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)


Jan Jones said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Jane. It was a wonderfully sparky, shiny occasion.

As for the Eton Mess - it was delicious, going begging and I was in need of an energy fix, okay?

Jane Smith said...

I had a FABULOUS time. I'd heard how good the RNA parties were but this one excelled my expectations.

I had to not mention an awful lot of the naughty stuff people did as I don't want to be ostracised at the next RNA party I attend. But I have kept extensive notes and will file them in a secure place for future use.

Talli Roland said...

I still can't believe I didn't know you were YOU! And I missed the chance to examine your trousers up close (and I don't mean that in the dodgy way it sounds...). Next time!

Jane Smith said...

Just as well, as the workmanship involved in making them wasn't up to much. But yes: what a shame we missed each other! Next time we'll do better. And you looked SO stylish (and remarkably unsweaty, unilke me!).

AnneMarie Brear said...

Thanks for sharing the evening with us.
I so wished I could have been amongst it all, but I'll live it through the blog! LOL

Jill Mansell said...

I'm loving all these wonderful accounts of the conference - thanks so much to everyone who has posted them. Clearly another triumph!

Gillian Philip said...

Humph, I am well jealous now. No wonder you were too tired to tweet for a few days. It sounds fabulous. But why haven't you posted a photo of your infamous trousers? I haven't seen them yet.

Deborah Carr (Debs) said...

It was a wonderful evening and the food was so good. It was great to meet you, sue, carol and alison for the first time too. So well organized, as usual, too.

Jane Travers said...

You've made me so jealous that I wasn't there! Sounds like a fantastic time was had by all.

And Jane, you look gorgeous!

Romy Sommer said...

Yes, champagne was definitely a common theme. I managed to knock mine all over my neighbours at the gala dinner!

Jane Holland said...

I shall never forget the HEAT! It was so hot, I was almost melting, and you can see that in my photo. I swear my chest has swollen to, oh, at least double its normal size. Unless that's the effect of all those sequins?

Ho hum. I too had a double helping of Eton mess. Delicious!

Jane H x

Jane Holland said...

Ah, and it should be Jane Holland, of course. Not Howard.

Unless someone's hoping I'll get my head chopped off imminently? (Always a possibility in publishing.)

Unknown said...

Jane - you have permission to cut mine off - doing too much...sorry.


Jane Holland said...

That's okay, Liz. I just realised, this appears to be the ONLY picture of me that entire weekend without a glass in my hand.

Sarah Callejo said...

A week has passed and I still remember every detail. It was a great dinner. And I enjoyed meeting you Jane S., sorry to call you "the slug person" but it was done with all my respects ;-)