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The 2023 RWAust Conference

Here, finally is the report on the recent Romance Writers of Australia conference in Sydney. I already wrote about it once on the Word Wench Blog, so click here to catch up with that post. I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.  (That’s ErinMoiraO’Hara, good fairy  at the “Glitter” cocktail party)

Having not been to any in-person conference since CoVid first hit, it was both exciting and a little confronting to catch up with so many people at once. Some of the events were really crowded — and noisy. When a bunch of writers get together there is a LOT to talk about.  And it was so good to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen for three or more years.

On the first night in, I had dinner with my friend, Sharon, who was heading to NZ the next day for her work. I first met Sharon when she enrolled in a one-day workshop with me at the NSW Writers Centre, and helped me get back to my hotel. We’ve stayed in touch ever since.

Then on Friday, my friend, historical author Isolde Martyn took me out to lunch at one of her favourite restaurants — The Little Snail. This was my entrée. (Here an entrée is the starter course. I was quite confused when I first ate out in the USA and found that entrée was what people called the main course.) It was the only snail dish on the menu, and I decided that since I eat all kinds of shellfish, why not snails? And they were delicious.

I first met Isolde in the USA at a Romance Writers of America conference in Washington DC, where we were both RITA finalists for Best First Book. She won, and we’ve been friends ever since. (I’m the one with the green top.)

Then on Friday night there was the cocktail party. Our cocktail parties are always costume parties, and this year the theme was “Glitter” and wow, you have no idea how much glitter was in evidence. I particularly loved these glittery boots.

But so many people had glittery outfits. I made do with a beaded top I already had—which I’d been given some years ago — and made a silly OTT turban, with a black feather boa, a strip of silver sequined fabric and a purple and diamanté feather headdress I’d worn for a 1920’s theme, several conferences ago.  (I have a fondnesss for turban-type headdresses.) Here I am in my hotel room before the party started.

And here are some more photos of what people were wearing. (Sorry about the wonky arrangement — I can’t seem to get the layout to do what I want.)

Actually I was stunned at how many people had “proper” glittery outfits. Clearly my wardrobe is lacking. The gray beaded top is the only glittery garment I own — though I do have some sparkly scarves.

Going to the Conference

Next week I’ll be heading up to Sydney for the conference. “Which conference?” you ask. The annual Romance Writers of Australia conference.  Up until CoVid hit, I’d never missed a conference, but in the last few years we’ve had conferences cancelled and taken on line, and while one in Brisbane went ahead, the Queensland border was closed to people from other states. So this will be the first in-person conference I’ve attended in several years.

I’m looking forward to it, especially because it gives me the chance to catch up with writing friends I haven’t seen in years. I’ll also be giving a workshop on “Surprise and Delight Your Readers.” I always enjoy giving workshops.

Our conferences are also fun. They kick off on the Friday night with a Costume Cocktail Party with a different theme each year. When I first joined RWAust. the cocktail party used to be a “Meet the Authors” one, and everyone was dressed nicely but not many people were game to come up and talk to authors, who were madly chatting and catching up with each other. 

Because we were spread all across Australia, the annual conference was the only time most of us got to see and talk to each other.  It was lovely for the authors, but not so much for everyone else.

Then one year the conference was held in a historic hotel in Melbourne, and we changed it to a costume theme — from memory the first one was “Dress Retro” and even though quite a few people didn’t dress in costume, we encouraged people to at least get a feather boa, and it really changed the atmosphere.  Everybody chatted to everyone else, there was lots of talk about the various costume — “Ooh look at you!” and “Wow, I love your costume!” etc.

It was the perfect ice-breaker, and since then it’s gone from strength to strength.There’s no compulsion to come in costume, but these days a majority of people do. I always dress up — it’s no big deal for me to make a fool of myself: a friend and I used to run the drama cupboard when I was a teacher, and I enjoy dressing in costume. Especially silly ones.

Mine aren’t very fancy — they’re either home-made (very slapdash) with cheap fabric, and various bits and pieces from the $2 shops near me.  

The creature above in pink — no, it’s not Barbie <g>— it’s  me, some years ago dressed  as Dame Barbara Cartland, complete with pekes.

The pic on the left is me at the “Gone Wild” cocktail party and the headdress is made of a brown feather boa, with a series of spiky dried pods from my big old monstera deliciosa jammed into it. And hand-drawn spots on my face — which were ridiculously tricky to remove that night.

Another year it was all about “Fractured Fairytales”. I dressed as the wicked queen and made a tiara with glued on feathers, rats, snakes and spiders and attached plastic spiders to some of my jewellery. And here’s the photo.

Last time I didn’t go to a lot of trouble. It was a fairy-take theme and I went as Briar Rose, using a patterned velvet coat with roses on it that I had, a string of plastic roses from a $2 shop, some green eyeshadow “vines” on my face and a green feather boa wrapped around my head. The photo here is of me with my friend, author Trish Morey, who was borrowing my roses. Pity we didn’t realize how tastefully we were staged — just outside the male toilets!

As you can see, I do like a silly headdress — feather boas are remarkably easy to wrap around a head — tuck the ends in and they just stay there.  This year I’m not planning to go to a lot of trouble with the actual costume. The theme is “Glitter” and to be honest, I would have to make a costume from scratch, as I don’t have any glittery clothes, and I don’t have time at the moment — especially to make a one-off costume. I do have a beaded top, and I’ve bought a length of sequined fabric that I plan to turn into some kind of turban. I do have plenty of glittery jewelry though, and that will have to do. I’ll post some photos of the cocktail party when I get home again.

Do you like dressing up in costume, or not?

 

 

 

 

Catching up with friends

There was a big book-signing event in Melbourne last weekend, and authors came in from all over to attend. Not me, though. Those big events are best for authors who are mostly indie (self-publishing) and who are prolific writers. As you know, I’m slow.

But I managed to catch up with two good mates a few days before the signing started — Keri Arthur and Amy Andrews. Here we are taking a last-minute selfie in the car park — Keri on the left, then Amy and then me peering over Amy’s shoulder.

We all more or less met many years ago when we worked on the RWAustralia committee for six years, and that sort of experience can be bonding. It was so great catching up after several years of not seeing each other, mainly because of CoVid. Sadly there were only three of us — two had dropped out at the last minute, one because she had CoVid, and the other because she had a tooth emergency. Still the three of us had a lovely time and we talked and talked and talked.  It’s wonderful being able to catch up with friends again.