Guess whose shoes?

Had a fantastic time at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference. It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make new ones and find out what the writing industry is up to from the viewpoints of publishers, editors, agents, and just as importantly, authors.

I took some happy snaps at the Friday night cocktail party, but strangely, most of these came out with a very pink tinge. I was beginning to think it was some magical RWA magic until I went into the foyer and took a couple more happy pics. Some of these are on my facebook page, including this one:

Now, who do you think would own these delightful items of footwear? Here are the damsels whose only distress was knowing that the party was over and they had to go back to their rooms. Or out to dinner. Or to the bar …

Yes, it’s Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books fame, fabulous author and Conference Convenor Shannon Curtis (no relation, I promise), and NY Times bestselling author Cherry Adair.

Here is Shannon in her Conference Convenor/Crisis Warden/is-everything-in-this-cocktail-party-really-pink? mode:

Shannon Curtis in crisis mode.

What I discovered

After two months of my mother being in and out of hospital, she was finally offered a place in the nursing home of our choice, one where we knew she’d be happy. But we’ve had to move her from a two-bedroom unit to one room, and it’s sad to think that a lifetime of possessions now has to be condensed to fit this new part of her life.

I’ve always known Mum was a hoarder, but what we’ve discovered amazed me, especially as she and my late step-father moved here only six years ago and so much had to be discarded on that move. The hardest part of all this is having to decide what books can move with her and what can’t. But I’ve found one little treasure that has reminded me that I too, am a hoarder – but a hoarder of words. Along with all the other books – classics, romances, poetry, atlases, etc – I found a slim volume titled “The Treasure of Friendship”, and tucked inside were some yellowed pages from a magazine that, when folded, became a small booklet of poems.

One of these poems is “Love is a Solvent” (copyright 1971) by Patience Strong. An internet search revealed that was the pen name of English poet Winifred May, who died in 1990. I’d love to share this poem with you, but copyright law prohibits this. But if you get a chance to read this poem, please do so.

So why am I mentioning this? Well, my mother and I are as different as it’s possible for two people to be. We love each other, but have totally different outlooks, needs etc. I would need pages and pages to list our differences. But one thing we do share is a love of words. There were always books in our house, and I shall always be grateful for this gift, this love of reading, that she has given me. In turn, I have tried to pass this on to my children, and my heart is full of joy when I see my grandchildren, tiny though they be, demanding to have books read to them.

As I read through these crumbling pages that my mother has kept for so many years, I wonder if, many years in the future, my children and their children will one day discover a similar treasure when they are forced to decide what of their parents’ belongings are to be kept and what has to be discarded. I doubt that ebooks will have the same tug on heartstrings that this small volume, with its wishes from a friend for future happiness, has brought to me. I know that ebooks are here to stay, and I have embraced their practicality and their economy, and am grateful that my stories are now available to my readers for many years to come, but I think they cannot evoke the same sentimentality that I feel as I turn the pages of a book my mother has treasured for many decades of her life.

Have you a special book that you cannot bear to part with? Is there some collection of words that has moved your soul and stayed with you? I’d love to hear your stories.

RWA Conference

It’s hard to believe it’s three weeks since I returned from the Romance Writers of Australia national conference in Melbourne. It was their 20th Anniversary conference and undoubtedly the best I have attended. The quality of the workshops, tutorials and plenary sessions was exceptional. Over the past couple of years the association has run an Author Day on the Thursday prior to the conference, and this continues to be a wonderful opportunity for published authors to meet with other published authors, both from Australia and overseas, and editors, publishers and agents to find out what is happening in their industry.

The buzz during the four days revolved around the future of publishing – print versus electronic. Would ebooks bring about the demise of the print book? Although the impact of ebooks is only beginning to be felt in Australia, we’re very much aware of how the industry has fared overseas. As more e-reading devices become available and more commonplace in Australia, there is no doubt we will follow overseas trends and opt for purchasing ebooks in greater numbers.

At the conference it was emphasised that as more and more ebooks are self-published (current figures indicate they are already in excess of 1 million) it will become even more difficult for readers to find quality reads. It will also mean that first-time authors risk seeing their books have miserable sales figures. According to Bob Mayer (NY Times bestselling author who has started his own publishing company Who Dares Wins Publishing), the authors who are doing better than most in electronic sales are those who have already been print published, have an established readership, and have the rights back to their back list that they can e-publish and attract new readers. The chances of a first-time self-published author achieving good to great sales are slim. The exceptions to this are authors like John Locke and Amanda Hocking, who have done amazingly well with their ebooks. Unfortunately, the other 999,999 authors will never come even remotely close to their success.

Author and blogger extraordinnaire, Joanna Penn, interviews a lot of industry professionals with insights into books and publishing, and both readers and writers will find her blog interesting.

With all the chaos happening before I left for the conference, I didn’t get to pack until the night before I flew out, and ended up forgetting my camera. So check out for pics. The only one I have to show you is one a friend took on the last day and emailed to me. So if we’re looking a little tired … But here we are – Sandra Allan, Kaz Delaney and Isolde Martyn (the blondes) and me (the short one).