Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Sexy Seven: Top Seven Panels I'm Looking forward to at the 2017 RWA National Conference (And a Bonus)

I've been a member of the Romance Writers of America and their Maryland Romance Writers chapter for about two years now. However, this is the first year I'll be attending their national conference in Orlando toward the end of July. They just announced their panel schedule this week, so I wanted to list the panels that I wanted to see. The last one revealed is the one I'm most interested in.

7) "A Whedonite’s Guide to Characterization (CRAFT)
Speaker: J. T. Bock

Joss Whedon is one of the best contemporary storytellers, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Firefly to The Avengers films. His characters—good and evil—are vivid and unforgettable. In this workshop, J. T. Bock examines Joss Whedon’s techniques and demonstrates how authors can use them in their stories."

I'm not going to lie, I've been a huge fan of Joss Whedon's works since I started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer in eighth grade (I'm almost thirty-three now). I presented at several Slayage Conferences with academic Buffy papers, and I've actually taken a class at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill about Social Support in the Buffyverse. I think the reason this isn't higher on the list is, while I do love Whedon's work, and I have watched everything from Buffy to SHIELD...etc., there's a lot of problematic elements in his stuff (Tara's needless murder for one), and I don't think people always acknowledge them. However, I admire his talent for handling large casts with humor and heart (sometimes), and I want to see this panel.

6) Blending Brand and Platform (CAREER)Speakers: Alyssa Cole, Sonali Dev, Alisha Rai, and Cathy Yardley

An in-depth discussion with best-selling, award winning authors who effectively integrate their brands and platforms with their writing to develop readership and sales while pushing the boundaries of the romance genre and telling unexpected stories that need to be told.

The marketing side of writing still always seems so daunting. I've done it under other pen names, and I think one reason why ghostwriting has been a safe/easy place for me has been because I didn't have to do the marketing as well. The thing that appeals to me, besides having heard Ms. Dev talk before, is that I want to tell different stories than are sometimes out there, so I want to see how I can mix that with my platform

5) Take Your Self-Published Success to the Next Level (CAREER)
Speakers: Avery Flynn, Liliana Hart, Erin Nicholas, and Carrie Ann Ryan

In this interactive, specific, and fact-filled panel, best-selling authors Carrie Ann Ryan, Liliana Hart, Erin Nichols, and Avery Flynn will help you take your self-publishing success to the next level by utilizing long-term series branding, diversification, and high-market ads as well as showing how to create rabid readers who will put you at the top of their auto-buy lists.

Similarly, this is more about the marketing side, but as my girlfriend, friends, and I start out and develop our fiction co-op, we still need to understand and work through all our self-publishing branding and promotion options. Moreover, I've also heard Ms. Ryan speak, and she's very good!
4) The Neuroscience of High-Impact Love Scenes (CRAFT)Speaker: Emily Foster

Level: Intermediate. Write memorable, plot-advancing, searingly hot sexy times that will make readers buy copies of your books for all their friends, saying, “You have to read this!” with the four big secrets from the neuroscience of sex.

In my day job, I'm a psychologist and I went to graduate school (the first time) for developmental psychology so I find neuroscience endlessly fascinating. If you can combine that with love scene writing, then I am on board!


3) You Can't Just Throw in a Vampire (CRAFT)Speaker: Alyssa Day

Level: All. Creating believable paranormal worlds and characters that readers love and want to keep coming back to takes a lot more than just tossing a supernatural creature into your romance novel. Learn secrets to creating wonderful characters, dialogue, setting, and worlds that invite readers into your story with New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Alyssa Day.

It's no secret that I love paranormal romance. It's my favorite thing to read (that and Urban Fantasy where sometimes those lines blur). The title alone was enough to make me chuckle, but I want to ensure that in my work I'm doing the world building needed for a convincing paranormal romance.

2) Burnout Prevention (WELLNESS/WRITER'S LIFE)Speakers: Emily Foster and Amelia Nagoski

Learn six concrete, specific, science-based strategies to prevent burnout from twin sisters with doctoral degrees who’ve been there, done that, read the rat brain research, and realized that the only guaranteed way to battle burnout is to break all the rules.

Apparently Emily Foster and I are going to be seeing a lot of each other! However, as a ghostwriter, I've learned the hard way that you can't write at a high volume without self care or without figuring out the right regime. My first year of ghosting, I was having 70,000 word writing weeks, and I was going crazy from days blurring together and severe exhaustion. I think the fact that the conference offers Writers' Life and Wellness as a whole track of talks is very important, and I need all the help in that area I can get!

Top most interesting chat (for me)...

1) Creating Authentic Characters with Disabilities (RESEARCH)
Speakers: Tessa Dare, Barbara Devlin, Sue Ward Drake, Laurie Alice Eakes, Andrew Grey, and Karen Rose

A panel of published authors (a mix of disabled and non-disabled) who have created authentic, well-loved characters with disabilities discuss their characters, why and how they developed them. Other topics include: the key elements of the character’s disability, how that changed the authors’ approach to telling the story, a brief description of their research methods, reader response to their characters, any feedback they received from the disabled community (both good and bad), and any impacts writing that character had on them personally.

I'm bipolar so ensuring that people like me are included in fiction and included in a helpful and not stereotyped or glaringly offensive fashion really matters to me. I'm a sensitivity reader for that reason, and I'm glad that a fellow chapter member and an author I really adore with Tessa Dare will be among the panelists discussing how to best represent and do the research to represent individuals with disabilities in this talk.

And the bonus...Making It Work When Nothing Is Going Your Way (WELLNESS/WRITER'S LIFE)
Speakers: Jackie Ashenden, Megan Crane, Nicole Helm, and Maisey Yates

Four prolific romance writers discuss tips and tricks to writing through publishing and life’s various challenges. How can we handle setbacks, failures, kids, health crises, etc.? Learn how to deal with the long haul as a career author with discussions of goal setting, maintaining focus, and creating balance to survive this challenging business.

Who doesn't have stress in their life? Moreover, who doesn't have Murphy's Law kick them in the butt over and over again? I think that learning how to deal with setbacks, both daily and with sickness or other disasters, are things that I need help with and I'm excited for this panel as well.

So, which panels are you looking forward to if you're going? Which panels do you wish you could go to if you're not? Finally, what do you wish the RWA would offer for a panel in 2018? Also, I'll be having special posts the days of the conference with daily summaries of the highlights of the panels I've seen and also some live tweeting from different parts of the venue so keep posted for a glimpse at RWA 2017 as told by Ivy Quinn :P


  1. I'll be interested to hear about the characters w/ disabilities panel. Why can't I just take off and travel every month?!

    1. I know right? I'll bring back the flash drive of the whole thing, dear. However, I'll also be taking good notes especially on that one :)

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