I missed this year’s national RWA conference in Denver due to my son’s wedding. There is another wedding scheduled in my family, and I discovered the Northeast Ohio RWA chapter was sponsoring a conference the weekend before. This allowed me to buy one plane ticket and attend two events. Win-win situation.
The conference opened with a keynote speech by Sonali Dev. She spoke how books explore who we are. They allow you to crawl inside other people different from you and become them. Books show how, despite outer differences, everyone is a human being. An uplifting message to start the day.
The first panel was about cliches and tropes. Good or bad? was the question, and how could questionable aspects of romance tropes be updated for the contemporary reader. Audience and panel discussed issues of consent and how to make things work for today. Their suggestions were worth considering, no matter what genre you write. Historical, paranormal, speculative are still stories for the current readers who expect the values of the present. Even though the topics were serious, the information was related in an engaging manner.
Next was another panel, which included Miranda Liasson, that talked about contests and why writers should enter them. Even if you are planning to self-publish, have your writing first vetted in a contest by anonymous judges who don’t care about your feelings. Online reviewers won’t once your book is available, so make the manuscript the best it can be.
Sometimes published authors enter contests as a marketing strategy. For example, if your romance has a mystery in it, entering mystery contests can alert those readers that your story might fit what they’re looking for. Or perhaps, a published author enters to see if her work is resonating with the readers. Contests can work for both pubbed and unpubbed.
The talk about literary legalese turned out to be fascinating. Lawyers have to pay close attention to all the words in a contract. The important thing to remember is ask, if you don’t understand something. This lead me to ask a question I’ve long wondered. If you e-mail the publisher and ask for clarification of something, does that e-mail interpretation govern that clause? The answer is no. A contract is complete unto itself. Extras can’t be tagged on. (This is USA law she was speaking of.) If an author wants that interpretation, then change the clause in the contract to state that.
The last workshop was Julie Anne Lindsey’s Outlining as an Author’s Power Tool. She can write a book from concept to first draft in 28 days. Her genres are romantic suspense and cozy mysteries. She passed around her outline for a recent book and described how she built it. She aims for one chapter a day, with 25 chapters in a book. I am a plotter, so this was a treasure to see and take (lots) of notes about. Now I’m inspired to go forth and produce.
The final item of the workshop was the raffle of 104 baskets. I won two of them so ended up with goodies stuffed into my suitcase to take back home. All in all, I regard it as a successful conference.