New Jersey Romance Writers Conference

By | October 30, 2016

I recently returned from New Jersey Romance Writers annual conference.  It is a weekend, I look forward to and return feeling rejuvenated and   about writing.  Spending a weekend with others who speak your language, have characters and scenes rattling around in your brain and worrying about the direction of publishing–now. The conference is informative, motivating, invigorating and just plain fun.

I learned a new term–  I am neither a pantser nor a plotter; I am a quilter!   I write in spurts of scenes and later weave those scenes together with transitional or narrative.

I claimed this habit during NJRW version of Book in a Month, our JeRoWriMo. I write scenes developing character and moving plot and conflicts.  I leave blanks in narrative, leave out words or write notes about what needs to be fixed and just keep going while ideas are flowing.  Then I go back and connect and re-stitch to pull everything together.  I like that term!

Thank you Anne Carrole, Kelly Kalmanson, Mandy Rauffer and Mary Grace Butler.  We met and worked together in Kathleen Gilles Seidel Preconference Workshop, “ The Goddess in Your Heroine.”  The workshop, was beneficial for me. I saw new sides to my main character in my WIP and will be adding and highlighting sides to her character.  The workshop was certainly a credit to Kathleen, but it wouldn’t have been as beneficial or as much fun without these four women.  We all are very different in what and how we write, but it worked!  I don’t want to lose touch with any of them. img_2498

One of best parts of the conference any year are the friendships among NJRW members as well as those who attend from all over the country and varied areas in world (Europe, Canada, South America) Every year, I help Nancy Herkness move tables before PUB retreat. It has become a tradition and through it, Nancy and I have become friends.  JB Schroeder and I take a picture together and usually ending chatting. Maine writers group usually attends as well and it is great reconnecting with them I love Maine, (see any of my vacation blogs.)


I always volunteer. Usually, I am the “cheerleader” in the waiting room—the room just before writers enter the agent/editor room and pitch their books.   I listen to pitches, listen to dreams, reassure them that agents and editors are just people like the rest of us, then push them into the room at their designated time.  This year, Leigh Raffaelle   grabbed me to help in the agent/editor room.

It is equally as tense and tough on the other side of that door.  Editors and agents are seated behind desks which are lined up in rows.(Picture speed dating rows—but with writers talking) No pressure there—just find the right person. The next bestseller could be walking toward them. Observing agents/editors  as they waited for the next person, how they handled the nervous, the verbose, the kept me occupied. How do they remember the people they saw and heard in the hour and a half? What distinguishes one from another? And when do you get to the point you want to run screaming from the room?

My job was to usher the writer to the correct editor or agent, then later walk down the aisle quietly and unobtrusively giving a 2 minute warning.  Then walk up and down, saying “time” very firmly and assuring that group exits the door in the back and the next person is seated.  After an hour and a half, I was ready to run out the door and I felt sorry for the editors/agents.  I couldn’t help myself, the last time, I skipped down the aisle singing, “Time after time.”   At least the editors/agents talking with me will know what crazy person they might invest in.

For those who have been following my debate-to tradition or to indie-on my blog, attending the conference and signing up for editor/agent spots might appear indeed crazy.  I wasn’t sure if I would go to NJRW this year and I wasn’t sure if I would participate in the interviews.  I did both and am glad. I talked with both Indie authors and traditional pub authors.

I spoke with two very different editors.  I greeted Tina Moss as she entered and found her spot.  This is City Owl’s first time at NJRW so I welcomed and explained about NJRW.  Tina is high energy and very interested in events and people around her.  I was her first interviewee as well.  Easy to chat with and great sense of humor, which put me at ease.  Working together would be easy and we would have fun. City Owl is small publishing house which has advantages of personal attention and collaborative venture for author and editor.  I have worked with small publishers before and like that.  But it is a very new house—will they last and what contacts do they have?

The other one was Tahra Seplowin from HQN.  Okay BIG house and how could you not be interested?  What really intrigued me was Tahra herself.  We chatted about book idea she tweeted about.  She laughed at right places as I described my book, nodded in agreement and asked questions— all those are good things. She is listening and she gets it about the book.   (I know as editors it is hard to maintain that intent, focused attention after listening to so many, but it is a boost as the author to know they understand what you are saying.)  O-h-h, I could work with her.

Working inside this room gave me a different perspective.  Tough to be on the other side of the entry door and listen to so many.  Fun working with Leigh and I made a new friend, Judy Kentrus. img_2500

I also talked with Stephany Evans, an agent.  I brought her tea during the interviews and later sat with her in the hotel café.  She described her latest endeavor—a 100 mile run!  Whoa, impressive. Her vivid description of that race had such visceral effect, I could feel the cold rain, hear and feel crunch of gravel beneath my feet and empathize with exhaustion and frustration when she finished the race.  Better yet, it gave me a different track to complicate a character in my TBW (to be written) and vaulted that book from 5th on TBW to 1st. (I am still pitching one and in the middle of WIP—Work in Progress.)  I enjoyed that talk. Learned something new and really helped the conflict of story 3.

NJRW is a phenomenal organization and over the years, I have made many friends.  The conference is my chance to catch up with many; I didn’t mention all in here. This year was productive and invigorating.