Today we welcome, Tracy Hartshorn to the blog. You will all recognise Tracy as the lady with the lovely smile who welcomes us all to the Romantic Novelists’ Association parties. We wondered how Tracy organises such fabulous events and how much of her time is spent making sure we enjoy ourselves.
Tracy, can you tell us which parties and events you organise for the RNA?
I organise the Summer and Winter Parties. I also sell the tickets for the RNA Awards, though the organisation for that is done by a sub-committee as it’s a much bigger ‘gig’ than the parties as we have a celebrity guest and much more!
How are events announced to members?
Members can find out about RNA events on the RNA website www.rna-uk.org and also on the membership card which is sent to every member each February. Booking forms for the parties are placed in Romance Matters leading up to each event. Details are also on the website. Reminders are also put out on Social Networking, such as ROMNA and the RNA Facebook Group. I also use my own Twitter feed and Facebook profile to promote the events, and other members help me by sharing news.
What is the process when applying for tickets?
There is a booking form either on the RNA website or in Romance Matters. I prefer it if people fill the booking form in and send it to me by post as I then have a paper trail I can check. Booking by email is possible, but I still like to have a booking form.
We are lucky to see many well-known Industry professionals attend our events. Are they invited?
I send out a block reminder to industry professionals six weeks before the event, then again a fortnight before the event if a few haven’t got back to me.
I often get people saying ‘I didn’t know the party was happening’, or other times people slip through the cracks. Sometimes they’ve moved companies or changed email addresses. Other times it’s that their email provider identifies me as a phantom spammer (something that happens when you’re block-emailing people) and eats my email accordingly.
What I’m saying is that whilst I do my best to let everyone know, it’s a good idea to have a look at the RNA website and make a note of when the events are taking place so you don’t miss out.
The Winter Party 2015 was attended by over 40 industry professionals, and the members were delighted to be able to meet them!
Does your job stop once the tickets are posted out?
It doesn’t even begin with posting out the tickets. I have to liaise with our designer to create the tickets. I print them off and cut them to size (this is done professionally for the Awards). I also have to work out the ticket price for members and non-members, based on the cost of the room, wine and food.
I also liaise with Liza at the Royal Over Seas League about the canapes and wine (my favourite job) and then I have to make up all the name badges (my least favourite job). That involves printed out two name labels for each person, sticking them to card, putting the card into the plastic badge (which does wonders for the cuticles…ouch) then making sure I’ve done every one of the 200 plus guests. I can’t complete this until the last bookings come in, which means it’s something I can only do in the last couple of days before I leave for London (there are invariably changes). I also make a list of all industry professionals in attendance and print off twenty or thirty copies of the list for guests.
On the day of both parties there is always a committee meeting which, along with other duties, means I’m usually at the venue from around 11am onwards.
From around 5pm, aided by a certain Elaine Everest, I am in the Hall of India and Pakistan, getting the room ready. We decorate the room, if needs be, put out all the badges and lanyards, and I chat with the lovely head-waiter about the running order for the evening. With the Joan Hessayon Awards at the Summer Party and now the Industry Awards at the Winter Party, everything is timed to ensure everyone has a glass of fizz in their hands for the toast.
The rest of the committee help out, by welcoming guests when they arrive and making sure that no one is left adrift. I’ll often be running around the room, trying to find the one editor that a guest can’t find amongst the throng. As I’m short, this isn’t always easy…
I also deal with any problems that might arise with guests, though thankfully there aren’t too many issues once the parties get going. Once the party is over, we wrestle lanyards and badges off everyone as they leave, then pack it all up for the next time.
I usually manage to get back to my hotel by about 10.30pm, when I have a nice cup of tea and rest my aching feet whilst reading early reports of the party on Facebook.
Tickets for the Winter Party sold out, which was fabulous, but this caused last minute problems for those wishing to attend who had left it too late to buy. Can you advise how to avoid this?
It really was the hottest ticket in town! People were apparently bartering online and my inbox was buzzing with folk wanting last minute tickets. I hated having to turn people down, but sadly I had no choice as the room was at capacity and the venue had sought my assurance due to there wouldn’t be any more guests.
The best thing to do is book early to ensure your place at the event. I’m not sure everyone realises that there is a deadline of a week before the parties and the awards by which tickets should be booked.
I will do my best to honour any bookings that come in by the deadline, provided we haven’t reached capacity for the rooms at the Royal Over-Seas League or the Gladstone Library. The deadline is there because I have to send in final figures to both places about a week before each event so they can ensure there is enough food and drink, and in the case of the Gladstone Library, adequate seating. There are also health and safety reasons why the rooms cannot go over capacity and we have to abide by those rules as part of our contract with the venue.
If you are booking late in the day, even if it’s just before the deadline, I would advise not paying money by BACS, or posting a cheque, unless you have first checked with me that there are tickets left.
It’s worth pointing out that no one is officially allocated a place at the party until they have sent payment for it, either by BACS or cheque. So if you’ve promised to send payment but haven’t been able to do so for several months (and I do appreciate real life gets in the way) it’s best to contact me and check that I still have tickets available.
For all the reasons stated above it is not possible to just turn up on the night and pay at the door at any of the RNA parties or awards receptions.
What is the best part of your committee job?
Once the party/parties get going and I know everyone is having a good time. Oh and choosing the canapes! I really enjoy that job. I tend to choose what I would fancy eating and it seems everyone else agrees that the mini cream scones at the Royal Over-Seas League are delicious!
Mostly it’s great to be working alongside a fantastic group of ladies committed to making the RNA a great organisation. They know I get really nervous before each party and are always on hand with soothing words, and in the case of our lovely Chair, a calming cup of tea when I needed it the most!
What is the next RNA event?
The next event is the RNA Awards on 7th March 2016. The booking form should be in the January edition of Romance Matters, so look out for it and do book early!
Tracy Hartshorn writes as Sally Quilford, and has had over 20 romantic novels published by My Weekly Pocket Novels and Ulverscroft. She has also presented writing workshops at various venues in the UK, and at the RNA Conference. Tracy lives in Derbyshire with her husband and two Westies.
Thank you Tracy. We feel exhausted just reading your answers. More mini cream scones at the next party please!
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