Kendall Talbot on the 2017 Romance Writers of Australia Conference

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Calling all romance writers! The 26th annual Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) conference kicks off in Brisbane on 11 August 2017. Attendees will be spoilt for choice with over 40 interactive seminars and workshops on offer as well as the conference’s highlight – the Romantic Book of the Year (RUBY) Award gala dinner. We’re extra excited for the RUBY Award this year, as two of our talented presenters, Pamela Hart (Freeman) and Natasha Lester are among the finalists!

We chatted with author and RWA 2017 conference organiser, Kendall Talbot, to discover more about this year’s event.

For those who don’t know what the Romance Writers of Australia Conference is, can you give us a quick run down?
“The 26th annual Romance Writers of Australia conference — Love Gone Wild — will be held in Brisbane from August 11-13 at the Pullman King George hotel. The conference will attract over 400 delegates and industry representatives, editors, agents, publishers and professionals from every Australian state and from around the world.

“With numerous changes in our industry over the past few years (mergers, acquisitions, the rise of self-publishing and more…) we are all faced with new challenges and opportunities. We aim to discover, grow and nurture all these elements at this year’s conference. With an exclusive Business Hub presented by industry professionals such as Google, Bolinda, Draft2Digital and Nielsen BookScan, and more than 30 breakout sessions dedicated to craft development, business education and marketing, Love Gone Wild is a conference dedicated to authors not to be missed.”

Who is the conference for? Is it just for established romance authors?
“This conference is open to all writers in all genres. The diverse workshops and breakout sessions we have on offer will accommodate all levels of writers from the aspiring right through to those who have multi-book publishing deals. You don’t need to be a romance author to attend. The romance genre is one of the most diverse literary categories: our sub-genres include historical, contemporary, romantic elements, rural romance, erotic romance, crime, suspense, mystery, LGBT, sci-fi, paranormal, fantasy, urban, young adult and new adult, just to name a few.

“In addition to the core conference held on Saturday and Sunday, there are also two full-day workshops on Friday 11 August 2017. For the more experienced writers, Kate Forsyth, the winner of the American Library Association Award for Best Historical Fiction and the author of more than 25 books, will present a Masterclass, Enchanting the Reader: Writing Stories that Readers Adore.  Those who are beginning or in the early stages of their writing journey can join the Writers’ Bootcamp with Anne Gracie. The tickets for these are sold separately to core conference and are a must for any writer at any level.”

What drew you to becoming the coordinator for the conference this year?
“I’ve been a member of RWA for about seven years and it’s such a wonderful organisation that has helped me to fulfil my dream of becoming a full-time author. I’ve been to the last five conferences and I’ve always known that I would one day volunteer. This year the conference is in my hometown of Brisbane, so I decided to help out. It was also an opportunity for our team (including Tina Clark and Tania Joyce) to introduce some fresh concepts like manuscript assessments and our Business Hub into this well-established, successful conference. I feel honored that the RWA executive committee has supported our ideas.”

How do you think writing conferences benefit both aspiring and established authors?
“We have more than 30 sessions on offer over the weekend and will have something for all levels of authors, from those just starting out to very experienced. We’ve catered for a diverse range of subgenres and have scheduled sessions that cover the craft of writing and the business aspects of being a published author (self-published, traditionally published or a hybrid). Attendees will be able to learn everything from writing the dreaded synopsis and creating captivating first pages to how to be more organised, how to self-publish and how to build review teams. We have many publishers, editors and agents giving sessions on what they are looking for, how they operate and individual sessions such as how to break into the US market.

“Another exciting aspect of our conference is that people attending core conference will have the opportunity to pitch their manuscript to one of the attending publishers or agents. For the first time ever, the RWA conference will also be offering paid manuscript assessments where attendees can have a publisher peruse their work and provide feedback to a limited number of pages and discuss their work in a 15-minute one-on-one meeting.”

If someone is aspiring to start a writing conference of their own, what does it take to run one?
“Organising a conference of this magnitude requires lots of time, patience, good communication, excellent organisational skills, and an ability to compromise, delegate and mediate when necessary. And most important of all, it is essential to have a great team supporting you. I estimate we each spend approximately 15 hours each week on this event. This time allocation will only increase come conference month. I’m juggling a variety of conversations between my team, the RWA executive committee, the VIPs and the volunteers. Because RWA is a volunteer-run organisation, where most of us work and juggle writing careers and families, not everything happens at the speed you’d like, so patience is very important.

“I believe my team and I will be producing one of the most exciting RWA conferences to date. I hope I’ll actually be able to attend some of the wonderful sessions we have on offer. RWA has helped me immensely in my writing career so I am glad I have been able to offer my services and contribute back to this wonderful organisation.  The people I’m meeting through organising the conference will not only produce long-term friendships, but hopefully it will open doors for me in the future.”

For more information on the conference, visit the RWA website.

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