This weekend I was lucky enough to attend my very first Romantic Novelist’s Association (RNA) Conference. I use the word ‘lucky’ advisedly, because as with First Great Western trains were on strike, I had to take a very imaginative route to actually get from Devon to London. But it was very much worth it.
Over the years I have attended many writing events and conferences, but they have all been of the more ‘adult’ variety. This was the first time I had been to one as ‘Jenny’ and not ‘Kay.’ As my train pulled into Waterloo my sense of excitement was great. Not only was I going to meet some of my fellow Accent authors and my dear ‘Xcite’ friend Kd Grace (aka Grace Marshall), but I was actually going to an event! I have missed loads of amazing events lately due to a trapped nerve in my leg, and I felt like a child off to meet Father Christmas as I walked through London, heading towards Queen Mary’s University, and my first major gathering of romance writers.
With a schedule that was so packed with great talks and workshops, it was a challenge to choose which to attend. I may have been in the writing game for nearly 11 years, but I still have a great deal to learn, and this was the place to do it. With names as eminent as Katie Fforde, Julie Cohen and Jean Fullerton on the schedule, how could I fail not to come away with my head packed to the gunnels with ideas, inspiration- but most of all – hope.
Writing is a weird profession. You sit alone most of the time, trapped in your imagination and a world of ‘what if’s’ which you have invented. Even if other people are nearby, you are alone inside your own head so it is vital that we all get together sometimes, just to remind ourselves that we aren’t the only ones struggling to be noticed. To know that even the big names, working hour after hour in the hope that someone will buy their work when there are so many wonderful books to chose from, struggle sometimes.
We need to get together to learn, to laugh, to moan, discuss, let off steam, and give each other a boost- to say ‘you will make it’, ‘the next level is possible,’ and to hear that even the best writer’s in the world have downward lulls and bad sales now and then.
So although the classes were all excellent, what I will most remember from this years conference- and indeed- what was most useful to me- was the friendly sense of camaraderie. To see authors in the flesh after years of only communicating via Facebook was wonderful.
The amazing Hazel Cushion, manager of Accent Press, arranged a Pimms party for all the Accent authors, and anyone else who wanted to come along. Boy, can Hazel organise a good party. Standing in the sunshine by the canal that runs behind the university, I sipped my explosive cocktail while chatting to authors Richard Gould, Gilli Allan, Alison Rose, Lizzie Lane, Gill Stewart, Kat Black, Zoe Chamberlain and Kd Grace, along with the fabulous Rebecca Lloyd, ‘chief’ editor at Accent, her side kick, Cat Camacho, and many more smashing folk.
It was at the party that one of my personal conference highlights occurred. The adorable Alison Rose introduced me to one of my writing heroes. I have long admired Katie Fforde for her books, and for the help she frequently gives other authors. And there she was, only a few feet from me. I have to admit, I had a tiny internal fan girl moment, which I seriously hope I swallowed down. Not only was Katie lovely to me, she had actually heard of me!! I floated on a cloud for a while after that I can tell you.
The conference was huge, and there were so many people it was impossible to meet everyone I would have liked to spend time with, but everyone I did meet was friendly, helpful and encouraging. At a time in my writing career where so many options are possible- if I am brave enough to take the scary steps towards them- then it was just perfect to have so much helpful advice and a much needed injection of hope, and the oft spoken words ‘Hang in there’ ringing in my ears.
Here are a few photos of us mad writer types as we reveal in the joy that is being with other writers.
My thanks to Eileen Ramsey, Jan Jones, Kate Thomson, and everyone else who organised such an amazing event. If you are interested in joining the RNA, or you want to attend next years conference (which will be in Lancaster), then you can find all the details here- http://www.rna-uk.org/