Last weekend I attended the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference. A yearly bash, held in various venues around the country.
This year it was based at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. It’s an agricultural college with a farm attached.
As it’s in the neighbouring county, I was delighted. However, I didn’t bank on the combined size of Herefordshire and Shropshire – or the roundabout system in Telford New Town (or is it a city now?).
It took two hours to drive there but I didn’t mind one bit. I passed through some of the most glorious countryside and historic towns and villages and, not for the first time, appreciated what a wonderful country I live in. So much history! Made a promise to revisit the beautiful Bridgnorth soon as poss.
On arrival, delegates receive a goody bag. It’s always great fun to see what’s in it. I love being part of an industry, which gives me free books (and chocolate!) Pens and bookmarks were in the bag too and are always gratefully received.
It’s taken a few days to recover from the conference. It’s a very intense timetable and you rush from one seminar, work-shop or lecture to the next, grabbing a coffee or a chat with a friend as you go.
All sessions are different and all are useful. This year, the ones I got the most from were Jean Fullerton’s on plotting (a weakness of mine I know I need to address), Alison May’s on adapting the classics, and putting comedy into rom-coms by Jane Lovering and Rhoda Baxter.
Kate Long’s session on characterisation was excellent. I’ve been asked recently, to ‘dig deeper’ into my characters and this was just what I needed. We were asked to answer a set of seemingly random questions about a character we had invented. In answer to the question: what was the most disappointing Christmas present your character has ever received, I answered ‘a hair dressing doll’s head’. Maybe some of you remember the ones you could get? Little girls could practise their hairdressing skills on them. I never wanted one and neither did Rachel Makepeace, my current heroine. She got one anyway! It showed just how her parents misunderstood her and bought something they assumed any little girl would love. Any little girl, that is, except Rachel. Just shows how little they really knew her. Just shows how you can dig a bit deeper into a character.
The funniest (or weirdest) thing was both Kate and I chose the same thing for our character’s disappointing present. Yay, I hope I’m on the same wavelength as Kate Long; she’s incredibly talented and successful!
Over the two and a half days, you can attend about fifteen or so sessions. This explains the time it takes to recover. I’ve been very brain-dead this week!
On Saturday evening, a gala dinner is held. Remember I said Harper Adams University has a farm attached to it? All food served is reared or grown on the premises. And boy, could you tell. The meal was delicious. My only concern was I didn’t feel I did it justice – I was far too busy chatting.
That’s the other wonderful thing about the RNA conference – the chance to meet up with other writers, some of whom you know on Facebook or Twitter, some of whom are met for the first time. As writing tends to be a solitary pursuit and I spend my days talking to the dogs (or the wall) it’s great to meet up with like-minded people.
I came away shattered but determined to tackle the next writing project.
‘While I Was Waiting’ is currently on my editor’s desk, so I need to find something new to write. With everything I learned and a new enthusiasm, I’m well equipped to do so.
My heart-felt appreciation and thanks goes to those people who put the annual conference together. It’s an amazing amount of hard work and you do it so well. You know who you are!
Thank you Romantic Novelists’ Association!
Love Georgia x