Written by Anne Stephenson, rewritten by Susan Brown,
and “edited” as Stephanie Browning…
With the 49th parallel and three time zones between us, our writing schedule reads more like a collaboration between 007 and The Terminator. Separate planes, different passports and different destinations, with just enough of an overlap at Heathrow to scrawl Stephanie Browning was here! in hot pink lipstick across the door of the women’s toilets!
Everything we’ve done together, from juvenile mysteries for Scholastic to magazine articles and film scripts, has been written either online or on the phone.
Which is where the Emerald City Writers’ Conference comes in. We’re new to the romance genre, and with our website, StephanieBrowningRomance.com up-and-running, and our first contemporary romance, Outbid by the Boss, done and dusted, we needed to get together, and get out there. This year’s ECWC conference was the perfect fit; as soon as the dates were posted, we sent in our registrations, rejigged our schedules, and I booked my flight.
It was a buzz from the moment we entered the lobby of the Bellevue Westin and rode the escalator to the third floor. Seasoned conference goers, presenters and organizers we may be, but there is nothing like a three-hundred strong gathering of romance authors, editors and agents to generate excitement. A small army of ECWC volunteers wearing tiaras and emerald green welcomed us with loot bags and launched us into the hive.
First stop, coffee and conversation in the grand ballroom where we studied the conference catalogue and made our choices. The lineup was impressive with a blend of writing tutorials (“Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw” – Laurie Schnebly-Campbell) through to expert marketing (Your Business Plan” – Darlene Panzera, Debby Lee) and beyond.
We split up to max our coverage. From the intimate query letter clinic Susan attended with Kerri Buckley from Carina Press to the legal guidance provided by New York attorney Eric Ruben, and the unexpectedly hilarious panel with best-selling authors Lauren Dane and Ann Aguirre, and their agent Laura Bradford, we were able to schmooze with the best.
Kristen Lamb had me leaning forward in my chair in an “Author’s Guide to Going Viral”. She’s a dynamic speaker. Funny, smart and full of self-deprecating humour; I wanted to capture the energy she brought to the room and generate my own conversation. Keep it “lean, clean, mean and fast,” she said…something I definitely have to work on!
Of particular interest to us was a Sunday morning workshop, “Growing Your Author Brand” presented by Tammie King, director of marketing at Night Owl Reviews, and Montana-based author Danica Winters. Their audience was, like us, a mix of traditional and indie authors keen to advance their presence and learn the key elements of branding, how to create it, protect it, and maximize its recognition. Copious notes taken!
I have to say the conference exceeded our expectations in many ways…how could it not with a life-sized cut-out of Chris Platt kitted out as a Guardian of the Galaxy pirate! (I confess Susan had to tell me who he was…but, hey I do recognize drop-dead gorgeous when I see it, even in 2D! Apparently, Susan swears, there was also a 3D model strolling through the lobby wearing way less than our cardboard cut-out, but I’m not buying it. And I looked everywhere.)
Our biggest takeaway was the warmth and generosity of our fellow writers. There is an openness about the business of writing romance, with the cross-promotion of each other’s work, and a willingness to share that is unique to the industry. We left the conference on a high, invigorated by what we’d learned, and reassured that we had found the right fit for the stories we wanted to tell.
The bonus: Susan and I had booked days either side of the conference so that we could actually work together, in the same room, advancing the storylines in one trilogy while line editing the first few chapters of our next Stephanie Browning Romance.
We have our own cardboard cut-out now. We call him Jack. He may not be as cute as Chris Platt, but the UPS guy who delivered him is to die for…
Outbid by the Boss, our first Stephanie Browning Romance, is now available on Kindle and Kobo, as well as Nook, iBooks and Scribd!
This article first appeared in the December issue of romANTICS, the monthly newsletter published by the Toronto Romance Writers.