LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Lismore's Rainbow Writers Judith Johnson, Carla Ashburn, Dorothy Martin and Tina Rothbury get together for their monthly meeting to workshop their romance fiction.
LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Lismore's Rainbow Writers Judith Johnson, Carla Ashburn, Dorothy Martin and Tina Rothbury get together for their monthly meeting to workshop their romance fiction. Sophie Moeller

Rainbow Writers do it with love

WHEN Judith Johnson got the email from the US to say her romance novel had been accepted, she couldn't believe what she was reading.

After all, Beachwalk Press is a huge e-book outfit in the US and the romance genre is a hard one to crack for any author.

"I showed my husband and asked him 'Why would they want mine?' and he replied 'Well, why did you send it off in the first place?'”

But it is not only Judith who is thrilled with the news. Her support network, the Rainbow Writers book group in Lismore, is also sharing in the triumph.

After all, it is they who have been with her every step of the way as she plotted and read out excerpts of her Torres Strait Island contemporary romance, Pearls of The Past.

The group has been meeting to hone their craft since 2003. They travel religiously to the Romance Writers of Australia conferences each year and spend hours workshopping and preparing manuscripts to be judged and appraised by the international organisation, which boasts more than 1000 members worldwide.

"We share in the joys when the news is good - it's 'woo hoo!' And when it's not we just mumble 'they obviously didn't read it, that element was definitely in there',” says Judith, laughing.

Carla Ashburn has been with the Rainbow Writers the shortest time and has been instrumental in setting up a website for the group. She will tell you there is a real art to criticism.

"It is very important to be supportive. A critique can be really crushing. It can be too much to take and stop a person writing altogether. The group is a safe environment for honest feedback,” she said.

For the uninitiated there is a lot to the world of romantic fiction, and many different ways to arrest a beating heart: there's high tension sexy, country, mystery, suspense, young adult, vampire and even hunger games.

Tina Rothbury, who has won prizes for her short stories, writes women's fiction.

She recognised her calling early when her school friends would gather around as she spontaneously began telling stories out loud.

This same school provides the premise of the novel she is currently working on, A Single Bullet. The true story tells of a shooting in her school's chapel in the 1960s in which the girl sitting next to her was killed.

Dorothy Martin writes suspense and one of the group's mainstays, Jennifer Hoff, has already proved herself successful, having published books of Australian historical fiction.

Judith is looking forward to her quarterly payment from the US but said the reward for this former Girl Guide commissioner is not the pot of gold, but the knowledge "you are never too old to learn a new craft” - not to mention to enjoy the friendships made along the way.

For more, visit rainbow writers.com.au.


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