Anne here, and I've just arrived home after traveling and attending conferences and writing retreats for the last three and a half weeks. And launching a book, so if this blog is a little scatty and unfocused, I hope you'll forgive me.
The first conference was the Romance Writers of America conference in New York. I flew from Melbourne to Los Angeles and stopped in LA for a couple of days, because the 16+ hour flight is long enough without continuing straight on to New York, which would be around 21+ hours flying time, not including waiting time. So I like to stop in California for a couple of days and work, and walk in the sun to reset my body clock a bit.
The New York conference was brilliant, not so much for the workshops etc — I was only able to attend two, both of which were excellent — but for the meetings with my editor and agent and others who work for my publisher. I came away from those meetings feeling valued and very positive. And of course my book came out while I was there, which was very exciting — and busy.
It was also lovely meeting up with friends from the USA and Canada, as well as some from the UK, Ireland and even some Australians who live in far flung parts of the continent and that I don't often get to see. And as well there was a small group of lovely French readers and writers who we've met before at US conferences, and who are involved with running the French Romance Conference.
It's tempting, when you first start writing, to want to shut yourself away and concentrate on writing, writing, writing. And marketing and promo and obsessively watching your numbers. But getting out and about, mixing with all kinds of people, visiting new places and experiencing different things is what feeds your muse and your writing, and keeps you fresh and happy.
Understand the things you can control — your writing, how good it is, how much you write, how frequently you publish — and make that your priority. You can't control sales numbers — and marketing, promo, etc. can eat up your time, money and energy and drive you crazy to little effect.
Believe in yourself, in your voice, and in the stories you want to tell. The market, the publishing world is constantly changing, but good stories about characters people care about will always find readers. A career in publishing is a long game.
After the conference a group of Wenches — Mary Jo, Andrea, Pat, Joanna and I — went to Connecticut to go on a short writing retreat. Some of us stayed at a hotel, and we all met at Andrea's house to write and eat and brainstorm and drink and talk. It was wonderful. For all that we know each other pretty well through frequent email contact, it's quite different meeting and hanging out in person.
And in the brainstorming, we discovered we can all get pretty intense, which was fun. It's also very interesting how each of us approaches it in a different way, which meant the feedback we gave was (speaking for myself) really helpful. Often the purpose in brainstorming is just to jolt the writer off the rails she has built for herself, and make her look at the story from different angles. And in the process, new insights arise.
After that I headed back to California and went down the south coast to spend a few days beside the sea, soak up some sun and do some work before getting on the plane back to Australia. I also caught up with Pat and her husband, who showed me around their little corner of the world and took me out to dinner.
Then the long trip home, where I landed safely but my bag apparently kept travelling. It finally turned up half an hour before I had to leave for my next conference, but in the meantime, I'd said on the RWAust Facebook group page that I might be wearing trakky daks (Australian slang for gym pants) and moccasins at the conference. I was inundated with sympathetic messages, and private emails with offers of clothes, makeup, and even shoes, which blew me away. People can be so kind.
The Australian romance conference always kicks off with a costume cocktail party, which acts as a fun icebreaker. The costumes provide a great talking point and everybody mixes in, whether or not they have a costume. This year the theme was twisted fairy tales. I always dress up so I threw together a very last minute costume which was "Sleeping Beauty gone to seed" and involved a green feather boa, and a pile of artificial roses.
But lots of people went to real trouble, as you can see.
We always eat and drink well, too at our conferences, and on the first day an American presenter said with some bemusement, "Oh yes, we have to stop at 10.30 and 3.30 for "tea", don't we?" She said "tea" as if it was some rarefied English aristocratic ritual <g> but she soon learned that as well as tea and coffee, there was food — something savory and something sweet, different every time. Morning tea might be sausage rolls or mini quiches and cup cakes or muffins or little chocolate or lemon tarts.
And that was on top of the two course lunch that was provided. We Aussies love our morning and afternoon tea, and the NZ conference is the same. So it wasn't quite the "tea" she'd imagined — and I'm certain she came away with a deep approval of the ritual.
So now I'm home, and I have my little black dog beside me snoring on her bed. She's sticking close to me — every time I move, she follows me. She loves the kennels where she stays when I'm traveling — she leaves me happily, dragging the kennel keepers away without a backward look at me, but she's always glad to be home. And so am I, looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.
What about you — when you travel, what do you miss most? And what do you look forward to doing or having when you first get home?