On Thursday morning at 8.30am, I will be flying to Melbourne. Why?
Because that’s where the annual Romance Writers of Australia Conference is on this year. My first conference was in Sydney’s Darling Harbour a number of years ago. I was very much a wallflower. I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t on Facebook (or anywhere else on-line) and hadn’t ‘connected’ to any other members beforehand. I barely spoke to a soul through Friday. And Saturday. But on Sunday afternoon (at the final workshop) I met another ‘newbie’ (a first time conference attendee). And she introduced me to another newbie. So in the next session, the closing address, there were three of us. Brigitte Underwood-Legeron. Sandra Edgar. And me.
Sandra lives in Queensland and writes contemporary and historical romance. Brigitte lives in Perth and writes literary fiction and contemporary romance. We’ve been friends for five years now. And our friendship is attributable to RWA.
Since meeting my very first friends, I’ve been so fortunate to have found many other wonderful writing friends too. Many friends are writers I’ve admired as authors for years. Because as anyone will tell you, romance writers as a group—what is the collective noun? A heart? An embrace?—are smart, funny, generous and an all round lovely group of people.
The craft we learn and the books we write are important, but it is the friendships we make that are what we tend to treasure in life. Writing can be a very lonely business, so personal connections are particularly important. And in RWA I’ve been so fortunate to have shared my writing journey (all the highs and lows) with a wonderful group of people.
But … I really was a wallflower. Would I have continued going to the RWA conference if not for my dear friends Brigitte and Sandra? I really can’t say. But knowing they would be there at my second conference might well have got me over the line.
I pitched In At The Deep End to my publisher at that second conference—the start of my published writing career. And I’ll always be thankful to my newbie friends for their encouragement and support.