Tuesday 22 August 2017

Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference Highlights

By Iola Goulton

You may have read my blog post last week, Top 10 Tips for First-Time Conference Attendees. One of those tips was not to schedule anything important for a couple of days after conference.

This blog post is me not following my own advice.

I’ve just returned from the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference, and I’m body tired and brain tired. Especially brain tired.

Narelle shared her highlights of the Romance Writers of Australia conference yesterday, including being able to meet several ACW members in person, as well as meeting with a representative of Draft2Digital. She also shared lots of fun photos, which shows she’s more organised than me—I always forget to take photos at conferences!

With Kristen Lamb
I do have a couple. When I arrived on Thursday afternoon, I met the exuberant Kristen Lamb, social media jedi, author of Rise of the Machines, and one of our keynote speakers. I also met the lovely Delwyn and Maggie from Australia. Delwyn and I found we have several writing friends in common, including ACW members Andrea Grigg and Nicki Edwards.

Me with Maggie and Delwyn

There were several Australians at the conference, both as guest speakers, and as attendees. If you can get a cheap trans-Tasman flight, the RWNZ conference works out around the same price as the Australian conference, and the conferences had different speakers this year—Delwyn attended both conferences back-to-back.

The format of RWNZ is that we have a keynote speaker who takes all four sessions on Friday—which is almost seven hours of speaking (and listening, and taking notes. Lots of notes). Our Friday speaker was Kristen Lamb. I consider myself fairly social media savvy, but I still learned a lot from Kristen’s talk. I think that’s going to be a separate post, once I’ve recovered a little more.

Saturday and Sunday was a mix of sessions from our keynote speakers, from visiting agents and editors, and elective sessions from Kiwi and Australian speakers (including yours truly). The sessions were a mix of technical (how to use Scrivener, how to keep yourself safe online), craft (writing a scene, creating reader engagement), and business (how to write a query, self-publishing advice).

My topic was Introducing Christian Romance: the biggest little genre you’ve never heard of. 

I was prompted to submit a speaker proposal after attending last year’s conference, when a lot of the people I met, even the Christians, didn’t even know Christian romance was a thing. No one told me that this year, so I guess that means everyone had read the programme. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.

All the sessions I attended were excellent, and there were several electives where I wanted to attend two or three of the four options. I wasn’t the only one with this problem. I had several people tell me they wanted to attend my session, but there was another session they also wanted to attend. I couldn’t blame them. So did I! The result was that my presentation was more of a discussion, as only two people attended. That didn’t bother me—we had a fabulous conversation.

I did have several authors tell me they are Christian writers, but not writing for the Christian market. Great! People who are reaching the lost with their writing—reaching people who would never walk into a Christian bookshop, or even read a Christian book.

I don’t have any of my own books to give away or sell, so I did the next best thing: I took copies of Then There Was You by Kara Isaac to give away, and Kara was kind enough to donate two copies of Can’t Help Falling. I gave copies to the ladies who attended my sessions, to a vicar from Christchurch, and to a general market author of rock chick romance who loved the cover and blurb. I doubt she’s ever read a Christian romance before, but she said she’d read it. Wonderful!

This is the third RWNZ conference I’ve attended. 

The first time, I went with Andrea Grigg and Catherine Hudson. We were impressed at the openness and friendliness of romance authors. Many of the attendees write erotica or paranormal romance, but they were universally friendly and welcomed us as fellow writers, despite the differences in our writing and personal beliefs.

I had the same experience last year and this year. Romance writing is a community that chooses to celebrate our common love of romance, rather than focusing on our differences. I love that. Yes, I’ll be back next year.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Very cool, Iola. Love that so many of you attend these RW gigs around the globe and share with all of us. Be keen to read any comments from Kristen's keynote. Wonderful that you learnt some new stuff when you're so well versed in all things social media.

    Hopefully, you'll be able to keep sharing you Christian romance preso for a few more years of RWNZ - remember repetition is a good thing and it will continue to attract newbies to the conference.

    1. I'll be posting about Kristen's keynote on Friday. I don't think I'll get to share about Christian (or inspirational) romance again, but I'll certainly pitch something else for next year.

  2. So thrilled for you to have had such a great time, Iola. I have been so very blessed over the many years I've been able to attend our Romance Writers of Australia conferences. Would love to also have been able to attend N.Z. ones I've heard very glowing reports of from writer friends who have been to them. I think one of the reasons many Christians may not be aware there are "Christian Romance" books is because this Romance sub-genre is officially called "Inspirational Romance". Ever since I was made aware of this,I make sure I tell folk, "I write Christian Romance which is officially called Inspirational Romance in the publishing industry."

    1. Yes, the RITA award classification is Romance with Religious or Inspirational elements. In theory, that could mean any religion, although in practice the finalists are all writing Christian romance.

      I'm also not a fan of "inspirational" as a descriptor. Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love is inspirational, but it's not the kind of inspiration I'm interested in. And then there is the whole ABA vs CBA divide ...

      I'd love to attend an RWA conference one day, or ACFW. For now, I'm thrilled that the RWNZ committee are able to attract some top quality speakers (I think the location is a big attraction!). Our conference is smaller in terms of numbers, but we still get top quality speakers.

  3. Hi Iola, Thanks for sharing your conference highlights. One day I'd love to cross the Tasman and attend a NZ conference! I think it's cheaper for me to fly to Auckland or Wellington than to Adelaide or Perth. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience as an attendee and as a presenter. NZ sounds like a great option if we miss the Australian one.


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