Yesterday I headed out to meet up in the city for lunch with some author friends. We meet on Southbank, on the banks of the Yarra River, in Melbourne. It was a perfect sunny summer day, warm but not too hot, and with a lovely breeze.
A lot of people assume that authors must be quite competitive and that that there’s a fair bit of rivalry between us. That’s not at all the case in my experience. Maybe it’s the nature of romance writers — we do, after all write the literature of hope — or maybe it’s that most of us are women, and women tend to be more cooperative and helpful, but whatever the reason, I’m blessed in my writing friends.
I belong to a number of writers’ organizations, and a number of informal groups. Yesterday’s group is from Melbourne and surrounds, and we meet several times a year for lunch, always at the same place, which has a wonderful smorgasbord and yummy desserts. First there’s a bit of personal catching up, because we’ve known each other for a few years now, and then, inevitably the talk turns to books and writing.
Pic: from left: Sarah Mayberry, Alison Stuart, Melanie Scott, Michelle Conder, me. On other side of table, from rear: Carol Marinelli, Keri Arthur, Marion Lennox, Joan Kilby
We talk about what we’re writing and what we’re reading, we do “show and tell” showing our books and new covers, and sharing things around. Most of the talk is about business — because we’re all professional authors and make our living by writing. We started as all traditionally published authors (ie published with large international publishers) but several in the group have now become fully self-published, and are doing very well. And the business is always changing, so that’s always fascinating. And a little bit unsettling — for me, anyway.
Another informal group I meet up with is a little “historical” group. There are just four of us, and three of us write historical romance and one is the official biographer of Georgette Heyer, Jennifer Kloester. Julia Byrne and Stephanie Laurens started out writing for Mills and Boon Historicals at the same time. Julia then left writing for many years for family reasons and has only recently recommenced her writing career, but they have remained friends and each others’ crit partners for all that time. Isn’t that wonderful?
Pic: from left me, Julia Byrne, Jennifer Kloester (standing) Stephanie Laurens.
Another of my writers groups is called the Word Wenches, a group of mainly historical romance writers, mostly from the USA, but with one Canadian, one Brit and one Australian (me.) Being so far flung, we rarely meet face to face, but most days we chat on email, and even though I can count on my fingers the number of times we’ve met, we know each other pretty well. I’m going to the USA this year for the Romance Writers of American conference, where the Word Wenches will be presenting on a panel, and afterwards, we’re heading off to go on a small writing retreat. I can’t wait!
Speaking of retreats, I attend a writing retreat every year with another group of writers. It started around twelve years ago as a way of breaking down isolation between romance writers — we come from four different Australian states, and one is from NZ (and now lives in France) The first time we came together, we were relative strangers — some had never met — but now, with daily email conversations and annual retreats, we’re all very close.
Pic: From left: Carol Marinelli, Trish Morey, Marion Lennox, Kelly Hunter, me, then on the right from the rear: Barbara Hannay, Fiona McArthur, Meredith Webber. Missing: Alison Roberts.
We help each other all the time — we brainstorm plots, talk over scenes, share information and advice, and offer feedback and encouragement, especially when times are tough. And of course, since most of our communication happens on line, when we finally do meet up face to face, what better thing to do than share a meal?
I’ve only shown you the tip of the iceberg of my romance writing friends here. When I first started writing, I never imagined I’d make so many friends — and some are the best friends I’ve made anywhere. And I haven’t even touched on the readers who’ve become friends —I’ll save that for another post.