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Conference roundup – Saturday workshops

20. August 2006

Ahh, Saturday. Now we were getting serious.
I also have a confession to make. Last year, I didn’t remember which workshops I was booked into, so I may or may not have gone to the ones I wanted (in fact, i changed at least one of them on the day due to a recommendation).
This year, I changed my mind, too, and went to different workshops than I was supposed to. I know. I’m bad.

The day started off with housekeeping and the doling out of the first sale ribbons. Even without having accomplished anything exciting, I felt so proud watching all these ladies go and get their recognition. The atmosphere was charged, and everybody was celebrating their fellow writers’ success. This was not a time for petty jealousy. We all know we’re in this together, and any of us reaching a goal is all of us reaching it.
Or maybe it only is in my little idealistic world, I don’t know. Either way, I felt pretty damn good about it.

Then Debbie Macomber gave her speech. She’s lovely, I can’t say it often enough. I had heard bits of this speech on tape, too, but that didn’t make it any less special. Her road to success is an inspiration and a humble reminder how easy most of us have it. This woman has an amazing strength of belief in her.
I always get teary hearing people’s stories about them fighting and defeating the odds. Good thing everybody else was too spellbound to notice, too.
What a start.

Then Paula Eykelhof gave us the rough and dirty about where Harlequin is headed. There was a lot of info on the various imprints, but all of that can easily be found at eHarlequin, so I won’t bore you with a recap. She basically talked about what the lines were looking for and who was actively acquiring. She also recommended the Harlequin America contest to us. Unfortunately, that one is only open to US citizens. But hey, it’s the thought that counts.
I was of course most interested in Blaze (which is now shorter, YAY!) and ModX (which I learned a bit more about).

Next up was the Spectronics presentation, but I missed almost all of it due to a much-needed bathroom break. But that’s okay. I don’t want a Neo (I couldn’t afford it anyway, so I tell myself I don’t want it…)

After morning tea, it was finally time for the first tutorial of the conference. I went to Lilian Darcy‘s “Career Planning for optimists”, which was a nice combo between inspiration and substance, I thought. I really liked her point about not getting published too early, and how much slower your progress will be once you are part of the published crowd and have to perform to standard rather than being free to explore yourself as a writer.
Her workshop made me feel good.

I took quite a few notes in that one, too, mainly because I felt charged and motivated (and wanted to blog about it…
One of the key things early on was her saying this business of ours is ‘reactive’, meaning we are forever chasing trends and the like. But you can’t just do that. You have to figure out what works. For you, for your audience, for your publisher.

Her career plan approach was immensely helpful to me, and probably the biggest chunk of wisdom I received all conference.

One definition was a real eye opener: The difference between a goal and a wish.
Most people will say things like “My goal is to be published.” That’s not your goal. That’s your dream. You have no control over the outcome of this. Your goal, on the other hand, could be to finish four novels. You are in control of that. of course unexpected things happen, but you can still make it possible or not.

I’ve incorporated her career plan method into my current career plan, and I’m enjoying it.

Another point she drove home was saying ‘no’. A lot of people will take anything if it means they might be closer to their goals and dreams. But make sure that what you’re being offered is really in your best interest.

All in all, a fantastic workshop. Very full of info, very hands-on.

After another delicious lunch (mmmmh, lunch), it was time to the workshop I had looked forward to the most when I picked my tutes: “Not just hot sex” by Jane Porter.
Unfortunately, for me, it was the biggest letdown. I’m hard-pressed to figure out how much time was spent actually talking about sex, writing sexy and turning up the heat (and pardon me, but that’s what I was expecting from the title), but it wasn’t enough. Instead, the focus of the workshop was a feminist approach about the difference between men and women (presented in a way that just sort of washed over me), and what we as women writers are doing for our fellow women.
I’m a bit hazy about the exact details as to what was said in this tute and what was said in Sunday’s plenary (another great title that I felt let down by, but more on that in the Sunday post).
In essence, I didn’t get what I wanted to, and felt I missed out on other great workshop options. Pity.

Afternoon tea had my adrenaline pumping. I was going to pitch right after that!
It meant I had to miss the author chats for the day, which made me sad, as I really, really wanted to go to that one (YA), thinking it would give me the best chance of industry goss, trends and feedback.

But hey, a pitch’s a pitch, and I know what’s more important at the end of the day.

And the pitch was great. I didn’t know my three fellow pitchers, but we were all first-timers and insanely nervous. We were all pitching to different lines, too.
Paula Eykelhof was really friendly and encouraging and gave all of us great feedback. The first pitcher (aiming at Sexy) was told her characters and setting sounded perfect for the line and to send it. The next two were told to rework as PE didn’t seem quite sure about their stories.
Mine got a laugh. The good kind. I felt a million dollars when she told me she loved the food/sex combo. Yay!
She said to definitely send it to Brenda Chin. She even noted down the title on her little name sheet. I was understandably proud of myself. I love this book.

I was back just in time for the afternoon plenary session, which was basically a watered-down version of PE’s morning talk. The Australian Harlequin director was talking about where Hqn Aus was headed (they’re bringing out ModX here! Whee!), but it wasn’t all that useful overall, I thought.
And the worst part was that his long talk cut short the next talk, “Throwing a punch” by Anne Gracie, who is a great speaker. And I loved the topic!
But noooooo, she got cut off. Boo.

Then the Little Gems anthology was launched and I got to feel all proud again! *My* story is in a book. There is a book with my name on it. Yeah, so I’m lame and easily excitable. Shoot me. I’ve never written a short story before. And now one is in a book. On my shelf. Yay!

Then there was the AGM. AGMs make me want to join committees. I’m weird that way. That’s how I got onto my kung fu club’s committee, too. I attended the AGM. I love the thank-you speeches and the feeling you get from being on a committee that says “I’m special. I made this work for you.”
Committee volunteers are incredible people. If you belong to any organisation run by volunteers, make sure to thank them. Trust me, you can’t thank them enough.

After another raffle draw, we were finally free to head home to glitz up for the Awards dinner. And that’s tomorrow’s post.

Today’s question:
Have you ever been part of a committee? What did it feel like? Would you do it again?

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