile the hotel bar is filled to overflowing, and the volume increases by the hour into the late night as writers who were faces only on Facebook become best friends with one another.

This year, Helen, my writing partner (who is my daughter) and I joined two writers from the Valley Forge Chapter of RWA and presented a workshop, “Writing With a Partner, What to Consider.” Veronica Forand and Susan Scott Shelley were critique partners who decided to write together. They write contemporary; we write historical. They are traditionally published; we are self-published. The mix gave attendees a view of the advantages and disadvantages of such an undertaking. We discussed the need for sensitivity to the partner’s style, the need for compromise on story ideas, phrasing, heat level, setting and so on.

The favorite workshop I attended was: The Experts Share: The Hottest New Trends in Romance Publishing (INDUSTRY)

This panel of experts disagreed here and there, but the take-away was that times are changing. Diversity is huge in America and in publishing. Readers are interested in romances between people of different races and sexual orientation. LGBT is no longer on the fringe. Historical fiction is still popular, but settings aren’t confined to Regency. The years are moving forward to the turn of the century and even into World War I. Audio books are becoming huge because readers need to multi-task. Listening to books while driving works. Final Note: Writers were advised not to chase trends, but to write the best books they can write and readers will find them.

Taking Your Writing to the Next Level (CRAFT) featured Madeline Hunter offering ways to make our writing more professional. She suggested the story must be important enough–that is, the conflicts — must be about important matters. Her big advice was not to follow romance formulas such as the first meeting must be in the first chapter, the first kiss in the third etc. There are no rules, she declared. She hoped we would learn to set the conventions on their heads, to write with our hearts and not hold back. We should always strive to end our novels with a bang so the readers can’t wait to read the next book.

Now that our heads are teeming with ideas, we’re all ready to sit at our computers and get some serious work done. Right, ladies?

From Left to Right: Me (Mary Scully), Helen Scully , Veronica Forand, and Susan Scott Shelley.

From Left to Right: Me (Mary Scully), Helen Scully , Veronica Forand, and Susan Scott Shelley.

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