Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.
For those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray.
Because conference time, apart from my birthday and Christmas, is my favourite time of year. Like those two other notable annuals occasions, at conference I get to party, have shedloads of alcohol, get presents and catch up with my friends. But unlike those other occasions, I get to talk about romance. Just romance. For four whole days. For the benefit of the uninitiated, rather than writing a novella on the event, I have picked out my top ten moments from the conference.
10. Seeing Maisey Yates
I briefly met Maisey Yates at the RWAmerica conference in New York two years ago, but in those 30 seconds she made an impression. A beautiful, vivacious and funny woman who writes searingly hot romance for Mills & Boon Sexy and Berkley, Maisey is a pleasure to be around.
Check out Romance at Booktopia’s Fast Five with Maisey Yates here
9. The ARRA Book Signing, sponsored by Booktopia
The ARRA book signing is a romance reader’s bookshelf come to life – all your favourite Australian (and some notable international) romance authors in one room, waiting to sign your book.
8. The Booktopia Romance Wall
It is rare that romance readers need a reason to share why they love romance, but just in case I bribed them with AMAZING cupcakes from Littlesweet Baking in Fremantle. Watching the wall fill up with post-it notes all about loving books about love was a lovely feeling. And there was cake!
7. ‘Queen of the Road’ wins a RBY!
Watching Tricia Stringer receive her award for Romantic Book of the Year award in the ‘Romantic Elements’ category was a special joy – partly because this was the first book Tricia had traditionally published (she had been self-publishing previously), partly because this was her first Romance Writers Conference, and partly because I signed and published Queen of the Road when in my previous role as publisher. Needless to say, I jumped out of my chair and clapped til my hands were sore.
6. Lunch with Smart Bitch Sarah
No one represents the romance community quite like Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Sarah is a smart-mouthed, smart-brained, dirty-talking romance blogger who can just as easily give you a romance review that references feminism, writing culture, social mores and politics as tell you a smutty anecdote. In short, I love her.
5. My Friday Morning Breakfast
This pile of toast, cream cheese, mushroom and eggs was the cure for moment #4 and making me feel able to face moment #6.
4. The Welcome Drinks aka Destiny Romance’s 1st Birthday
The first of three nights of champagne, excited chatter, catching up with friends. This one featured a cupcake tower, lots of tipsy women and pirates clutching roses. As no doubt most first birthdays do…right?
3. The ‘Nautical or Nice’ Cocktail Party
In my opinion, there just aren’t enough occasions to dress up, and when I do get the chance to attend one, I’m usually the only one who had bothered and I end up feeling like a twit. Not so at RWA. Here, women plan their costumes up to six months in advance and the awards for best-dressed are heartily contended for. And, as above, champagne once again flowed freely, as did the hangovers the next day. Notable costumes during the night were a bedraggled Ursula the Sea Witch, Olive and Popeye and a deserted island (complete with bird and palm tree).
2. Getting in bed with the enemy/s
In the competitive book industry, it is rare to see publishers, bloggers and booksellers breaking bread (or, in this case, naan) together, but romance, as we all know, brings people together. A truly rollicking time was had in Kate Cuthbert’s (Managing Editor of Escape Publishing) room with Indian food, more champagne, and the fantastic company of Kat Mayo (blogger at Bookthingo and Booktopia Romance Buzz), Sarah Wendell (Smart Bitches, Trashy Books) , Alex Adsett (Agent Extraordinaire), Peter Ball (author and GenreCon Coordinator) and Joel Naoum (Momentum).
1. Dancing at the Escape Awards Afterparty
There was a chocolate fountain, there was a perfectly-slippery dance floor, there were some brilliant 70s, 80s and 90s tunes and there was, you guessed it, more champagne. My heels came off after the 3rd song. A sweaty, giggly, jiggly time was had by all.
Thanks to the following authors for meeting with me and having a chat for Romance at Booktopia TV:
Click on the links above, or check out the Romance at Booktopia Youtube channel, to see the interviews.
The Return Flight to Sydney. Mix an early flight with no gate at which to park, a broken airbridge and a bunch of pissed bogans and you have a very angry romance specialist.
Haylee Nash is the Romance Specialist at Booktopia and usually enjoys flying, but lack of sleep, too much champagne and extended periods away from her husband make her less forgiving of the quirks of air travel. When she is not gallivanting around the countryside, she enjoys telling smutty stories and extolling the virtues of reading romance. You can follow her on twitter @LoveAtBooktopia or on Facebook at Romance At Booktopia.