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 Everyone, published or unpublished was unfailingly friendly. It was reassuring to know that everyone, even the best sellers, were unpublished once and they haven’t forgotten what it feels like.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.


Melinda Hammond said...

So glad you enjoyed it Jeevani, and do let us know when the baby arrives!


Sarah Callejo said...

It was so good to meet you there. We'll all be waiting for the good news.