October 07, 2016

Mind-broadening Opportunities -- Ramona Heikel

In October of 2008 I attended the Moonlight and Magnolias Romance Writers conference in Atlanta, Georgia. My cousin Linda (who lives there) was planning to go, and she invited me to stay with her for a week, and visit with family after the conference.  Two experiences at this weekend conference made it significant.

Magnòlia a Verbania.JPG

One thing that stands out in my memory was the opportunity to receive instant responses to our writing from agents, editors and accomplished writers.  Linda and I eagerly signed up for opportunities to get feedback from a successful author on our novels, pitch our work to an agent, and have two pages from our novels critiqued by a panel of three editors at a Cold Read Session.

Although it was a bit nerve-wracking, the Cold Read was an extremely enlightening experience. An editor or agent on the panel read out loud part of  a manuscript (submitted anonymously by a conference attendee) until they lost interest, got confused, or had their involvement with the story interrupted. Sometimes an editor only read a paragraph or two before stopping; sometimes she would read much more.  Then all three of them would discuss the piece for a few minutes before moving on to the next submission.  I not only  had the luck to have mine read out loud - - more on that later - - I also  got to hear parts of 15 other novels - - including my cousin's - - and hear the instant reactions of these professionals. This was invaluable insight for a new writer.

About my "luck" (or was it good ole southern hospitality?): as the conference assistant told me later, the time was running out for the Cold Reads session, and they only had time to read one more.  She wanted that last one to be a good story, and she liked mine, so she surreptitiously put it on the top of the pile. She said she also wanted to make sure that the lady from Canada who had traveled the longest distance to get to the conference would have her piece read out loud!  I was thrilled when the editor read mine all the way through without stopping!

The second significant experience that came out of this conference was that I got a feel for the bigger picture of the romance novel business, and the publishing trends. After listening for two days to talented, successful writers and editors giving writing and publication tips, I felt that the romance writer's market was becoming polarized. There were more and more novels being written and published that were either 1) overtly Christian or very "sweet"; or (2) went to the opposite extreme of containing explicit violence or sex, or were in the paranormal or erotic genres. My novels were none of the above; they were right in that shrinking middle. I was convinced that with things going that way, I was going to have an extra-difficult time finding a home for my current and future work. After that particular novel was rejected again and I started a full-time job, I decided to start writing shorter pieces.

Because of all that I learned at the Atlantic conference, and at several others in Alberta, including Inscribe conferences and WordShops, I am definitely a believer in the value of writer's conferences.  These days I keep my eyes especially open for those mind-broadening opportunities offered in warm places during school holidays!

Posted by Ramona  

Photo credits:
Magnolia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnolia_grandiflora 


  1. What an exciting, mind-broadening experience, and encouraging experience for you to attend this conference, Ramona. Were you lucky or blessed? Was it Southern hospitality or just the fact that your novel was well-written and someone in the right place liked it? In each case, I believe it was the latter. Thanks for sharing this adventure.

  2. I really enjoyed hearing about this, Ramona. I have always wanted to go to a BIG conference like that. Hopefully one day...


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.