Monday, July 19, 2010

Rachael Thomas On The Best Bit of RNA Conference 2010 For Her

New Writers' Scheme member, Rachael Thomas, talks about her favourite part of the conference...

Deciding which bit of the conference was the best bit is tough. The setting was amazing, the weather gorgeous and all who attended warm and welcoming. The workshops and talks were interesting and useful. The Gala Dinner on Friday evening was fun, as was the barbeque on Saturday evening. In fact the whole weekend from start to finish was brilliant.

As a NWS member, the highlight of my weekend at Greenwich has to be the appointment with a Mills and Boon editor. During those precious ten minutes I was able to find out what the editor thought of my work and how it could be improved. It was extremely useful and I have come away full of enthusiasm and able to deal with the points raised. Who else could give such a fabulous opportunity to an aspiring romance writer, than the RNA?

Rachael Thomas

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Christine Stovell on Being On Her First Panel - RNA Conference 2010

The Chot Lit Panel

I used to work in the research department of a trades union with a lovely colleague, Maureen, who, whenever I was gnashing my teeth about some woe, would smile serenely and say to me, ‘No-one died!’.  I took some comfort from Maureen’s words after my stint on Choc Lit’s panel on Saturday. 

The theme of our slot was ‘Sharing Our Choc Lit Heroes,’ and whilst Lyn, Christina, Sue and Jane did just that, my brain decided it wasn’t going to share mine, no way.  The talk that I had practised in my study went straight out of my head when I looked up and saw... faces!  Where did all those people come from?

I thought that caring deeply about my subject would make it easier, but in fact it made it twice as hard!  Despite smiles and nods from some kind souls in the audience (I’m truly grateful to you, you lovely ladies), I stammered and stuttered through my piece before staggering off wondering how it had all gone so wrong.  But then Maureen’s words came back to me.  So what if I’d made a bit of chimp of myself?  I got through it.  No-one died.

If anyone would like a copy of the talk I meant to give, just contact me at and I’ll happily email it to you!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Jane Smith Tells All - The Gala - RNA Conference 2010

Jane Smith better know to many as @hprw and the author of the blog How Publishing Really Works writes about her first RNA experience...

The 2010 RNA Summer Conference gala dinner was HOT. Not just the temperatures, which during the day climbed past 30 degrees and stayed up there for much of the evening: but also the shoes, the company and the sheer fabulous fun of the whole event.

Jane Holland, Cal Andrews  & Lara Higgins
RF Long, Leanne Bibby & Stephanie Cage

Sue Cook & Jane Smith (aka @hprw)
For me, the party started off with fellow RNA-newbie Sue Cook force-feeding me a lunch of white wine and crisps, after which we attended Carole Blake’s talk about the role of agents in publishing.  Any ideas I’d had of catching a quick snooze were scuppered when Carole began to speak: she was fascinating, funny and wise, and her allotted hour was over far too fast.  Despite the attractions of the panel discussion which followed, I felt as though I was in serious danger of melting: and so we hared off to the air-conditioned bliss of my hotel to shower and change for the main event.  I soon found myself in the bar in the company of Sue Cook and Carole Blake, where I learned a valuable lesson: some RNA members have a very useful homing instinct. The instant the cork popped out of our champagne Brigid Coady and Liz Fenwick appeared, glasses at the ready, and helped us drain our bottle dry in record time. Then it was off to the Trafalgar, where the gala dinner was to be held.

Liz Fenwick

Biddy Coady

Katie Fforde

Sue Cook
More champagne awaited us there, and some more excellent company: then, thanks to a lack of proper security and some good old-fashioned blagging I ended up on the top table which was, thank goodness, by an open window as the evening showed no sign of growing any cooler.

With Carole Blake and Liz Fenwick at the same table I had little chance of attracting the attention of the wine waiters; and with Sue Cook and Alison Morton either side of me, I struggled to get a word in edgewise.  Instead I concentrated on my first course, a smooth chicken liver paté served with a rich onion marmalade and some very crisp toast. My chance to be heard came when Carole observed that the heat of the evening would test the old adage that horses sweat while ladies glow: I gaily pointed out that I was glowing like a pig, and from that point on Jan Jones kept a stern eye on my behaviour from her place across the table.

Despite my continued attempts to lower the tone, the conversation around me was as sparkling as the sequins which decorated the tables. We talked about books, writing, publishing and more books and the next time anyone tries to tell me that publishing is on its last legs I’ll suggest they attend an RNA party: I learned so much listening to everyone else that night, and not all of it was gossip!

During the main course—succulent roast chicken in a creamy sauce on a fresh-tasting bed of peas and lettuce—we discovered that the aforementioned sequins could be stuck to any exposed skin, so very glowy were we all.  Our glorious leader Katie Fforde dotted red sparkles all over her décolletage which remained in place through our dessert, an Eton mess so sweet I could feel myself tipping further towards diabetes with every spoonful.  Delicious though it was I could barely finish mine, but there were some among us who ate two full helpings: how they managed it I am not sure, but I am in awe of you, Jan Jones.

Katie Fforde & Di Pearson

Di pearson
And then came the highlight of the evening when Katie Fforde introduced Diane Pearson, President of the RNA. Ms Pearson’s speech was sharp and witty and quite gloriously indiscreet: its only fault was that it didn’t last long enough—a skill I wish more speakers could develop. Then there was more champagne and more chat, and the evening was over far too quickly.

Jan Jones, Carole Blake & Sue Cook
While the weather and the fashions were seriously hot, you might have noticed that champagne was also a common theme. But my overwhelming impression of the gala dinner was of being among friends, many of whom I’d never met before that evening. It was a rare and magical event, and one I’ll remember with much fondness. My congratulations go to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson for creating such a wonderful event; and my warm wishes go to everyone who attended, and who made it such a fabulous party.

(Note: thanks for the photos goes to Carole Blake, Lizzie Lamb, RF Long and Eileen Hathaway)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jeevani Mantotta- A First Time Attendee Report on RNA Conference 2010

Jeevani Mantotta talks about her first conference...

RNA conference – well worth waddling to London for.

At six am last Saturday, I was in a state of mild panic. I was about to head off for a day at the RNA conference. After some frantic checking for pen, paper, tickets etc and dithering about whether it was a good idea to be going at all (at 8 and a bit months pregnant, a trip to London on a hot day wasn’t the cleverest of ideas), my bleary eyed husband pointed out that I was going to miss my train if I didn’t leave. Now.

This was my first RNA conference. I’d been to the Winchester Writer’s conference last year and found it informative and exhausting in equal measure. Was it fun? A bit, perhaps, but mostly that was because I didn’t know anyone.

Oh, how different the RNA conference was! To begin with, I shared a taxi with two other people, whom I’d met through the email list for first time conference goers, so by the time I got there, I already had someone I could tag along with. Then there were all the people I’d met through the local chapter. But the thing that made me familiar with the most people was conversations on Romna and Twitter. People whom I’d only ever known as online names became ‘real’ as they came up and chatted. It turns out having a massive baby bump is a great conversation starter – not that people needed much incentive to start chatting.

As a newbie writer, I’ve always thought that published writers were somehow different from us mere mortals who can only dream of seeing our books in print. Not so, I found. Everyone, published or unpublished was unfailingly friendly. It was reassuring to know that everyone, even the best sellers, were unpublished once and they haven’t forgotten what it feels like.

I hadn’t signed up for any editor one to ones, but I went to all the lectures that I’d signed up to. There was an informative session on the new writer’s scheme, where the most heartening thing I heard was Melanie Hilton pointing out that most contenders for the Joan Hessayon award didn’t actually get a second read, but were people who had edited their books in the light of their NWS reports and submitted to agents or publishers. Hard work wins out – so my parents were right all along!

My favourite talk was the one about managing your writing career by Kate Harrison. It was fun, interactive and informative. As a beginner, I find it hard to see beyond that first big break. Kate’s talk made me think about it and showed me how I should be thinking about goals well into the future. And, of course, I shall now remember to save my receipts.

Kate Walker did a brilliant talk on conflict where she explained the different types of conflict and how to work it into your plot. I made pages of notes, which I need to transcribe into something a bit more readable than my hurried scrawl.

It was a hot, hot day (which made Greenwich look fantastic) and I had been hoping to sit out the day in the air conditioned large lecture room with the air conditioning, even if it meant talks I’d signed up for, just to stay in the cool. But curiosity won out and I made it to the talk on social media given by Liz Fenwick and Kate Johnson. As someone who has no website or blog and has only just found Twitter, their hints and tips were very useful. Most interesting was Liz’s throwaway comment that if people see your name often enough, they might think you were published and that could get your manuscript noticed.

I attended two publisher talks – Mills & Boon and Samhain, both publishers I hadn’t thought to target, because I didn’t think my books would fit in with their cannon. This just goes to show that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Now that I have a better idea of what they want (and what they will be wanting in the future), I can look at my manuscripts again with a more informed eye.

By the end of the day I was exhausted, but delighted with the day. Romy Fotheringham and I took the ferry back to central London and got a great look at London from the river – what a lovely (breezy!) way to end a lovely day.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The gala Pictures Part Two - RNA Conference 2010

Sue Cook, Julia Williams, Jane Smith & Alison Morton
Just a quick note say your scribe has put names to photos where she can - but is missing many and will happily add them in. Your scribe would also love to post any more photos that attendees wish to share.

Liz Harris in front

Liz Fenwick & Katie Fforde

Jane Holland

Jane Smith, Kevin Woolmer & Sue Cook

Steve Wade

Evelyn Orange

Linda Hooper

Jane Lovering

Evelyn Orange(back - in black & blue),Jenny Barden (in pink)