Breakout Workshop Speaker Details

Saturday Breakout Workshop One

A. Romancing the Plot

One of two definitive elements in all genre romances is the central love story, though that structural element is conspicuously absent from most discussions of craft, plot, pacing, or character development. This workshop will examine the elements of the romantic arc, placing the protagonists’ relationship at the centre of the story, and exploring how the love story itself drives most other aspects of the novel.

Speaker BioGrace Burrowes
Grace Burrowes is a recovering child welfare attorney who for decades turned to the reliable HEA of romance novels to balance the equally reliable stress of life as a litigator. She began writing as the empty nest years came into view, and has been happily engrossed in novelcraft ever since. She writes Georgian, Regency, Victorian, and contemporary stories, is a six-time RITA nominee and has won best book of the year accolades from Publishers Weekly, The Library Journal, Kirkus, Romantic Times and the iBook store. She lives in rural Maryland with various felines and canines who consider her their chauffeur, housekeeper, cook and scullery maid.


B. Beyond Pronouns: Writing Rainbow Romance in the 21st Century

Rainbow romance offers representation for writers and readers of LGBTQINAQ community, and is a category of explosively popular growth. Three authors share experience, advice, and practical resources for writing across the gender spectrum. The discussion will include character and story points to consider when writing marginalised groups, techniques for finding an audience, personal eperiences of working with LGBTQ+ publishers, resources lists, and reading recommendations for anyone interested in exploring rainbow romance.

Speaker Bio: Ada Maria Soto, Jamie Sands and Louise Waghorn (writing as Gillian St. Kevern)

Ada Maria Soto is a born and raised Californian, Mexican-American, who has lived as an ex-pat in New Zealand for thirteen years. She writes across the spectrum from sweet to kink, and had the first non-hetero romance to be nominated for the RWNZ Koru Award.

A psychologist once told her she was a fantasy prone personality, but since she’s a writer that’s not a bad thing. She has dysgraphia and phonological dyslexia but doesn’t let exciting spelling slow her down.

On top of being a writer she is a mom, partner, cook, knitter, sports fan and total geek.


Jamie Sands grew up in Wellington and was a library devotee and constant reader of fiction from a very early age. Their fiction has covered Romantic Comedy, Horror, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy and Cosy Mysteries, all have a romance element and highlight queer characters. They’ve had stories published in Baby Teeth horror anthology, Enamel literary magazine and self published a number of roleplaying games. They live in Auckland with their wonder fiance Anna and a round cat called Mochi. Jamie’s visited Japan twice (another trip planned this year) and would like to move into Tokyo Disneyland.


Louise Waghorn (writing as Gillian St. Kevern). After eleven years in Japan Louise returned to Christchurch in 2016, beginning a continuing struggle to contain her to-be-read and to-write lists. As a freelance writer, she’s written everything from travel articles to ghost-writing a memoir. As Gillian St. Kevern, she writes urban fantasies, paranormal romance and contemporary fiction with an emphasis on celebrating diversity. In 2018 she’s lauching her first mystery novel.

As a chronic traveller, her fiction explores emotional journeys. Her characters grow, change and challenge themselves and others before they reach their happy endings. When Louise is not writing, she’s usually dog-sitting or reading with her niece.

C. Writing a Great Romance: Tropes, Cliches, and What Will Really Sell Your Book.

Want to write the book of your heart…that will also sell? Kathleen Scheibling, Executive Editor at Harlequin Books, shows you how to use tropes (hooks) to craft a story that will appeal to a wide readership. And while cliches have their place, Kathleen will enlighten you on how they can either weaken or strengthen your manuscript. With additional information on writing a synopsis and pitching an editor, this workshop will help writers wanting to spread their wings, or take their writing to the next level.

Speaker Bio: Kathleen Scheibling

Kathleen Scheibling has worked in publishing for more than twenty years and is currently Exective Editor of Harlequin Series in the Toronto office. She has worked with many New York Times bestselling authors from imprints such as Blaze, Western Romance, and most recently, Heartwarming. Harlequin has not only taught her all she needs to know about rugged cowboys and reclusive billionaires, it has also allowed her to work with the most professsional, intelligent and inspiring group of authors in the business. Kathleen heads up the company’s newest global series, Harlequin/Mills & Boon DARE.

Kathleen is an avid reader, a rabid film lover, a one-time boxer turned yoga convert, and a fair-weather distance cyclist. You can follow her on Twitter @KScheibling.


Saturday Breakout Workshop Two

A. Forensics for Fiction: Make Your Crime Pay

Forensics has become a popular topic in all forms of fiction. From police procedurals to cozy mysteries to thrillers to science fiction, authors use crime to ramp up tension in their stories. But how accurate are they?

From arson to autopsies to crime scenes to labs, the forensic field can overwhelm authors with complexity and minutia. Too often, authors take unnecessary shortcuts or logic leaps what can pull readers out of the story. What is believeable? What is realistic? What is the balance between accuracy and overkill?

Using a Q&A format, Geoff will cover the information most important to the audience and their own stories.

Speaker Bio: Geoff Symon

Geoff Symon is a 20-year Federal Forensic Investigator and Polygraph Examiner. His participation in high profile cases includes the attacks on September 11, 2001, the War in Iraq, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion, the 2002 bombings in Bali and the Chandra Levy investigation amongst countless other cases. He has direct first-hand experience investigating cases including murder (of all types), suicide, arson, kidnappings, bombings, sexual assault, child exploitation, theft and financial crimes. He has specified and certified training in collection and preservation of evidence, blood-spatter analysis, autopsies, and labratory techniques. You can reach him at

B. Getting the Beginning Right

As harsh as it may seem, very few editors and agents read more than the first couple of paragraphs of your book. If you haven’t created enough interest in either the characters or the storyline in that time, then it doesn’t matter how brilliant your plot, your characters, or your worldbuilding is, that manuscript is rejected. This workshop will hopefully clarify what does and doesn’t make a good beginning – and by the end of the session, all participants will hopefully walk away with such a start!

Speaker Bio: Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur, author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson Guardian series, has now written more than thirty-nine novels. She’s recieved several nominations in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Awards and has won RTs Career Acheivement Award for urban fantasy. She lives with her daughter in Melbourne, Australia.



C. Better Together: Successful Multi-author Anthologies  (The Bluestocking Belles)

So you’re sitting over a glass of wine at the Conference and one of you says, we ought to do a joint project. How hard can it be? HOLD THAT THOUGHT. There are a lot of good reasons to work together and a few good reasons not to.

The Bluestocking Belles are currently working on their fourth box set, and we’ve all been in box sets with other groups. We’ve learned a few things along the way.

At this workshop, you’ll learn about the benefits and the pit-falls, and how to make the best of the first and stay out of the second. We’ll talk about clarifying goals, recruiting authors, deciding a theme and structure, nailing down contract details, setting up and following a strong writing and editing process, publishing, promoting, and using your finished project to springboard to the next.

The Bluestocking Belles are ten very different writers from around the work united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. We formed in March 2015, and are currently working on our fourth joint box-set. In the past three years, our box sets have raised over $10,000 for the Malala Fund.

Speaker Bio’s: Jude Knight and Lizzi Tremayne.

Jude Knight has always loved telling stories, and fed that need for years mostly for children in the need of entertainment. But deep down, she wanted to write novels about strong, determined historical heroines, heroes who appreciate them, and villains you love to loathe.

A little over three years ago, a tall skinny red-headed viscount and the carraige-makers daughter he loved first made their way into the covers of Candle’s Christmas Chair.

Over a dozen books later, the wind fills Jude’s sails and many more plots jostle for daylight.


Lizzi Tremayne writes the Old West, Russia and Colonial New Zealand, as well as veterinary fiction and non-fiction – all with a horsey flair.

She grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods, become an equine veteranarian at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and practiced in the California Pony Express and Gold Country before emigrating to New Zealand.

When Lizzi’s not writing, she’s swinging a rapier or shooting a box in medieval garb, riding, driving a carriage or playing on her hobby farm, singing, or working as an equine veteranian or science teacher.


Sunday Breakout Workshop Three

A. Intense Intimacy

Keep your sizzle fresh at any heat level. Creating chemistry on the page requires a mix of playful art and rigorous craft. Whether sweet or raunchy, intimate moments have always been the beating heart of romance of romance fiction. Fans call them “the good parts” and dog-ear them for a reason; love scenes are where authors cut loose and romance gets closest to poetry.

In this session we’ll explore:

  • the basic mechanics of intimate moments in fiction (from sweet to smutty)
  • tricks and tips to charge any interaction with emotional/erotic intensity
  • ways to elevate and inspire unexpected closeness between your characters
  • the tricks and traps of love scenes and how to keep the ball(s) in the air

Speaker Bio: Damon Suede

Damon grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage and screen for two decades. He is currently on the Board of RWA and is one of their most popular conference craft speakers. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his dementend family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at


B. You’ve Got Mail: Creating a Reader-Centric Mailing List

Your reader has reached the end of your book. Now what? How do you get that reader coming back for more?

By enticing readers to sign up for your mailing list, you can continue to market your books long after THE END. As a writer with over 20,000 fans on my newsletter list, I know how vital a newletter can be when it comes to launching your book or keeping your backlist working for you.

This workshop shows you how to set up a (FREE) newsletter, create automated to save you time and engage readers, understand how and when to send emails, and create a funnel to turn readers into fans. I’ll also show you ways to grow your mailing list and how to use bonus content and other tools to entice and reward readers.

Come armed with your newsletter quesitons and I’ll do my best to answer them all!

Speaker Bio: Steff Green (writing as Steffanie Holmes)

Steff is a USA Today bestselling and award winning-author of dark and steamy paranormal romance. Her books feature clever, witty heroines, wild shifters, cunning witches and alpha males who get what they want.

In 2017, Steffanie was recognised with the Artistic Achievement Award by the Attitude Trust, for her acheivements as a person living with disability.

Steffanie lives in New Zealand with her husband and a hoarde of cantankerous cats. Learn more about Steffanie at her website: She also writes dark science fiction under the name S C Green. (blog)

C. Backstory – Why It’s Important and How to Use It

Are you struggling with how to justify your character’s reactions and behaviour without jamming your pages with backstory? Whether you’re writing a good guy or gal, or a villain of the most evil proportions – everyone has a past. It’s important to know how to use that past effectively and sparingly to reveal your characters’ deepest and darkest secrets and transform them into livng, breathing and, most importantly, relatable people to readers.

Speaker Bio: Yvonne Lindsay

A typical Piscean, award winning USA Today! bestselling contemporary romance author, Yvonne Lindsay, has always preferred the stories in her head to the real world. To date her books have sold more than 4 million copies in 27 different countries and almost as many different languages around the world. Married to her blind date sweetheart and with two adult children, she spends her days crafting the stories of her heart and in her spare time can be found with her nose firmly in someone else’s book, or writing about ghosts and murder and mayhem for fun.


Sunday Breakout Workshop Four

A. It’s Like A Marriage: Your Relationship With Your Agent (and what they even do)

“Do I even need an agent?”

“What does an agent do?”

“What is the point of you?”

This workshop will help answer these real life questions by walking you through what an agent does, whether an agent is the right fit for your career path, how to find the right fit, and the ins and outs of an agent-author-editor relationship. Because signing with an agent is a relationship, and like any binding commitment you make tying yourself to another person, finding the Right One is important.

Speaker Bio: Lizzie Poteet

Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Poteet attended Colby College where she majored in English and Religious Studies. While studying at St. Andrews, she realised that though she enjoyed Shakespeare and the Dead Sea Scrolls, she preferred reading stories with a little more heat and heart. Lizzie took her passion for romance and turned it into a position at RT Bookreviews as a romance reviewer. In 2011, she joined the editorial team at St. Martin’s Press where she worked with romance, YA, non-fiction and women’s fiction. Then in 2015, Lizzie became the e-book original coordinator for SMP Swerve, helping launch the digital only romance imprint.

Lizzie is always looking for a good love story. She loves classic romance tropes, strong dialogue, sassy heroines, witty banter, and good old fashion romance. She’s actively seeking inspirational romance, cozy mystery, New Adult, YA, romantic suspense, historical and contemporary romances, and loves anything with a happy ending.

B. Write the Best Book You Can: Plotting for Pansters.

In this workshop I will lead you through the steps that I have found helpful over my writing career to make the prospect of writing a story without a fully worked out plot much more feasible and much less daunting.

Look at first sentences, tone, character, tension, story structure, romantic elements and world-building etc, this workshop is a hands on interactive lecture to let you see all the signposts inside your story that you may not have known were there.

Bring your work in progress to try and identify where addition or subtraction could make your story stronger. Be ready to participate in a two-way conversation because the sharing of ideas is what this workshop is all about.

Speaker Bio: Sophia James

Writes for Harlequin Historical London. Written twenty-five books for that line. Won the inaugural Clendon award and has been a finalist in the Australian Romantic Book of the Year Awards five times and won twice. Was a tutor in the Five Day Intensive workshops (5DI) 2010 and 2o11 for Romance Writers of Australia.

Trained as a teacher and then taught in the tertiary sector as a tutor of ESOL after completing a post grad CELTA. Holds a degree in History and English from the University of Auckland.

C. Writing Romantic Comedy

Learn practical techniques for writing romantic comedy. Topics covered include:

  • Structuring your romanctic comedy.
  • What makes something funny.
  • The importance of three-dimensional characters in comedy.
  • Different types of comedy – wit, caricature, physical comedy, etc. – and why you need to think hard before you use any of these elements in your work.
  • Tone – why a whitty tone isn’t enough and , in fact, can sometimes work against you.
  • Pacing – the key to writing physical comedy.
  • Getting the balance right between emotional depth and writing for laughs.

Speaker Bio: Janet Elizabeth Henderson

Janet Elizabeth Henderson has never won a major award. Her work has never recieved any critical acclaim. She’s never been on the USA Today or NYT bestsellers list either. This doesn’t stop Janet from telling other people how to write romantic comedy. As a self-proclaimed expert, author of fourteen books and long-time teacher, Janet feels more than qualified to share her wisdom with the world – which she does regularly, to anyone who will listen. When she isn’t sharing her writing wisdom, Janet is actually, well, writing. One day, she knows her genius will be recognised. Until then, she can always teach…