Our Romance Writers of New Zealand 14th annual writers’ conference is nearly upon us. This year we’ve taken a leap of faith and changed our venue to Crowne Plaza Hotel, right in the heart of Auckland City – hence this year’s catchy conference theme: “Romance and the City”. We have a stellar line-up this year, with guest speakers Jenny Crusie, Anne Stuart, Kristin Nelson & Sheila Hodgson (among others!). And of course I can’t forgo mentioning the wonderfully eloquent Stuart MacDonald from Harlequin Australia; sponsors of our awards dinner and cocktail party events. When he spoke at our awards dinner last year, Stuart made every man in the room aware that romance writing was big business and nothing to be scoffed at with your mates! For that alone, I’m thrilled he’s attending again this year and I’ll be awaiting his comments with bated breath.
And talking about conferences, have you ever volunteered to help organise a romance writers’ conference? Speaking from experience it’s certainly an eye-opener! I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing overseas writers and I’ve learned heaps about the business. It’s been an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world but after 3 consecutive years on our Conference Committee, it’s time to bow out and let someone else step in.
I’d been an RWNZ member for less than a year and only attended one conference before I was co-opted onto the committee. Being somewhat ignorant regarding the entire organisation as a whole at that stage (heck, I’d only just begun to get my head around all this ‘category romance’ & ‘single title’ stuff!) I naively thought that being the Conference Treasurer meant just that: submitting a budget, keeping track of expenditure, collecting raffle money and donations during the conference, and finalizing the budget afterwards for the executive committee to peruse.
Among other things, I designed and printed gift vouchers, collated questionnaires and brushed up my spreadsheeting graph skills and got my head around Word mail merges for speakers’ letters and using Publisher for timetables.
Last year our poor, frazzled registrar couldn’t attend the actual conference, so I helped out. I designed and printed name badges for our lanyards, processed last-minute registrations and learned what was needed to set up an efficient registration desk – thank heavens for our volunteers who’d done it all before and set me right!
I also bought all the main raffle prizes and wrapped them. The buying was fun… shopping with someone else’s money – what’s not to like? But I discovered wrapping is so NOT my forte. I’m sure it took me three times as long as it should to have them all looking pretty! I also bought lots of NZ goodies and made up baskets for each speaker, so they had plenty of crackers, cheese, bubbly, chocolates, grapes etc to snack on as soon as they arrived in their hotel rooms. Add all those baskets to a heap of boxes full of conference goodie bags for our attendees and despite owning a station-wagon, my car was chocka-block! It took two trips to get everything to the venue and the look on the hotel porter’s face when I rocked up to check in was priceless.
This year, I’m looking forward to the actual conference so I can put all the behind-the-scenes organisation to bed and just enjoy being with fellow-writers and learning from our experienced, wonderfully-generous-with-their-advice speakers. There are some really fun aspects of being on the committee – my fellow committee members and I spent a morning last week salivating over various menu choices – but it’s also very time-consuming in today’s time-poor world. This year, not only have I done the whole budget thing, but I’ve also helped set-up an online registration system, designed and printed all the name badges and special events tickets, checked off tickets to bookings & packaged them up ready for pickup at the registration desk, organised gifts for speakers, purchased and wrapped main raffle prizes and done countless other little odds and ends. Lately I feel glued to my computer and email! On the plus side, though, I finally have Word mail merges completely licked!
With two and a half weeks to go, hopefully I’ve got it all under control now, so it’s time to organise my agent pitch – eek! – and figure out what to wear to the cocktail party and awards dinner – even bigger eek! Last time I looked at the calendar, I had six weeks to ‘get fit and toned’… where did that time go? And, hopefully, I’ll have time to begin writing another book. Preferrably before my head explodes. Coz this idea is running round and round in my brain and no matter how tired I am, I’m practically an insomniac at the moment – not good!
I hope I haven’t put anyone off joining a conference organising committee. I really feel very strongly that everyone should get involved in some way, shape or form. After all, the conferences are intended for YOU: the writer. And the best way to get the sort of conference YOU want to attend, is to help organise it. At least once, my advice is to just do it!
So here’s to “Romance and the City”. Thanks to all my fellow committee members and the many volunteers who help us. May it all run smoothly and be the best conference ever!
And now to July’s reading list… It’s rather shorter than usual because I just haven’t had much time for reading the past two weeks!
-Eleven On Top by Janet Evanovich
-The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
-The Dead Girls’ Dance by Rachel Caine
-Goddess of Love by P.C. Cast
-Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich
-To Love a Scoundrel by Kristina Cook
-Industrial Magic by Kelley Armstrong
-Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews
-Coyote Dreams by C.E. Murphy
-The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
-Taming Rafe by Suzanne Enoch
-Thief With No Shadow by Emily Gee
-Enchanter (Axis Trilogy Book 2) by Sara Douglass
-White Tiger by Kylie Chan
-Rich Man’s Revenge by Tessa Radley
-Phantom by Terry Goodkind