I did it! I survived my first conference – the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference. To go from the company of mostly only two small dogs to being surrounded by four hundred plus women was a bit of a leap, but it was worth it. I mostly attended the academic stream where I heard about things like femininity/masculinity, ageism, subversiveness, stereotypes and so on. In the non-academic component, I learned a lot about the state of genre publishing… which will be extremely interesting and useful in the next couple of years for me. The absolute standout, though, was an address by author Fiona McIntosh. She told hilarious stories, but she also trashed so many of the long held clichés I’d held about writing. It is an art, but it’s also a business, and you can’t just be creative or talented, you have to be savvy and strategic. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and now I’m busy making up my lists of writer/career goals for the short, medium and long term. Some are realistic, some are incredibly fanciful, but it was nice to hear from somebody who has been there, done that.
While I will never knock the amazing education in creative writing I’ve received so far at university, I sometimes feel like I know so much theory but not a great deal of practice. There is a definite split between what is literary and what is genre, how these two groups are perceived, what is considered valuable or not. Sometimes I feel like a sellout to be aspiring to eventually make money from my writing, but then some other times, I feel like literary writing and poetry can be subject to the exact same rules and trends and targeting that happens in genre fiction. There is snobbery in both worlds about the merits of the other, but I just feel like they don’t have to be so at odds with each other. It’s just complicated. I hope that I can eventually figure out a way to carve out a career that lets me straddle the divide and have my fingers in both pies, to be totally cliché. I want to write literary fiction that remembers that a good, engaging story is more memorable and emotionally satisfying than showing off how stylistic I can be; I want to write genre fiction that allows itself to stray from the plot to find real moments of beauty and intellectual clarity. Basically, I just want to write stuff that I would like to read.
Only a few people know this about me, but my main job right now is writing erotica and erotic romance under a pseudonym. None of what I have written is particularly polished, none of it is part of a strategic plan, and a lot of it has been experimentation to see what niche ‘sticks’, so to speak – hence not publicizing the pen name, to anybody. There has been freedom in this; knowing that nobody I know would be reading my work has taken pressure off and allowed me to be more risque than I would be otherwise. It has felt extremely good to be able to say that I have made money from writing – hell, it even took us to Bali the first time. But it’s time to get serious now, I really want to write something under my real name, something that I can proudly tell people about. So many of these women didn’t start until they were much older than me and still managed to build amazing careers, so I wonder how far I can go if I start now.
Long story short, I am very glad I went to the conference. There are always naysayers, in everything I do; people who would think that this whole writing thing, or even daring to travel interstate to a conference was just an exercise in self-indulgence. Just a ‘holiday’. But I learned so much, and I did made a few contacts. Even when there were people who I didn’t personally meet, I now have that point of reference where when I do meet them, I can say, “Oh, I saw you speak at RWA’s 2016 conference, your presentation was wonderful”. More than anything, it was nice to participate. I have spent so long following people on twitter and reading blogs, feeling like I was on the margins and not really a part of things. Now, even in the tiniest way, I am a part of it.
Plus, I did have some fun too!
The Stamford Grand was seriously one of the fanciest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The foyer reminded me of the start of Beaches. Plus my room was huge! Best of all, it had a bathtub. Until our bathroom get renovated, we are bathtub-less in this house, and it seriously drives me to tears on cold winter days when I have a cold or end up caught in the rain.
It was like they knew we were coming or something…
Thursday night to Friday night transformation. I pinned my hair into something like a bob and borrowed a dress from Mum. Add some red lipstick and voila – instant glamour. The theme was cabaret but I wasn’t game enough for fishnets and frilly knickers (some were, and more power to them!) – next year’s theme has something to do with butterflies and being wild, so I might have to up my costume game for that one.
Two views from the hotel. The beach at Glenelg was so picturesque – especially the way it was perfectly oriented to show off the sunset. And they had this giant heart sculpture on the foreshore – again, it’s like they knew we were coming!
But best of all, I got to come home to this.
Unluckily for me, I woke up on the Monday morning with a wicked sore throat, which quickly turned into a fever and a feeling like all my bones were broken. I have slept probably eighty percent of the hours that I have been home, somehow managed to lose an entire day to sleeping, and the doctor says I have the flu (the real flu, not just a dramatic cold). It’s Friday now and I finally feel a little better, but I know that even walking to the mailbox would require a panadol and a nap… but if I am stuck on the sofa wrapped in blankets, at least I can get some writing done!