Romancing the Sydney Writers Festival

Last Saturday, I set off with a jaunty step and a light heart for the Sydney Writers Festival. It’s one of my favourite events of the year because I love the vibe of being surrounded by thousands of fellow bookworms. There was chatter and the aroma of good coffee in the air. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The harbour sparkled. And this year and this particular day were extra special. When I arrived forty minutes early at Sydney Dance 1 to line up for the Beyond Dukes and  Damsels romance panel, there was already a queue a mile long! My heart swelled with pride and happiness.  Here we all were. The closet and the not-so-closet romance fans ready to engage in robust conversation with the I-am-so-out! fans.

Avril Tremayne,  author of Escaping Mr  Right and other sexy modern romances with a twist, was one of the speakers, and she had a similar reaction.

Avril said, ‘I was at first shocked, and then just plain thrilled, at how popular the session was – basically a full and very interested house. In fact, the feedback was so good, I’m sure we’ve made a few reading converts.

Joining Avril on the panel were fellow writer Victoria Purman (Someone Like You), managing editor of Escape Publishing Kate Cuthbert and literary historian Jodi McAlister.

Romance discussion at Sydney Writers Festival 2015‘I felt like I was part of something very special, talking romance alongside some of the best in the business at one of the most prestigious writers’ events in the country. What I hoped to do more than anything was articulate the excitement and diversity to be found in the world of romance fiction today,’ continued Avril.

It was a lively and entertaining panel covering everthing from how attitudes to (and expectations) of heroines have changed, proper use of the ‘c’ word and why you will never find a MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) in a romance.

The SWF is going to podcast the discussion, and we’ll post the link here so everyone not lucky enough to attend in person, can listen in, learn and enjoy. To quote Avril again, ‘It was romance’s first outing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but I’m confident we’ll see some of our wonderful writers flying the romance flag there again next year.’


James Patterson, best-selling thriller writer extraordinaire, on keeping fans engaged: keep the plot rolling  with lots of twists and turns and surprises.

Husband and wife writing team Graeme  Simsion and Annie Buist  on collaboration:  it’s the norm in many forms of writing. You definitely need  a trusted critique partner if not a collaborator.

And on professionalism: treat your writing like a job. Put in your 10,000 hours of training (based on the theory that you need 10,000 hours of practice before you become  really good at something).

Steve Carroll on history: don’t patronise the past. It’s a form of contempt.

Amy Bloom on research: immerse yourself in your time period so that  you don’t have to think about it when you write.


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