Catching my breath after the start of the Romance Writers of Australia conference here in Perth, Western Australia, and I’m happy to say that the romance community is just as vibrant and welcoming down here as it is back home! Festivities began on Thursday evening, but I confess I skipped the opening cocktails in lieu of sleep, having just come off 26 hours on a plane (well, several planes).

For me, the fun began on Friday evening, with the “Nautical or Nice” cocktail party. Dress was cocktail or costume, and many people went all out! Here are the winners of the costume contest–Ursula the Sea Witch, a woman who seemed like she might be a Brit or Aussie equivalent of Uncle Sam (do you know who she is? the crowd did, but I didn’t), and the winners–a couple dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl!

RWAus costume winners
Popeye & Olive receiving their prize

By Saturday, I was starting to recover from jet lag–a good thing because at RWAus, they hit the ground running. After morning coffee (8 am!) it was time for the opening keynote, given by bestselling author Julia Quinn (who was funnier than anyone has a right to be that early in the morning), and a presentation by conference sponsor Harlequin. After that, it was time for the editor Q&A panel–oof! I think I was coherent enough, and the crowd had lots of terrific questions. Fellow panelists included Sheila Hodgson from Harlequin, Nina Bruhns from Entangled, as well as representatives from Hachette Australia and local publishers.

Following that, it was morning tea, at which I broke my 24-hour streak of not spilling something on myself. Sigh. Fortunately, it was roughly the same color as my red “power dress,” and the conference lanyard fell directly on top of it, so my shame was hidden. I had just enough time to mop up a bit before presenting my workshop, “Buy this Book,” in which we staged a mock editorial board. The enthusiastic crowd not only gamely offered to volunteer as editors, publicity and marketing directors, and subrights managers, but also asked terrific questions throughout. A good time was had by all.

After lunch with Nina, Australian agent Alex Adsitt, and some of the conference organizers, I got a chance to hang out in the bar (the heart of any conference) with Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches fame. We laughed about having to come all the way across the globe to see each other, despite living mere minutes apart in the NYC area, and talked about the many presentations Sarah’s doing this year at the conference. (I wanted to attend her Blogging 101 panel, but I’ll be taking pitches at the same time. Fortunately, she promised me a followup lecture back in our own neighborhood!)

It’s wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for romance, and publishing, and to discover how much romance readers have in common all across the globe. And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the wonderful conference organizers for inviting me, especially Claire Boston for coordinating, and Gallery Books’ own Michelle Diener for taking great care of me and escorting my groggy self from airport to hotel.

Claire Boston & Michelle Diener at RWAus13
Claire Boston & Michelle Diener at RWAus13

 

Now I’m resting up before tonight’s award gala (I’ll be presenting one of the awards–better practice pronouncing those nominee names!). Tomorrow, I take pitches, but before that, the morning’s panel is “Survivor: Submission Island”! Brave souls have volunteered to have their work read to a panel of editors and agents, who will give it the Simon Cowell treatment (or if they’re lucky, the Paula Abdul treatment). Should be good fun…if any of you Australian romance fans can, I highly recommend attending RWAus next year!