On May 2nd & 3rd I attended the annual conference of the New England Chapter of the Romance Writer’s of America at the Boston Marriott Burlington. As a former event planner, I know what it takes to pull off an event of this size and the volunteers at NECRWA did a great job.
As it happened, also on May 2nd, News Corp announced it was acquiring romance publisher Harlequin from TorStar. Timing as they say is everything. The unfortunate part was that clearly the editors from the Harlequin imprints were as caught off guard as the rest of the industry. Conference attendees were rushing them for answers, that the editors just didn’t have. The general consensus was things will stay status quo for romance authors for the time being. As is always the case with an acquisition, there will be some contraction in the management, editorial and administrative ranks, but that’s at least 9-12 months out, longer if the Canadian Government delays approval of the sale.
Bella Andre and Cara McKenna both gave keynote presentations and both were delightful. Bella Andre’s self published, Sullivan series has been a ebook phenomenon. In 2012, Andre inked a landmarkseven figure deal with Harlequin MIRA for the English print rights to the series. She retained all of the e-book rights, audio rights, film rights and foreign rights. In January of this year, she signed her third print only deal with Harlequin for three more Sullivan books. She spoke candidly about her adventures in self publishing and encouraged the audience to “own and understand your own story”. Andre says “The only thing that matters is the book. Once it’s out and you’ve told a few people, your job is to sit down and write the next one.” It’s very easy to get distracted by marketing, social media and email, but the book is the key to your success.
Cara McKenna is an author of contemporary romance and erotica. She’s also a home grown New England girl (soon to be an Oregon transplant). I’d tell you about her speech, but really, you should experience it for yourself. She re-recorded it and posted it here (language warning, but it’s totally worth it). She was clearly nervous (told us as much as she started the speech) but utterly charming.
I attended a number of great breakout sessions, there were two highlights for me and both were on the craft of writing. One was on the ins and outs of character motivation. Presenter Jane Lesley applied the “Stages of Change” model outlined in “Changing for Good” by Jim Prochaska to fictional character development and motivation. I can’t wait to apply this to my own work.
The second was called “The Book that Writes Itself” and was presented by historical romance author Madeline Hunter. In this session Hunter presented a in-depth discussion on creating conflict that will carry your story. “You need more than man done wrong/man doesn’t trust women/ man will never love again.” She encouraged the audience to look for a conflict that “can’t be resolved by two people having a good talk”. According to Hunter one example of conflict that can sustain a romance novel is “She must do something and he must stop her from doing it.” Embellish as you wish.
I enjoyed this conference. It was great to get away without the hassle of being too far from home. The conference was affordable and educational. The New England Chapter of RWA hosts their conference annually. Next year it will return to the Boston Marriott Burlington on April 24th and 25th 2015 and they have already confirmed Barbara Wallace http://barbarawallace.com/ as a key note speaker. For more information visit their web site or follow them on Twitter.
Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.