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25 Years of Happy Ever Afters

25 Years of Happy Ever Afters

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association had its 25 Year Celebration at the Willow Park Golf & Country Club in Calgary, with over 60 current and former members attending.

The event started at 10 a.m. with “registration, refreshments and reconnections.” President Grace Panko welcomed everyone at 11 a.m. as we took our seats around beautifully decorated tables. Grace is one of our Charter members and fondly known as the “Queen of Romance.”

Following her welcome, she turned the podium over to emcee (and romantic suspense writer) Mahrie Glab. Staff members filled our flutes with champagne (sparkling juice for the teetotalers) and we raised our glasses to toast the first 25 years of ARWA.

I joined this group in 1998 and this is where I first learned, and still learn, about writing romance. Due to illness, Judith Duncan couldn’t be with us and was sadly missed. I am one of the many writers who learned POV (point of view) from Judith Duncan. I aspire to do it as well as she does.

Mahrie filled the rest of the morning with door prizes and trivia. She also called on Brenda Collins to speak about the Bandit Creek series launched by CARWA, our sister organization.

Members donated a wealth of door prizes including a Kobo, a wireless keyboard, Starbucks coupons and original artwork. There were many other prizes as well as many pots of roses.

In between drawing for prizes, we tried to match trivia to members, learning about each other as we went. Some of the Trivia is as follows:

I spent part of my career fighting industrial espionage in North America, Europe and Australia and once sat a table with the KGB and CIA at the same time! Brenda Collins

I got caught in a rainstorm on the Great Barrier Reef. Amy Jo Fleming

I have a great critique partner in New York City. Linda Ford

The Country Club put on a tasty and nutritious lunch buffet and dessert table. After lunch and more mingling, we heard from Dee Van Dyk, another Charter member. She talked about her early writing experiences from the time when the original group was working with multi-published Judith Duncan in a course sponsored by Alberta Culture and the Calgary Public Library.

At the end of the formal program, Short Story Contest Winners were announced:

First Place – TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT by Randi-Lee Ryder
Second Place – JUST A BOX by Jessica L. Jackson
Third Place – MURDER BY BEAR by Maggie Marlow

All the stories are published in this year’s Treasures Along The Fenceline.

A PowerPoint slide show ran throughout the day. Created by Lorraine Paton, it featured our candid photos and our various book covers from over the years.

And speaking of book covers: someone had the excellent idea of making placemats with a book cover design—eight covers per placemat. This resulted in a lot of placemat switching so members could have a placemat with their own cover represented. And members were autographing each other’s placemats.

In fact, Jessica had a placemat with my Bandit Creek cover on it and she ASKED ME TO AUTOGRAPH IT! It was the first time I have ever done an autograph. I never knew it would feel so good!

I took a lot of photos and I’m still naming them. I’ll be forwarding them to ARWA’s webmistress and you’ll soon be able to see them all. For now, I’m posting a few here.

And at the end of the photos, I have included a recent YouTube about one of the world’s Great Marriage Proposals. It’s sure to make you smile.

Thanks for the memories, ARWA. I’m looking forward to the next 25 years.

Alberta Romance Writers' Association 25 year celebration

Willow Park Golf & Country Club

Patricia Paterson & June Baxter

Patricia Paterson & June Baxter

Donna Wickens & Deb Smith

Donna Wickens & Deb Smith

Alberta Romance Writers' Association 25 year celebration

autographing placemats

Lorraine Paton

Lorraine Paton created the PowerPoint slideshow

Lucas Law & President Grace Panko

Lucas Law & President Grace Panko

And here it is. The best wedding proposal ever.

Isaac’s Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Michael Hauge

Michael Hauge

Last Saturday, May 12, 2012, the Calgary chapter of the RWA (CARWA) hosted story consultant Michael Hauge. He presented his day-long workshop on Story Mastery to 66 writers from Calgary and area.

If you ever get a chance to attend a Story Mastery workshop, go! Failing that, buy WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL. Michael has been helping writers and screenwriters for over 20 years. He teaches with movie examples and good humour, answering questions along the way and always digging deeper for the Story.

If I’d known I could get this much information in one short day, I’d have flown somewhere to hear him speak before now. He will be a Keynote Speaker at the 2012 Emerald City Writers Conference, hosted by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America on October 26 this year. Find out more here.

I’m still sorting through the photos I took. You’ll be able to find them on the CARWA website in a couple of days. Here are a few for now.

Michelle Beattie (Berkley), Jan O’Hara from Tartitude

Michelle Beattie (Berkley), Jan O’Hara from Tartitude

Linda Ford (Harlequin), Jenna Howard, Louise Behiel

Dee Van Dyk, Diana Scott, Neil Scott

Dee Van Dyk, Diana Scott, Neil Scott

Tawny Stokes (CARWA President), Lawna Mackie

Tawny Stokes (CARWA President), Lawna Mackie

Suzanne Stengl, Michael Hauge

Suzanne Stengl, Michael Hauge

Have you heard Michael Hauge speak? Have you read his books? How has he helped your writing?

Fool’s Gold

Fool’s Gold

Tucked into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Hamlet of Bragg Creek in Alberta, Canada is located 30 km (19 miles) west of Calgary, where the Bragg Creek meets the Elbow River. Bragg Creek got its name from a family that moved there in the late 1800s.

Another little community, Redwood Meadows, is just down the road.

In June of 2011, a group of writers from the Calgary Association of the RWA (CARWA) met at the community centre in Redwood Meadows, Alberta to have their Annual General Meeting.

Those AGMs never last very long, leaving lots of time for pot luck lunch, and presentations. When the meeting concludes, many of the writers move over to the Powder Horn Saloon in nearby Bragg Creek.

For this particular AGM, the last presentation of the day featured Tawny Stokes talking about the pros and cons of traditional publishing, E publishing and Independent publishing, or “Indie” publishing.

One of the pros of Indie publishing is that you can do what you want and you can write with anyone you want. Near the end of her talk, Tawny was saying, “If I want to, I can write a book with Shannon or Dara-Lee or anyone in this room.” Someone said, “Why don’t we?” And the town of Bandit Creek was born.

Bandit Creek—because we were thinking about Bragg Creek at the time. Mostly, we were thinking about continuing our brainstorming at the Powder Horn Saloon there. We needed a name for our town. Someone said, Banded Creek. Someone else said, Bandit Creek. The show of hands favoured Bandit Creek.

An hour and a half later, Brenda had outlined the basics on the whiteboard, Jill had bought the domain for banditcreekbooks.com, and we knew something about the town.

It would be in northeast Montana, have a population of 3000 people, and have a historical as well as present day town, because we would all write in our own genres and some of us are historical writers. As they say, Everything happens in Bandit Creek . . .

To keep the Old Town and the Present Day Town separate, we actually flooded the Old Town (in 1911) and rebuilt the new town two miles downstream. Death At Bandit Creek describes the days leading up to the Flood.

Today the Old Town lies under Lost Lake, which happens to have the same elevation, temperature and general characteristics as Ghost Lake, Alberta.

Now that I think about it, Ghost Lake would have been a good name for our Lake . . . considering all the paranormal activity surrounding the Lake and the town.

But we named it Lost Lake, because I was on my way to Whistler and there’s a Lost Lake there and I suggested the name. What can I say.

We have a Powder Horn Saloon in both the Old Town and the Present Day Bandit Creek. And, we have several recurring characters, especially Jack. He plays a part in both the present day stories and the historical ones. He’s the town bum, showing up at odd times, carrying his trademark bottle of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey in a brown paper bag.

We decided to publish a novella on the first and fifteen of each month, beginning September 15, 2011, and wrapping up on January 1, 2013. The April 1st book is an anthology called Fool’s Gold, in honour of April Fool’s Day. Seven authors from Bandit Creek Books present short stories that introduce and complement their soon-to-be-released novellas.

Aside: notice I’m writing in Canadian, eh? That’s because I’m in Canada. But since Bandit Creek is in Montana, I use American spelling. Hey, I’m bilingual. And, I’m sure if you look hard enough through the series, you’ll find a few Canadianisms.

Happy April Fool’s Day!


CARWA Christmas Party

CARWA Christmas Party

Each year at Christmastime, CARWA (the Calgary Association of the RWA) meets to review our past year’s goals, to set new goals for the coming year and to celebrate the season. It’s a night we all look forward to.

We’ve probably all heard about goal setting and especially, SMART goal setting. The usual Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable goals.

Specific: How many submissions will we send? And when?

Measurable: How many hours (or minutes) per day will we write? Or, how many words per week?

Attainable: Are our goals realistic given the time and resources we have available?

Relevant: Are our goals relevant to what counts? Does going to another conference really help us write that book?

Trackable: Can we keep track of our progress?

Making our goal setting SMART is important. But more important than that, doing our goal setting as a group helps to make us more accountable, more encouraged and more committed. We talk about what worked last year and what didn’t, and we say what we will aim for in the new year. And after we’ve done that, everybody applauds, no matter how much we’ve done.

In the past year, CARWA as a group made over 1000 submissions. Many of our writers published new stories. Some of our writers published for the first time.

At the end of the evening, all of us go home feeling energized and renewed and ready to continue our work.

Thank you CARWA for the good times, good food, good friends.

Christmas cookie tree from photos.com #86521839



Last Saturday, September 24, the Calgary Chapter of the RWA (better known as CARWA) hosted HQN editor Emily Ohanjanians and Agent Deirdre Knight at the annual Fall Industry Workshop.
Jennifer Howard - Charter Member #007 - reuniting with Charter Member Brenda Collins

Jennifer Howard – Charter Member #007 – reuniting with Charter Member Brenda Collins

Donna Tunney and Suzanne Stengl

Donna Tunney and Suzanne Stengl

Here I am, with my buddy Donna.
In the morning, forty-three writers listened as Emily and Deirdre told us about their respective jobs, talked about what’s new in the publishing world, and reassured us that even though there’s lots of gloom and doom forecasting, this is, in fact, a time of excitement and opportunity.

To help raise money for the group, the inexhaustible Lauren Hawkeye organized a Silent Auction including items like jewelry, gift baskets and critiques from editors and agents. At lunch time, we got to bid make our bids.

Lecia Cornwall

I bid on and won Lecia Cornwall’s Sweet Inspiration Basket

After lunch, Emily and Deirdre took pitching appointments and the CARWA Published Authors Panel fielded questions from the rest of the group. On the panel were Lecia Cornwall, Lauren Hawkeye, Lawna Mackie, Steena Holmes, DL Snow, Jade Buchanan and Vivi Anna.

Next, DL Snow led a Brainstorming Session to the strains of Mozart. This was followed by small group critiquing of First Pages. And, all the while, we were slipping out to our pitching appointments, and trying to stay calm.

Mahrie G. Reid and Sherile Reilly

Waiting for my pitching appointment, I was reassured by the writing team of Mahrie Ann Reilly.

I pitched my story to Emily . . . and I am happy to report I got a request for a partial!
At the end of the workshop, we moved across the street to the Toad & Turtle Pub where we were joined by the inestimable Trip Williams.
Pitching appointments were limited, so I was not able to pitch to Deirdre, but I did get to meet her at the Toad & Turtle. Since she’s looking for contemporaries, and that is what I write, she asked me to send her my work.
And I will :o)