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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Love Gone Wild Down Under! by Cassandra O'Leary

I’m a new Genre-ista and I’m so pleased to be joining the blog this month with a round-up of happenings in Australia. A little about me: I’m a romcom and women’s fiction author, and my first novel, Girl on a Plane, was published by Avon Books/HarperCollins UK in 2016 after I won the We Heart New Talent writing contest. I love coffee, wine, movies, and hanging with my two little boys (and one big boy).

From 11-13 August I was lucky enough to attend the Love Gone Wild conference run by Romance Writers of Australia in Brisbane. I don’t think I’d be underestimating if I said the effect of the weather on my mood was magical. Goodbye, frosty Melbourne! Hello, sunny Brisbane! It’s winter in Australia, but I don’t think anyone told Brisbane.

As soon as I arrived on the Friday afternoon, I shucked off the multiple layers of Melbourne clothes and enjoyed the sunshine and 28 degree C temperature. And the super swish room at the luxury Pullman Hotel and my two fun room mates didn’t hurt either.

My attempt at a 'boudoir' photo in the fancy room at the Pullman Hotel, Brisbane. 

Love Gone Wild cocktail party

Then it was a chance to get ready for the Love Gone Wild cocktail party, a costume or fancy dress event that’s always a hoot! It was amazing to see some of the wild animals let loose. Check out the pictures below, I’m sure you’ll see what I mean!

My author friends Stefanie London, megastar USA Today bestselling author, and Lauren James (a former Genre-ista) on the prowl, looking like the pussycats they are.

Authors were mingling with each other, some unrecognisable in animal onesies and body paint. Another bestselling author, Amy Andrews, was looking fierce as a tiger! But she didn’t scare me...

Me and Amy Andrews, who actually had sequins glued to her face, no joke!

Business Hub

Over the next two days I set about learning lots of new information from the fantastic guest speakers in the new Business Hub stream. This was a new concept for the RWAus conference and a popular one. Whether authors are thinking of self-publishing or simply want learning more about online promotion, there was valuable information for everyone.

The content from Google, Draft2Digital and iBooks left my head spinning…but in a good way. I came away with heaps of things to research and study. I’m looking forward to implementing some digital marketing and promotional ideas over the next few months.

Top Tips from Google at RWAus

  • Visit the Google self-study site named Digital Garage. 
  • Videos and tutorials can help you learn about Google AdWords (advertising on Google and across the web) and Google Analytics (analysis of statistics about your website). 
  • Improve your discoverability by being 'everywhere' online. Try creating a Wikipedia listing for yourself, guest posting on blogs, etc. 
  • Make sure your author website is mobile ready. Try running your author website through Test My Site. It checks your website's download speed plus it offers suggestions for improvements. Handy!
There was a lot of talk in general about the growth of mobile devices and phones for reading, so this information was very useful.

Awards Dinner and Butterfly Ball

The Awards Dinner and Butterfly Ball on Saturday night was a great chance for all the authors, publishers and other industry guests to eat, drink and be merry, just for a change. :)

Later we got to shake our tail feathers, at the Escape Publishing after party following the formal awards. The soundtrack rocked, with Love Cats and Eye of the Tiger and all other animal themed songs making an appearance.

My friend Savannah Blaize and me all glam at the Awards Dinner. 

The RuBY Award Winners

The Romantic Book of the Year or RuBY Awards are the biggest on the Romance Writers of Australia calendar. This makes up the formal part of the evening, when awards are presented to finalists and winners across many different categories, from Aspiring and Emerging awards to the books judged most outstanding by an expert panel of industry experts. 

Congratulations to the winners and so many talented authors who were nominated. I was just so excited to be there, cheering on some outstanding writers.

For RuBY Award winner Amy Andrews, the honour was special because she shared it with her sister, Ros Baxter, as they were co-authors of the winning Romantic Elements book, Numbered.
"Winning a RuBY is such an incredibly special experience. To share that accolade with your sister and fabulous co-author? That is the cherry on top! Being together at the awards gala when our names were read out is something I'll never forget," said Amy Andrews.

Amy Andrews and Ros Baxter with their RuBY Award for Numbered.

Avril Tremayne, winner of the Long Romance and Romantic Book of the Year awards.

The big winner for the evening was Avril Tremayne, whose book Escaping Mr Right, won both the Long Romance category and the overall Romantic Book of the Year. I loved this book, so I was so glad Avril was recognised with the awards.
"I occupied myself during the early part of RuBY night with trying out my 'I'm ridiculously ecstatic even though I didn't win' face on whoever would let me - not joking! Being a finalist alongside some seriously wow-calibre authors was humbling in the extreme. I have no idea what I actually looked like when Escaping Mr Right not only got the gong for long romance but was also named Romantic Book of the Year, but I'm guessing 'stunned' mullet' might be close to the mark!" said Avril Tremayne.
At my table of Melbourne Romance Writers Guild members, we were so excited for one of our group, Miranda Morgan, who finalled in several emerging author contests and won the Ripping Start contest. According to Miranda, she made a plan and stuck to it throughout the year, aiming for writing contest success. 
"At last year's awards dinner I sat in awe as several of my amazing writing friends and critique partners accepted awards. Perhaps it was the wine, or the glittery dresses and low lighting, (did I mention the wine) but I realised that I really wanted to be part of it all. There is no better feeling than standing amongst your peers and to receive validation that you're at least on the right track," said Miranda Morgan.

Miranda Morgan and fellow award nominee from the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild, Janis Linford.

Networking like a #LoveArmy

Most of all, the conference was a chance to network with like-minded romanciers, the fabulous (mostly) women writers who focus on the positive, the good, the love in the world. Something we all need right now. Someone on Facebook mentioned that Romance Writers of Australia is like an army of love. I totally agree and propose we all need #LoveArmy buttons.

Special mention to Marion Lennox

The keynote speaker on Saturday morning of the conference, and recipient of the RWAus lifetime achievement award, was the amazing Marion Lennox. Marion has written and published an astounding 115 books and was a truly inspirational speaker. She spoke about the need to find your magic as a writer, the thing that makes you truly happy, which resonated with everyone.

I also loved her tip about buying special writing boots with heat pads for writing in the cold weather. Tax deductible too!

If you’d like to see more RWAus conference photos, please hop across to my blog with lots more photos, or check out my Instagram feed. The hashtag is #rwaus17 if you’d like to take a look.


Savannah Blaize said...

A fabulous post Cass. I have to agree that the Love Gone Wild 2017 Conference was a magical experience. Surrounded by so many authors and readers of Romance, the love and positivity flowed through every day. The weather,The Pullman Hotel, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners together, the wine, sharing a room with you and P. j. Vye. . . it was a blast. I cannot wait to do it all again in Sydney next year wearing our Tiaras and Tuxedos :o)

Avril Tremayne said...

Fabulous debut post, Cassandra - and thanks for the shout out! Conferences are such a great placed to both wind up and unwind. Looking forward to 2018 in my home town of Sydney...

Michelle Douglas said...

Lovely wrap up of a wonderful conference. :-)

KAL said...

This was my first RWA conference and I'm so glad I made the last minute decision to attend. Wonderful conference, looking forward to Sydney.

Judith Ashley said...

Welcome to Romancing The Genres, Cassandra!!! Excellent post on many levels. Thanks for introducing us to awesome Aussie authors, including fantastic photos. The Google tips are useful and quotes from winners inspiring.

Love the concept of #LoveArmy buttons or Twitter topic or just #LoveArmy as a concept. The wonderful world of Romance authors and our readers is a perfect place to build it. Our world will be a better place when there are more people in the #LoveArmy than not.

Deb Noone said...

Thanks for sharing the romance author experience from another part of the world! LOVE the #LoveArmy!

Conferences are so invigorating, especially for authors who spend much time by themselves!

Diana McCollum said...

Sounds like a great conference! welcome to Romancing the Genres! Thanks for sharing the photos and google tips.

Amy Andrews said...

Wow! What a way to pop your romancing the genres cherry, Cassandra! Awesome post. So lovely catching up with you in Brissy xxx

Cassandra O'Leary said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone! It was a fantastic conference but as always, I feel like I missed half of the sessions on offer (I would have loved to do the Friday workshop with Kate Forsyth) and I'm already looking forward to Sydney next year. I'm rapt to be part of Romancing The Genres too. :)

Michelle Somers said...

Welcome to Romancing the Genres Cass!
RWAustralia always puts on a great conference, and Love Gone Wild was no exception. Just love the fun, learning and camaraderie every year.
Great blog, and thanks for sharing your experience with us.
Michelle xxx

Janis Linford said...

Thanks for commenting Cass. I loved the fun of the conference and your camaraderie. Great blog!