Monday, July 31, 2017

FOCUS ON: London and South-East Chapter

After a gap of more than three years the RNS blog is revisiting the London and South-East Chapter. Juliet Archer tells us how the chapter has evolved.

We last had the pleasure of talking to Jean Fullerton about the London and South-East Chapter way back in January 2014. Since then it has undergone many changes, including venue. Could you give us a pocket history?
Down in the Cellar
with Jenny Haddon
It’s lovely to have this opportunity to talk about our Chapter – thank you! Yes, we’ve seen plenty of changes since 2014 – new faces at our meetings (one of them even rashly volunteered to be our new organiser!), new speakers, and a new venue. We also have plenty of familiar faces, especially at our Christmas lunch, which provides a sense of continuity. The most obvious change is the venue. We used to meet in The Lamb in Lamb Conduit Street, but moved to the Sir John Balcombe for our 2015 Christmas lunch and have stayed there ever since. It’s a pub with historic cricketing connections – for anyone who’s interested! – near Marylebone Station, and we monopolise the Cellar Bar downstairs.

How many members attend your meetings and is your chapter open to non-members of the RNA?
We welcome all writers, published and non-published, RNA/NWS members and non-members, on a ‘pay as you go’ basis (£4 each meeting, to cover expenses). We cover a wide age range, represent several writing genres, offer lots of friendly support, and even see occasional males at our meetings! We attract attendees from all over South and East England because of London’s great transport links. Typically we get around 20 people at our meetings and nearer 40 at our annual Christmas lunch and bi-annual workshops. Our mailing list has over 200 contacts, and we’ve recently set up a Facebook group for sharing news in between meetings.

You’ve had many outstanding speakers and presenters but not all of your meetings follow this format. At your more informal get togethers how do you promote discussions and exchanges among those attending?
Anita Chapman & Juliet Archer
We meet every 4-6 weeks, which means 8-9 meetings per year. 3 of these don’t usually involve a speaker – July, December (the Christmas lunch) and January – but we still tend to have a theme where everyone can contribute. Our January meeting is usually an informal chat about our best reads from the previous year, and our July meeting often focuses on ideas for next year’s programme or the future direction of our Chapter – but we’re always open to other suggestions!

While we’re on the subject, can you give an outline of speakers/guests you've had in the past year?
Organising speakers is a time-consuming task and our Chapter has a great track record here – thanks to the dedication of people like Jean Fullerton, Linda Chamberlain and currently Lucinda Lee. Our speakers are often drawn from the RNA’s ranks, continuing its tradition of generosity and support. So far this year we’ve had Jenny Haddon on getting our manuscripts to sparkle, Anita Chapman on social media for writers, and a double act from Liam Livings and Sue Merritt on characterisation and conflict. In the last 4 years, we’ve also run a couple of workshops mixing industry views with interactive sessions, and both very well received.

Lynne Shelby & Fiona Harper
What do you have planned for the second half of 2017?
Our July meeting was an informal chat to share our best writing tips, September will feature R.J. Gould on ‘The man in roMANce’, in October Liz Harris will talk about plotting, and the year will end with our Christmas lunch on 9th December. We may even have a little baby in our midst – if Lucinda, who is due to give birth in November, can make it! 

What would you say makes your chapter of the RNA so special?
Sheer variety – of attendees, speakers, and topics for discussion. Whatever your question or problem, there’s bound to be someone in our Chapter who can help. And we are always keen to welcome new faces at our meetings!

Does your chapter have a website, Facebook page or Twitter account?
We have a Facebook group called ‘RNA London and South-East Chapter’, and send out regular emails to our mailing list.

Who is the contact for new members?
Please email, or phone 07814 173779.

It’s always a pleasure to hear about our Chapters, be they long-standing or recently set up. Thank you for joining us today, Juliet

About Natalie:
Natalie Kleinman writes contemporary and historical romantic novels. Her latest Escape to the Cotswoldsis set in the beautiful English countryside and was published by HarperCollins HQ Digital in July 2017. 

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