NJRW Conference – 2009

No matter how many RWA conferences I attend, National or Chapter, I’m always amazed at their organization and the energy they generate.   This year’s NJRW Conference at the newly redesigned Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, NJ was no exception.  This 25th anniversary was a celebration.

I arrived mid-afternoon Thursday to have dinner with friends.  Friday morning dawned early.  Jennifer Crusie gave a dynamic 3-hour Pre-Conference workshop titled Revising Your Novel: What to Do When the First Draft is Done.  Some of us met again over a luncheon buffet at the OLIO Restaurant in the hotel.  (Great cheescake!)

After my brief volunteer stint, the regular sessions started.  So many to choose, and it was only Friday.  The afternoon alone offered a choice of 18 workshops.  Choosing three wasn’t easy.  NJRW’s Pan Liaison, Jen Wagner, also organized an all-afternoon retreat for published authors, featuring PAN Keynote Speaker, Beth deGuzman of Grand Central Publishing.

At 6 pm Friday, we gathered outside the Diamond Ballroom for a Cocktail Reception with a pasta bar and a multitude of hors d’oeuvres.   At 7 o’clock, we entered the ballroom.  Our incredible Conference Chair, Beth Ann Kerber, presented a nostalgic slide show collage of NJRW’s first 25 years.   The awards began.

Lyn Wagner, PYHIAB Short Contemporary winner & Golden Leaf Dual Winner, Terri Brisbin

Lyn Wagner, PYHIAB Short Contemporary Winner & Golden Leaf Dual Winner, Terri Brisbin

Winners in the Put Your Heart in a Book contest included Lyn Wagner for THE LAWMAN’S BABY, Heidi Luchterhand for ONCE UPON A MARGARITA, Tracey Devlyn for A LADY’S REVENGE, Cate Rowan for KISMET’S KISS, and Barbara Kroon for GET REAL.  Golden Leaf Awards wins went to Terri Brisbin for POSSESSED BY THE HIGHLANDER (Historical), Joy Nash for A LITTLE LIGHT MAGIC (Long Contemporary),  Anna DePalo for THE BILLIONAIRE IN PENTHOUSE B (Short Contemporary), Maria Snyder for STORM GLASS (Paranormal), Robin Kaye for ROMEO, ROMEO ( Single Title), Linda Parisi for NOBLE BLOOD (Best First Book), and Terri Brisbin for BLAME IT ON THE MISTLETOE (Novella).

Saturday morning’s Breakfast Keynote Speaker was Karen Rose.  A variety of morning workshops followed, along with editor and agent appointments where writers pitched their books, often receiving personal requests to mail their partial or full manuscript.  I was particularly impressed with Madeline Hunter’s 2-hour workshop, The Book that Writes Itself: Using Good Conflict in a Romance Novel.  In her inimitable no-nonsense style, she walked us through the necessary steps, showing us how to create a solid core conflict in our novels.

Our 25th Anniversary Luncheon Speaker was Allison Brennan.  More afternoon workshops and Editor and Agents Panels followed.  At 4 pm, the Diamond Ballroom opened its doors to all (including the public) for a Literacy Book Fair and Author Signing.  The Conference came to a close with an anniversary after-party and dessert reception in the Crystal Ballroom.

At one point, a first-timer at our conference told me that while he’d been writing for a while now, he’d never seen such a supportive, giving writers’ organization as RWA.  I smiled.  Yeah, I thought.  It’s why I’m here.

Writing Contests

I learned about writing contests through Romance Writers of America (RWA).  For those not familiar with them, RWA Chapter contests serve several purposes.

  • Contests serve as a Chapter fundraiser.
  • Qualified judges give feedback on a part of an aspiring author’s work.
  • Chapter members and others who “final” have a chance to get their work in front of an editor or agent.

I’ve entered many contests over the years and have done moderately well.   I’ve received some great feedback, and some okay.   For me, I believe the money spent on entry fees was well-spent.  It’s helped my work get noticed.

There are many RWA chapter level contests offered each year.  Some want one to three chapters and a synopsis.  Those are great if your work is “almost there.”  Others may only want a few pages to make sure your work starts on the right “hook.”  Wisconsin Romance Writers‘ Fabulous Five contest is one of these.

If you’re an aspiring romance author, think about RWA Chapter contests.  Start with WisRWA’s Fab Five (click for details).   The Fab Five asks for the first 10 pages or 2,300 words of your work.  In exchange for your entry fee your pages will be judged by three qualified judges.   The finalists – the top Fabulous Five in each category – will be ranked by agents and editors.  First place winners in each category receive the Silver Quill Award.  Other finalists receive certificates.  But most important, you’ll receive feedback.  And…if you final…you’ll be read by someone with influence.

→What’s your opinion about writing contests? Has a contest helped you become published?  Do you have a favorite RWA Chapter contest that you’ve entered?  (Please show link.)  Finally, if you haven’t entered one, what are you waiting for?