I’ve just returned from a long holiday overseas and my brain is beginning to warm up…
Back in July, I flew over to gorgeous San Francisco (picking up four lovely and talented NZ writers Sara Hantz, Amanda Ashby, Ellie Huse and Shelley Munro in Auckland on the way) for Romance Writers of America’s annual conference. Shelley’s husband had organised for us to travel from SFO to the Marriott in style–with a stretch limo. (A sharp contrast to the shuttle bus I was herded into after the conf.)
In the following five days raged a battle between me and an invisible foe called Jet Lag. However, I still managed to have a terrific time at my first American conference. Most of the workshops I attended were run by YA writers, including the gracious and talented Trish Milburn, who’d recently critiqued my work.
Screenwriters from All My Children and Guiding Light provided memorable insights into writing soaps that translate well into other genres:
* Give your characters a secret–it doesn’t have to be revealed to the audience, but it affects the way they see the world and interact with others.
* Make characters dark and find a way to redeem them.
* When you’re developing a scene, think of the best and worst things that could happen to the character.
* On soaps, head writers devise plots for a three- to six-month time frame, then breakdown scriptwriters write the episodes. (And sometimes breakdown scriptwriters verge on breakdowns themselves when they have to reincarnate characters who have died in previous seasons.)
* Soap operas were devised by Procter and Gamble to promote their products.
In another workshop, I learned the fundamental differences between a suspense, a thriller and a mystery:
* Suspense novels are all about the anticipation of danger
* Thrillers are about the future
* Mysteries are about the past.
I can’t remember who said this, but there’s a gap in the YA market for mysteries, thrillers, and books for boys. I also believe Jennifer Klonsky from Simon Pulse is on the lookout for superhero, paranormal, commercial, and fun novels.
Cindi Myers, who’s always so generous in passing on market information to fellow writers, had this to say about amping up productivity:
* Don’t know where all your time goes? Chart your time on a calendar or planner and ID blocks of time that could be better used for writing.
* Use a ritual to trigger writing time. (For instance, you could play a certain song that inspires you; eat a set number of chocolate bars; whatever works for you.)
Of course, it wasn’t all work and no play. The Australian/New Zealand contingent numbered around 30, which I think is a record. One of the biggest highlights was the exclusive Harlequin cocktail party. I scored an invite from Laura, Nora Roberts’ publicist, after we volunteered at the registration desk together. And I got to meet la Nora herself! (It was a brief meeting, but a meeting nonetheless!) Harlequin Spice author Cathleen Ross forced me to dance to Bon Jovi and ABBA songs after our indulgent visit to the chocolate fountain.
The conference culminated in the RITA Awards, which really is the equivalent of the Oscars. Sparkly gowns galore. My treasured friend Anna Campbell was up for two awards for Best Historical, and NZ author Emily Gee was also nominated for two awards.
Thank you to:
* Sara, Amanda and Ellie for inviting me to dinners and brekkies, and being wonderful travel companions.
* Marley Gibson for telling me about her ghost-hunting trips. Spooooooky!
* Trish Milburn, Christine Wells, Anna Campbell and all the Banditas for inviting me to their party.
* RWA for a fabulous conference. Great workshops and great people.
* The housekeepers at the Marriott on Fourth Street.
* San Francisco, where I left a piece of my heart and almost lost my wallet.
What I wish I’d done:
* Arrived a few days earlier to get over the jet lag. The last day of the conf was the first time I felt even slightly human.
* Worked up the courage to introduce myself to more authors, especially those I’m in awe of. There’s one author I really should’ve said hi to, but I felt like such a dork.
* This list could get long and boring, so I’ll hold it there. Have a look at some pics instead.
whose new release, The Dangerous Duke, is out now.
and all-round fabulous person.
(that chocolatey thing on the champers bottle).
and me wearing an accessory that is more tragic than tres chic.