Emerald Finalists

We are delighted to announce the finalists in this year’s Emerald Award.  Their manuscripts are now winging their way to our final judge, Malle Vallik, Director, Harlequin Digital (Toronto).

Congratulations and best of luck to:

Kerrie Paterson
Joanne Robertson
PJ Vye

and thanks, as always, to the army of volunteers without whom our contest season could not run.



This week, Emily Bitto was announced as the winner of the $50,000 Stella Prize for her debut novel The Strays while Murray Middleton won the Vogel Literary Award, a publication prize from Allen & Unwin worth $20,000, for his short story collection When There Is Nowhere Else To Run.

These two wins cap a ten-day flurry of award announcements, including the Aurealis Awards for Australian speculative fiction, and the shortlists for the ABIAS (Australian Book Industry Awards), the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards shortlist and Bailey Prize for Women’s Fiction.

Women dominated in the Aurealis Awards winning seven of the eight Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marilliermajor prizes on offer:

  • Juliet Marillier for Dreamer’s Pool (Best Fantasy Novel)
  • Marianne de Pierres for Peacemaker (Best Science Fiction Novel)
  • Justine Larbalestier for Razorhurst (Best Horror Novel)
  • Jaclyn Moriarty for The Cracks in the Kingdom (Best Young Adult Novel)
  • Carole Wilkinson for Shadow Sister, Dragon Keeper #5 (Best Children’s Fiction)
  • Lisa L Hannett and Angela Slatter for The Female Factory (Best Collection)
  • Editors Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios for Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Fiction and Fantasy Stories (Best Anthology), and
  • Tim Molloy for Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye (Best Graphic Novel).

I am hoping that Mr Unpronounceable and the Sect of the Bleeding Eye is also up for a Best Book Title award somewhere! Isn’t it great?!

The Rosie Effect by Graeme SimpsionIt is wonderful to see a novel with romantic elements get a nod in the ABIAS. Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Effect is shortlisted for Best General Fiction Book of the Year.

Two Australians are shortlisted for the IMPAC – Hannah Kent for Burial Rites and Richard Flanagan for The Deep Road to the North. Both books are brilliant if you’re looking for a compelling and challenging read.

I have a particular fondness for the IMPAC prize because it’s an award voted on by librarians around the world that makes it more real and inclusive to me. The Irish have always punched above their weight in the world of letters and the creation and administration of this award for novels written or translated into English- by a city council with global vision – only emphasises their contribution. The prize is worth €100,000 euro – now there’s a reason to put butt in chair and keep those fingers flying over the keyboard.

Five women are shortlisted for the Bailey Prize for Women’s Fiction: Rachel Cusk (Outline), Laline Paull (The Bees), Kamila Shamsie (A God in Every Stone), Ali Smith (How To Be Both), Anne Tyler (A Spool of Blue Thread) and Sarah Waters (The Paying Guests).

Bailey Prize shortlist 2014


An OWL to help you set your scenes

RWA OWL_S E Gilchrist & Stacey Nash

Are you characters chatting in a vacuum?  Are your settings letting you down?  Then you need the latest in our new series of online learning opportunities!  It’s on in May and starting soon.  Don’t miss out!  For more information and to register, see our website.

Get Fresh in ’15 Presents…

Men are from Mars, not from Venus:  Writing from the male point of view.

This workshop by Fiona Lowe will be running at 11:00am on Sunday August 23rd

Men are from Mars, so the famous book states and they think and talk very differently from women. Creating vivid heroes requires female writers to step into some size 13 boots and take a walk on the XY side!  Using a multimedia presentation, Fiona Lowe will teach some brain chemistry and take participants through a variety of steps to create real and compelling male characters. Men, who walk, talk and think like men but are true heroes who capture readers’ hearts.

Meet Your Presenter

Fiona Lowe Rita Photo1Fiona Lowe is a RITA® and R*BY award-winning, multi-published author with Berkley Penguin USA, Carina Press and Harlequin Mills & Boon.  Whether her books are set in outback Australia or in the USA, they feature small towns with big hearts and warm and likeable characters that make you fall in love. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a distracted wife, mother of two ‘ginger’ sons, guardian of 80 rose bushes, slave to a cat and often found collapsed on the couch with wine. You can find her at her websiteFacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Have you presented sessions at previous conferences, for RWA or other organisations?

Yes! this will be my 6th workshop. I am a craft junkie and I LOVE to teach ☺

Do you use examples (from your own books, other books, movies etc)?

I do! I find using video clips is a great way of converting words into a real concept.

Which members will benefit most from this session?

Everyone! Writing real men can be tricky for women.

Anything you’re particularly looking forward to at the 2015 Get Fresh conference in Melbourne?

Spending a weekend talking about writing is always a huge treat!

What is your latest/current/upcoming book release and where can members find out more about you?

Montana Actually, my first book in the Medicine River series launched in January and book two, Truly Madly Montana is out on July 7th. For photos, blurbs, cover art and more, everyone can find me at my website http://www.fionalowe.com  I also play on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/fionaloweromanceauthor) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/fionalowe )

Social media links:

Blog/website: http://www.fionalowe.com 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/fionaloweromanceauthor)

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/fionalowe

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1210604.Fiona_Lowe

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/fionalowe2000

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/105367097222196216477/posts


RWA 2015 Conference – Transport from Melbourne Airport (and back)

Tripadvisor has a very thorough article on transport from the airport. See www.tripadvisor.com.au/Travel-g255100-s301/Melbourne:Australia:Arriving.And.Departing.html. This includes what is rather ominously called ‘an interesting and inexpensive way to get from the airport to the city’. But you do need a myki card for this (see the blog containing information on public transport for information about this travel card) and it is quite complicated.

Your travel options:

  1. SkyBus from airport to Southern Cross Station. Takes 20-30 mins & leaves every 10 mins. Mon-Fri. 06.00 – 22.30. Weekend 07.30-17.30. For timetables, further details and to book see www.skybus.com.au/?gclid=CIXq0veoi8QCFdclvQodfrsAAA . Adult one-way $18. Adult return $30. From the station you can transfer for free to another shuttle which can take you to the Park Hyatt and other hotels (check the website). They can’t always drop you off at the door.
  2. Star Bus from airport to hotel. www.starbus.net.au/ Ph. (03) 8378 8700 Adult one-way $18. Adult return $30. Best to book 24 hr before. Leave from Bus Zone L outside the airport entrance.
  3. VHA Airport Shuttlefrom airport to hotel. Prices seem to vary according to pickup times and dates but appear very reasonable, sometimes as low as $10. http://vhaairportshuttle.com.au/

If you are concerned about time and have a lot of luggage, check how long it will take you when you book and if there is a luggage fee.

  1. Taxis cost about $60 and the taxi rank is located on the ground floor outside Terminal 1 & between Terminals 2 & 3.  Melbourne taxi drivers do not expect tips, but of course appreciate them! If it is late at night you may be asked to prepay, but if you are going to a hotel this is unlikely. Some taxi drivers will not know the address of the hotel, so have this handy. All take credit cards.
  2. Hire car. You can prebook. Try Southern Cross Taxis VHA (03) 9371 2666. All bookings must be secured with a credit card. Airport to Park Hyatt would cost $79 for a sedan and $101 for a people mover which takes up to 6 people.
  3. Airline freebie. If you are travelling business or first class check to see if your airline will give you a complimentary pick up & drop off.

Academics awarded romance research grant to explore contemporary Australian romance landscape

The Weekly Book Newsletter from Books+ Publishing announced before Easter that a group of Australian academics have been awarded funding from the Romance Writers of America’s Academic Research Grant Program. Drs Beth Driscoll (University of Melbourne), Lisa Fletcher (University of Tasmania) and Kim Wilkins (University of Queensland)—who is also a romance author under the pseudonym Kimberley Freeman—will use the funding to study ‘the genre world of romance in 21st-century Australia’. The project will include interviews with the authors, as well as agents, editors and publishers involved in writing and producing romance novels.

In an exciting new development, we can confirm that Beth and her colleagues will attend the RWA conference in Melbourne to live and breathe the world of Australian romance. The RWA has agreed to support their research project by providing them with two complimentary passes to the conference.

Beth Driscoll

Dr Beth Driscoll

‘We plan to use the opportunity to conduct some of our interviews and to learn more about the world of contemporary Australian romance,’ says Beth. She says about their project:

Romance fiction is one of the strongest selling sectors of the Australia publishing industry. But what does the production and consumption of romance reveal about Australian literary culture? This project will build knowledge about Australian romance fiction by investigating how Australian romance fiction texts, their authors, and other people in the publishing industry build and maintain the genre in Australia.

This project will develop our concept of the “genre world” of 21st century Australian romance by producing three rich case studies of novels published in the last two years. We will select our case studies to provide a cross-section of contemporary Australian romance, making sure to include different subgenres such as paranormal romance, romantic suspense and historical romance, a mix of debut and established authors, and different publishing formats and platforms. In addition to closely reading our case study novels, we will interview the authors and other industry professionals associated with the books, including agents, editors and publishers. This interdisciplinary approach will uncover the dynamic ways in which romance texts come into being.’

The team will make the outcomes of their research available through a free e-book of interviews and in an academic journal article.

More about the researchers and their books

Beth Driscoll is Lecturer in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne, and the author of The New Literary Middlebrow: Tastemakers and Reading in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave 2014).

Lisa Fletcher

Dr Lisa Fletcher

Lisa Fletcher is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Tasmania and the author of Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (Ashgate 2008).





Kim Wilkins

Dr Kim Wilkins

Kim Wilkins is Senior Lecturer in Writing at the University of Queensland, and has also published twenty-six genre novels in fourteen languages, including six romance novels under the pseudonym Kimberley Freeman.




More about the RWAmerica grant program

The Romance Writers of America grant program seeks to develop and support academic research devoted to genre romance novels, writers and readers. For more information, visit the website here:





RWA 2015 Conference Info – Public transport in Melbourne


There are two forms of free transport by tram in the CBD:

1. The City Circle trams http://ptv.vic.gov.au/route/view/1112

These are vintage trams painted maroon and yellow, and helpfully titled ‘City Circle tram’.  An audio commentary provides details of city landmarks and major attractions such as the City Museum, Parliament House, Docklands, Federation Square, Melbourne Aquarium and the Princess Theatre. Information leaflets are available on board each City Circle Tram. To catch a City Circle Tram service (route number 35), simply board the tram at any of the specially marked stops on the route. Anti-clockwise service goes Flinders Street > Spring Street > Nicholson Street > Victoria Parade > La Trobe Street > Docklands Drive > Harbour Esplanade > Flinders Street. Trams run in both directions approximately every twelve minutes between 10am and 6pm Sunday to Wednesday and extended hours, 10am – 9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

2. The free tram zone in the CBD. The principal boundaries of the Free Tram Zone are Spring Street, Flinders Street and La Trobe Street.  The tram routes along Victoria Street, William Street and Elizabeth Street that surround Victoria Market are also included as well as the Docklands area. The free tram zone is indicated on tram stops and there will also be an announcement by the driver that you are leaving it. A map of this is available on http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/maps/. Outside this area you must use a myki card, which you must validate on every trip. See below for details.

Trams are a fun way to get round the city, but beware peak hours. They will be crowded. Use the super stops if you are disabled. These have raised platforms and ramps and are designed for people with mobility issues.

Myki card

This is a travel card you must use on all public transport in Melbourne and surrounds. Annoyingly, you must pay both for the card ($6 full, $3 concession) and the fares. Fares vary according to how far you travel and how long you travel for and is so complicated most Melbournians just put a certain amount on the card (e.g. $20) and top it up with extra cash when needed. Cash can be credited to MYKI cards at most train stations, outlets that sell MYKI cards or online —but note that it can take 24 hours for this to register if you take the online option. Grrr … See further details on http://ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki 

If you plan to travel outside the Melbourne CBD free zone, the easiest place to buy a ticket from is Parliament Station, which is the closest major underground station to the conference venue, or the nearest 7-Eleven store.

Note that:

You must touch the card on the touch pad before travelling on all trains and buses and touch off when you alight.

On trams you must touch the card on but don’t need to touch off (no, we don’t know why).

You know it has been successfully touched on because it will make a little beeping noise and a sign in very small print will indicate that you have successfully touched on (congrats!) and how much money is left on you MYKI card. Make sure you wait for this to verify you have in fact validated your ticket to travel.

If you’re caught without a myki card or one which (accidentally or deliberately) has not been touched on, you will be given a hurtful on-the-spot fine.

Online App’s, transport maps and schedules are available from Public Transport Website http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/mobile-apps/ If in doubt, ask a Metro employee at one of the train stations for assistance.

Depending on how far you want to travel and which attractions you want to go to, you might consider buying a myki Visitor Value Pack from the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square, SkyBus terminals at Melbourne Airport, Southern Cross Station or the PTV Hubs, plus some hotels. See

http://ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/visiting-melbourne /. These packs also give discount offers to some attractions but are only valid for one day. So do your sums first.  It might be cheaper just to use the free trams or the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle bus.

The Melbourne Visitor Shuttle bus completes a 90 minute circuit around Melbourne and runs every 30 minutes from 9.30am – 4.30pm daily. For $5, you can hop on and hop off at any of the 13 stops. Each point of interest is only a short walk or tram ride away. Download the shuttle route brochure (PDF 3.2MB) or pick up a copy at the Melbourne Visitor Centre. From the Melbourne Visitor Centre and the Melbourne Visitor Booth, the closest stop to board the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle is Stop 2 – Federation Square. www.thatsmelbourne.com.au/visitors/transport/shuttle/Pages/VisitorShuttle.aspx


April heralds the arrival of the school holidays, the Easter long weekend and cooler weather – all opportunities to carve out a little me time on a comfy sofa and catch up on your reading. As always, there are plenty of new romances available from our members, from rural romance to spy and medical dramas and a several billionaires, sheikhs and CEOs on offer. Of course, no month would be complete without new paranormal and fantasy titles as well. Here’s a look at all the new covers: browse and enjoy!

Hearts Talk April 2015 New Releases copy


No, I’m not talking about whether housework is an essential duty or an unnecessary distraction from your current WIP. Rather, about the rights of a reader to clean up cuss words in your text – or their non-rights to do so.

In days of yore, authors didn’t have to worry about this. They could let their characters swear away to their heart’s content. If a reader wanted to go through a book with a black texta and scrawl all over it … well, it wouldn’t look pretty, but they did buy the copy to deface so probably have the right to deface it as they so chose. However, in today’s world of the Internet applications, times have changed …

The whole debate came to head when bestselling author Joanne Harris picked up on the fact that a couple in Idaho, America, had launched the Clean Reader App. If you purchase dan ebook through their online store, you could apply a filter to exchange offensive words with more acceptable alternatives to enable you to ‘read books, not profanity.’

Jared and Kirsten Maughan, the Christian founders of Clean Reader, started the project after their daughter came home from school sad that she had found a book she wanted to read but wouldn’t be reading as she objected to the language used by the author. They worked with the Page Foundry in Chicago to create a filtering program with three settings:

  • clean, which ‘only blocks major swear words from display’,
  • cleaner, and
  • squeaky clean, the most restrictive setting, which ‘ will block the most profanity from a book including some hurtful racial terms’.

Now, on the face of it, this doesn’t sound like too bad an idea – if you are prepared to overlook the implications of allowing a third party who is neither author nor editor nor publisher to tamper with the text of a book – and go with the line that since reading is an interactive experiences readers have a say. Okay, so it is a terrible idea. More on copyright issues in a moment. Let’s just stick to the so-called harmless principle for a while.

Is it really so bad to replace ‘fucking’ with ‘freaking’? Isn’t it a good idea to block racial slurs? It’s the fine line that divides avalanche territory from safe snow. For example, if we examine only the implications for our own genre, romance, things already get complicated. What happens when you exchange ‘vagina’ for ‘bottom’ and insert ‘groin’ instead of ‘penis’? The implications for sex scenes are stupendous. Most romances shy away from a blunt ‘he inserted his penis into her vagina’. But substitute the word ‘bottom’ for vagina and you change the nature of the sex. Substitute groin for penis at the same time, and, well … are you still having sex at all?

Joanne Harris led the charge against what she calls a ‘toxic app’, calling it censorship by a religious minority as opposed to the state. She also expressed concern about the psychological impact on young people of labelling sex words as ‘dirty’. Many writers from around the world agree with her, as do many readers. They counter that if you don’t like what an author says, or how she says it, by all means don’t buy her book, but don’t take fan fiction to extreme levels either.

The debate is perhaps best summed up in these few paragraphs from The Guardian’s coverage*.

One supporter of the app wrote: ‘The fact is that we readers would love to hear some of your creative stories without the icky unnecessary junk language. There are some really great and important literary works that are eliminated from our study because I’m not willing to compromise our standards. Not for myself or for our kids.’

Harris replied in a blogpost: ‘Shakespeare wrote icky unnecessary junk language. So did Chaucer, DH Lawrence, Philip Larkin, James Joyce.’

What do you think? Innovative invention or censorship tool?



*You can read the full Guardian article here as well as access all Joanne Harris’s blog posts on the subject.

Text in italics indicates the bloggers personal views.







The Sydney Writers Festival (SWF) launched its 2015 program on Thursday, and we are thrilled to see that it features several panels of interest to romance readers and writers and some of our very own stars – catch Avril Tremayne and Victoria Purman in debate during BEYOND DUKES AND DAMSELS on Saturday 23 May. See list below (#8) for details.

Avril Tremayne and Victoria Purman

Talks of interest in date order include (please note: there are some scheduling conflicts if you were interested in all talks below):

  1. Gender, genre and literary prestige (21 May, 10:00 – 11:00, Roslyn Packer Theatre, $14pp) starring Aviva Tuffield, Kate Grenville, Ceridwen Dovey and the 2015 Stella Prize Winner.
  2. The Body, Sin, Sex, Denial (21 May, 11:30 – 12:30, Sydney Dance 1, Free, no bookings) starring Ashley Hay, Robyn Cadwallader, James Boyce, and mortician and memoirist Caitlin Doughty. Really, who can resist a mortician, especially one who is fabulous and funny?
  3. Marie le Moel, The Truth about French Women (21 May, 11:30 – 12:30, Richard Wherret Studio, $14). In conversation with Kirstie Clements
  4. Liane Moriarty: Big Little Lies (21 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Pier 2/3 The Loft, $14). In conversation with Meredith Jaffe. Liane Moriarty is also participating in two other panels, On Deception (21 May) and The Books That Exploded and Why We Fell in Love (24 May), and in another feature talk in Parramatta on 20 May.
  5. Quickies and Corsets: There’s more to the story of women and sex (21 May, 3:00 – 4:00, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings) featuring Lee Kofman, Marie Le Moel, Krissy Kneen and Jane Caro.
  6. Co-Conspirators: Anne Buist and Graham Simsion (22 May, 10:00 – 11:00, Pier 2/3 The Loft, $14)
  7. Robert Dessaix: On How Enid Blyton Changed My Life (23 May, 11 – 11:40, Pier 2/3 Curiosity Stage, Free, no bookings). Okay, this has nothing to do with romance (probably) but how can you resist a literary writer who will stand up and admit to a love of Enid Blyton?
  8. Beyond Dukes and Damsels (23 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Sydney Dance 1, Free, no bookings), starring Jodi McAlister, the indomitable Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing, and RWA’s very own Victoria Purman and Avril Tremayne. Not to be missed!!
  9. The Rise and Rise of YA: A look at the fastest growing category in fiction (23 May, 1:30 – 2:30pm, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings) featuring Laurie Halse Anderson, Sally Gardnery, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix
  10. Keeping it Real: Realistic Issues in Teen Fiction (24 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings)
  11. Teencon 2015 (24 May, 4:00 – 5:30, Pier 2/3 Club Stage, Free but Bookings Essential Ph 02 9250 1988)

Of course, there are a multitude of other interesting authors and talks on offer including (but definitely not limited to) Julia Gillard, James Patterson, Kate Grenville, Richard Flanagan, Helen Garner, Evie Wyld, Jonathan Lethem and Michael Connolly as well as some powerhouse intellectuals such as Zia Haider Rahman, Norman Doidge, Atul Gawande and Mosin Hamad. Andy Griffiths and David Walliams head up a star children’s program. Explore the full program at www.swf.org.au. There are booking links from each individual talk. Hint: it is often easier to search by writer than date.

There is also a workshop program running from 16 – 23 May. If you live in Sydney, programs will be available in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald.

* Comments in italics reflect blogger’s personal enthusiasms.

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