I was fortunate enough to attend the annual New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Conference on October 18, 2014 at the Renaissance Woodbridge Hotel in Iselin, New Jersey. The two-day conference boasted almost three hundred attendees and a wide array of talented authors as speakers, all intently focused on one subject—the writing and reading of romance. A small but engaged community, old friends hailed each other while others made new connections.
The conference also announced the recipients of the 2014 Golden Leaf Contest for Published Writers, honoring published writers of the area across a variety of genres. This year’s winners included Lynn Kellan, Melinda Leigh, Caroline Linden, Cara Marsi, Holly Jacobs, Victoria M. Noxon, K.M. Jackson, Brynn Chapman, Jennifer Walkup and Anna Sugden. The winners and finalists were honored at a ceremony on the evening of October 17. The conference celebrated thirty years of New Jersey Romance Writers this fall, marking the occasion with workshops and classes for newbies and old hats such as “Screw the Muse, I’m on a Deadline,” “Tips for Writing the ‘Can’t Put It Down’ Novel,” “Work Your Social Media Platform Like a Rockstar,” “Be Your Own Agent and Still Sell That Novel,” and many more.
Literary agent and Publisher Lori Perkins and I spent our day meeting with writers and hopefuls, all asking the same questions—should I self-publish? Do I need an agent? What is the publishing world looking for? How can I stand out from the herd?
A number of speakers tried to address these questions, including best-selling luncheon speaker Jennifer Probst, author of The Marriage Bargain. Probst spoke on her long journey to publication, the ups and downs, mistakes to avoid and the ultimate test of perseverance that all writers must face. A self- and traditionally published author, Probst’s story of recent success resonated with her audience in more ways than one.
The day ended with a book fair, the writers welcome to set up and sell their wares side by side. As we walked past table after table, it occurred to me that there must be many paths to success, and many paths to publication. However, all of the writers, speakers, editors and agents seem to agree on one thing by the end of the conference—it’s a lot easier when you don’t have to walk alone.