Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cakes and pies and cups of tea, oh my!

I spent a short but sweet week with family in the Hunter Valley and even though the nights were cold, cold, cold, the days were lovely. We had a picnic at the vineyards and got to browse in the new collector's book store. It was a huge old barn of a building that reminded me of the antique bookstores I used to visit in New England when my daughter attended boarding school there. And of course I had to buy something, a book on Irish myths and legends. Maybe because Ireland is next on my list of places to visit? Does anyone smell a new work in the makings? It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, but the next step was the Australian Romance Writers conference in beautiful Sydney, Australia.

What an amazing four days! The cakes and pies and cups of tea ... yikes! I'm not getting on a scale this side of September! And even with jetlag, this morning I'm looking at the key to the gym and planning on tomorrow to begin getting back in shape. Well ... maybe the day after. *grin* Anyway the Aussies put on a great show, so thanks to all of the hard working organizers. The highlight was of course, Jennifer Crusie's workshops and meeting Anne Stuart (Sister Krissie) who has a most infectious laugh. I also met up with Allison Ahearn and her hubby Mark again, which was lovely, and met and chatted with author, Lillian Darcy who is a doll, and also Anne Gracie and Paula Roe. Allison Rushby did a great workshop analyzing the movie, Notting Hill, which was very informative. Also ran into many of the medical romance authors who are friends with my chapter mate, Janet (Lynne Marshall.) It's winter downunder and I think someone forgot to tell them that, or maybe they were rolling out the red carpet for international visitors, the weather was glorious.

The hotel, The Four Points Sheraton, overlooking Darling Harbour, couldn't have been better. The perfect moment to my day was sitting in the window seat with a cup of tea and watching the sun set, then I'd scurry around and hit the shower and change clothes for the evening's scheduled event. One night was a Venetian Carnivale hosted by Harlequin Australia. We all wore masks. 'Twas a little steamy under those masks but everyone had a great time. The next evening was a dinner for the awards ceremony. I didn't really know anyone so slipped in the back door and asked if a seat at a back table was taken. One of the ladies at my table turned out to be the Cherry who organized our lunch with Jenny, Melanie Scott, she was a winner of the Emerald Award, so it was terrific to share in her delight. Also, Robyn, another Cherry (I've forgotten her last name but she has a very nice chef husband ... I think if you have to have a husband that might be the best kind to get) was at the same table. It's really a small world this writing one. The Australian writer who sat on my left at the dinner, Keziah Hill, is friends with one of my California chapter mates, Eden Bradley.

Jennifer Crusie's one day workshop on Friday was the best thing I've done for myself in my writing career. I think this workshop, coming on the heels of the year long HWSW workshop on her website, really cinched everything I've been learning all year. And here is another irony. I was standing in line chatting (as writers are wont to do and met another Cherry, Erica. We ended up sitting together for the entire day.) We covered so much material in Jenny's workshop but with her personal anecdotes and bubbly humor the writing points took on more meaning. And she had jetlag, too, poor thing. And as if that wasn't enough, Jenny taught several more two hour workshops over the weekend. One was Sex and Violence, another, Motif, Metaphor, and Theme. I looked over the notes on the long plane trip home and couldn't believe how much information was in there.

I think Jenny has a story about every aspect of the writer's journey and she shares her knowledge, both professional and personal, so generously. On the last day, I even got to have lunch with her and five of her Cherries, plus writer Anne Stuart. We chose a seafood restaurant in Darling Harbour and had the best John Dory I've ever eaten.

But, to have Jenny come down from the lectern into the audience to hug and greet me on the first day of conference was beyond fabulous. We've met a couple of times before, but a hug? Wow! It made my day.

So now I'm back, and work is beckoning, and so is housework, and gardening, and bills and mail, and laundry, and I have the writing bug. Sigh.

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