RWA National: RWA-WF Mini-Conference

Wow! I started off this year’s RWA National Conference with the first-ever mini-conference hosted by the Women’s Fiction chapter of RWA. RWA-WF is an amazing chapter in itself, and the mini-con did not disappoint. We opened with a two-hour session from Michael Hauge (no details here; you’ll need to visit his website for those since the material is copyrighted). Hauge has melded the inner psychological journey of the characters with the outer plot in a way that made several of us scribble notes frantically so we wouldn’t miss the “Aha!” moment before it floated out of the room.

Next up was an Editor/Agent Panel featuring agents Andrea Cirillo, Kristin Nelson, and Meg Ruley and editor Shauna Summers. Some highlights from their remarks:

  1. There is an indistinct intersection between romance and women’s fiction; many successful WF authors have roots in romance.

  2. A beautifully wrought, emotional story well-told is what will sell.

  3. It’s important to maintain the emotional drive of the story and the reader’s connection with the characters.

  4. Writing to your true voice is vital.

  5. All publishers are exploring the emerging electronic markets, but some are running toward the change while others are walking.

  6. Electronic markets represent a chance for authors to gain career momentum, change direction, and rebuild careers in addition to providing an entrepreneurial way for authors to be involved in their own careers.

  7. Authors who are active on social media see an impact in their sales.

  8. There is a place for humor in WF, but it needs to work with the author’s voice. Chick lit-style humor and situations feel dated, but funny first-person can still work if it’s done in a fresh, different way.

  9. Playing with viewpoints and narrators can pay off if done well.

Following that, the Author Panel stepped to the plate to give us their take on the state of the market. Authors Marilyn Brant, Megan Crane, Barbara O’Neal, Jane Porter, and Therese Walsh weighed in on women’s fiction from the writer’s perspective.

  1. Social media are becoming a big aspect of an author’s career, but beware the time suck they represent. Online connections help increase sales, but guard your time carefully.

  2. It took each of these authors several years to craft solid women’s fiction that sold.

  3. Music is helpful to several of the authors. One finds that kernels of character can emerge from brooding, angsty pieces, while creating soundtracks for each developing manuscript helps another create the tone for the work.

  4. The small dilemmas of the internal world are often a key to the kinds of emotions explored in women’s fiction.

  5. Inspiration arises from the beauty in nature, families, food, and relationships of all kinds.

  6. The best advice is to remember that your story is your story. Even if others are exploring the same topic, your voice and tone should set your work apart from others’.

Alas, I was not able to attend Juliet Mariller’s session later, since I was meeting up with old friends, but what little I did get out of the sessions was well worth the price of the ticket. I can’t wait to see what they dream up for next year!

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