This was my first RNA conference, and as a published writer, I must admit to feeling some trepidation before I left home. The last time I went on a holiday involving other writers, the moment I mentioned I’d been published, it was as if a veil came down. I was no longer a considered a struggling writer or ‘one of the crowd’.
Thankfully at an RNA conference, there is no such demarcation line. Published or unpublished, we are all in this together, and that spirit was very much in evidence.
|Charlotte McFall, Sally Quilford, Sarah Watkinson and Kate Jackson|
It was also a bit like speed dating. There were so many people there to talk to, so I usually managed no more than five minutes with each person and sadly didn’t get to speak to everyone. Maybe next time we should turn it into an event, where we all sit at tables then a bell rings every five minutes telling us to swap over!
|The contents of the goody bag|
Particularly thrilling for me is that my book, Take My Breath Away, made the conference goody bag. And let me tell you that the goody bags alone are worth the price of entry!
I loved that my badge had a sparkly flower, to denote me being a conference virgin. The moment people saw it, they took me in hand and helped me to find my way around, welcoming me to their tables in the café and generally just making sure I was okay. However, there was no pressure. I could take part if I wanted to, or I could choose to go to my room and chill out.
I had opted for a quiet block, because I do sometimes need to escape and be alone with my thoughts. I only regretted this decision once when I opened my window on a sweltering evening in Sheffield, and could hear fabulously raucous renditions of Secret Love and Oklahoma coming from one of the community kitchens. If anyone is planning a ‘Night of the Musicals’ in their kitchen next year please invite me. I’d be a great asset because I know all the words, honest.
An important lesson learned was that it’s perhaps not a great idea to try and attend talks for every session. I ended up playing hookie from a couple because I was so exhausted. I may pace myself a bit next time.
The perfect end to the perfect weekend was that I won the Kitty Charles hamper! We all had to wear a badge saying ‘I Am Kitty Charles’ and then we were put into the draw. It was only when I got home that I realised I could have bored people all weekend with a Pythonesque ‘I am Kitty Charles and so is my wife’. Maybe next year.
|A kitchen party in full swing|
All too soon it was time to leave. I am now no longer a first timer as far as attending the RNA conference is concerned. But next year I will be paying it forward by looking out for other conference virgins and helping them to have a wonderful time.
You can find out more about Sally on her website...