Northern Hearts: dispatches from the TRW’s first conference

by Dana Grimaldi, Associate Editor

Saturday, September 22, 2018
8:00 a.m.
Writers, editors and agents gather at the North York Civic Centre, ready for the first ever conference held by the Toronto Romance Writers. Everyone’s excited for a day of sessions, pitches and book talk! Also, perhaps, for coffee and pastries!

9:30 a.m.
I attend my first session of the day, Worldbuilding 101 by Vicki Essex/V.S. McGrath. It’s packed with helpful information, including advice on setting constraints and limits on your fictional world.

10:30 a.m.
Harlequin authors Mary Sullivan, Stefanie London and Amy Ruttan lead a session on category romance. Lots of great tips for aspiring category romance authors!

11:30 a.m.
Pitch sessions! I talk to three authors about their current projects, all of which sound fantastic! One author promises to send me the full manuscript and I help the other two authors (whose projects aren’t targeted at the series I acquire for, Heartwarming and Dare) decide which series would be the best fit for their books.

12:20 p.m.
After her amazing session on Writing the Happily Ever Afters of Under-Represented Voices, Uzma Jalaluddin is kind enough to sign my copy of her book, Ayesha at Last!

12:30 p.m.

2:00 p.m.
At the publishers spotlight, I answer questions along with other editors and agents. It can be challenging to prepare for a panel session because you never know what questions you’ll be asked. Writing craft questions? Submissions questions? Questions about the business? Thank goodness I brought notes!!!

4:00 p.m.
Author Farah Heron tells a rapt audience that using personality tests can help create real and vivid characters—all while taming a rogue PowerPoint presentation.

5:30 p.m.
At the reception, everyone bids on raffle baskets filled with books, books, and more books.

Dinner is delicious, and after we’ve eaten, the results of the Catherine contest are announced. Congrats to all the winners!!! Molly O’Keefe gives an electrifying keynote address. Her topic? Why romance novels are so important. Sharing stories from her own life—both funny and heartbreaking—Molly says that she writes romance because it makes people happy. This seems like a simple answer, but considering how important a story can be to someone going through a tough time, I can’t think of a better reason to write happily ever afters.

And speaking of uplifting stories, this month brings four new Heartwarming books from four talented authors. Coming Home to You by M. K. Stelmack, Her Lawman Protector by Patricia Johns, Tennessee Vet by Carolyn McSparren and The Rancher’s Redemption by Melinda Curtis.

Do you have a favorite cheer-up book? Is there a story that helps you feel better every time you read it? I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments!

—Dana Grimaldi


  1. Dana, what a wonderful conference. And thank you for sharing with all of us. I love the photos. And I have to say, OUR Heartwarming covers are outstanding. Look at that lineup!
    Happy weekend to everyone!

  2. The conference sounds amazing, and I love the logo. I dig into all four Heartwarming books every month, and they never fail to cheer me up.

  3. Your conference sounds wonderful. Will you have one every year? I read extensively in a lot of sub-genres and non-fiction. So it's impossible to choose one feel-good book. Like Beth, I look forward to my subscription of Heartwarming books every month.

    1. I think the Toronto Romance Writers are hoping it'll be a yearly event. I hope so, too! :)

  4. I’m sorry I missed what must have been an informative but fun conference. Thanks for the recap, Dana! Hooray for the October releases. I can’t think of a better title for this line than Heartwarming.

  5. If I need to feel better, I pick up a Heartwarming book!

  6. Wow! What an amazing conference. Since I can't attend RWA this next year, I'm looking for an alternative conference in 2019, so I'll put this one on my list. I love to read the Heartwarming books to feel better, but sometimes I need to lose myself in a quick-read book. then, I pick up one of Janet Dailey's Americana series books published by Harlequin in the seventies. They are the first romance books I ever read and never fail to make me feel better.

    1. That's such a nice tradition! I love re-reading old favorites, too!

  7. I'm glad that everyone finds Heartwarming books so uplifting. I do, too! :)

  8. The conference sounds great, especially the one about constraints and limits on the fictional world. Sometimes I think Mad Max enters my Heartwarming world and wants to add twists that really don't work. I'm writing that author's name down and looking for her website.


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