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Talking it up at the annual Writers’ Conference

Writers do more than write. They talk. Non-stop. I recently bore witness to the phenomena at the NZSA annual AGM, hosted this year in (wintry) Hawke’s Bay.

The Society’s Central Districts Branch hosted the annual Conference Weekend. The AGM and Annual Dinner are fixtures, but the workshop series was our own creation. Romance writer Bronwen Evans talked about straddling the traditional and self-published, ebook and paper worlds. Local booksellers Gareth and Louise Ward of Wardini Books offered advice for self-publishers. I ran a session on editing with Rebecca Lal, Penguin Random House's editor for my last three titles, including soon to be released ‘Evie’s War’. With three books behind us, this was the first time we’d met (she’s younger than I’d thought, and just as charming).

NZSA president and picture book writer Kyle Mewburn ran a workshop for those aiming their efforts at the younger set, and he and I also joined NZSA’s CEO Jackie Dennis and author Jennifer Mortimer in running a pitching session. Pitching your work can be about selling the idea to a publisher, an agent, a movie producer; it can be about answering a question from the audience at a festival or filling a 30 second sound-bite during a radio interview. It’s not necessarily something authors do well, but it’s certainly possible to improve – and there’s no better way than by giving it a go. If you can do that while also getting constructive feedback and advice, what could be better?

The weekend wound up with a fabulous dinner at the Havelock Club, with entertainment by musician and author Mary-anne Scott, who had put together a musical literary quiz for the occasion. And what an occasion: even the formalities were a blast.

And yes, writers can talk. By the end of the weekend, as we all headed back to our insular writing worlds, it felt to me rather as if we should do it more often.

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