Sunday, July 17, 2016

RNA Conference 2017 - We Were There!

It doesn’t feel like a week has passed since we started to pack our suitcases and prepared to travel home from the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Conference. This year we visited the wonderful Lancaster University in Lancashire. Our congratulations and thanks must go to Jan Jones for finding this star amongst the many conference locations. 
Rather than fill the RNA blog with photographs, as by now they would have been shared by members all over social media, I chose to ask a few delegates what they thought about certain aspects of the weekend. Who better to commission than the ladies who shared my dinner table on the first night of our exciting weekend?

We Arrived! – Elaine Roberts
 Six of us travelled by train to Lancaster and met a dear friend at the train station. After much
The Room!
hugging and chatter we secured a mini bus to take us to Lancaster University. Being highly intelligent females we then became very confused. We thought we had to pick up our room keys from the George Fox building - but were wrong. Out came the maps and we set off to walk all over the very large campus before we finally picked up our keys from Barker House Farm. Luckily for us, a lovely young man took us to our block!
We soon settled into our apartments, which were clean and complete with wardrobes and desks. The en suite bathroom had a shower, toilet and hand wash basin. We were also given bath towels, mini shower gels and shampoo. Nestling on the desk, next to a mug, was a bag of tea, coffee, sugar and sachets of milk. Personally, as a non-coffee drinker, one teabag is not enough to get me through twenty-four hours so thank goodness for the university shop!
Kitchen - Party!
The kitchen, that serviced eight flats was a lovely size with two large fridges and freezers, ours soon filled up with wine for our after dinner drinks. We did spent hours sitting around the table chatting and laughing. A good time was clearly had by all.

First Timer – Catherine Burrows
OK, I admit I accidentally on purpose forgot to hand in my name card at the close of conference. I

couldn’t be parted from it (I gave the lanyard and sleeve back, of course). The pink, sparkly flower was my passport to feeling extra special, marking me as a first timer. I’m going again next year and I won’t have my floral name card but it won’t matter because I was overwhelmed by how friendly and relaxed everything and everyone was. It was a whirl of one to ones with agents, workshops, networking, making new friends and catching up with familiar faces. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles, laughter, and words of support or shared knowledge.  I came home with a bag filled with goodies and a mind filled with memories and fresh inspiration. My one big regret? That I waited this long before going to my first RNA conference.
Conference Virgin!

Gratefully Received Feedback – Sarah Stephenson
 The 121s provide a fantastic opportunity to have ten minutes with someone from the industry; agents, editors, publishers representing a wide variety of agencies and publishing houses.
The slots would disappear fast as enthusiastic writers snapped them up when the conference packages arrived. Occasions like this don't often arise. When do writers, unpublished, and many published, get the chance to have feed back on the synopsis and first chapter of their new manuscript?
The queue for appointments, were filled with anxious authors sharing their fears, grabbing those who'd just come out. Fishing for reassurance and information.  'Was he nice? What did she say?' Many had been asked to send in their full manuscript, others provided with helpful ways to move forwards and always masses of encouragement.
I must pick out one member of the industry for a special mention; Kate Bradley from Harper Fiction. Kate specially asked all those she was seeing to send her not just the first chapter but the first three chapters.. She felt it would give her a better idea of what they were writing. And when she met one member of the RNA struggling with her plot suggested seeing her for an additional thirty minutes on the Sunday, so she could help her sort it out. Kate Bradley is not only a very generous woman but totally dedicated to her job.

Food Glorious Food – Natalie Kleinman
I was lucky enough to arrive at Conference a day early and the first meal began with a lovely starter
Thursday night starter!
of melon, mango and sorbet. The meal continued with a very acceptable buffet and though as a vegetarian I couldn’t sample a lot of it, the nut roast was a good alternative. Chocolate brownie dessert – what’s not to like? This held promise for the rest of the weekend, a promise that was sometimes fulfilled and sometimes not. Breakfast was extensive and well-presented though long queues sometimes formed when dishes were not replenished swiftly when they ran out. The Gala Dinner was a huge disappointment for vegetarians. That said, there seemed to be an endless supply of 

tea and coffee, cakes and biscuits and the catering staff were engaging and very helpful. My strongest adverse comment is that there was inadequate seating at lunchtime. Otherwise, seven out of ten.

Fantastic Opportunities - Vasiliki Scurfield
You know that moment when you’re caught between hopeful anticipation and crawling dread? That!
It’s called the One to One.
The moment when the hidden flaw within your work is exposed.
Or not. Perhaps it is the moment all the blood, sweat and tears invested in your product garner the accolade of a Request for Full (or more).
Both of these happened at RNA Conference 2016. Some people were left disappointed knowing they have to go back to the drawing board and start again, while others spent the rest of the weekend in a little bubble of joy. Many, like me, landed somewhere in between; in a keep-at-it-it’s-not-quite-there-but-it-could-be, kind of place.
As usual the conference organisers provided a wonderful cross section of editors and agents, the meetings were well organised and they continue to give RNA members rare access to a fantastic opportunity to use editors and agents as a resource, a learning aid and a doorway into the business.

Gala Night – Rosemary Goodacre
Saturday evening found us assembled in an array of glamorous dresses for the Gala Dinner. We enjoyed a cheese and tomato starter followed by chicken garnished with bacon, and panna cotta. Naturally there was wine and chocolates!
There was applause for our Chairman, Eileen Ramsay, who announced the results of the annual Elizabeth Goudge Award. This year the theme for a short story was on the theme The Joy of the Snow, taken from the title of Elizabeth Goodge’s memoirs. Eileen had received 23 entries, including some amazing interpretations. There were commendations for The Adventuress, by Adrienne Vaughan, All Will be Well, by Jan Jones and Like a New Beginning, by Samantha Bentall. Third Prize was awarded to Rae Cowie, for The Ice Opera, and Second to Jane Lovering, for Holding Florence. The overall winner was Chrissie Bradshaw, for Such Small Moments, which was inspired by her son’s medical trips to Syria.
Finally there was much cheering and applause as Jan Jones was presented with a beautiful bouquet for all her hard work organising the conference.

Thank you for your thoughts and opinions, ladies. We all agree that a fab time was had by all thanks to Jan and her team. See you next year at Harper Adams for #RNAconf2017

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