It was that time again. July. Need to pack a case.
Posh frock. ✔
Comfortable shoes. ✔
Business cards. ✔
Information pack. ✔
Chocolate biscuits. ✔
You might have guessed by now, I wasn’t packing for a holiday. Mid July sees romance writers flock to a university campus for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference. The Romantic Novelists’ Association, or RNA as it’s known, organises local meetings for writers but also holds a conference once a year. It varies the location to give everyone a fighting chance of attending. This year’s was held at Queen Mary College in London.
QMC in the distance
I nearly didn’t go. Feeling cowardly, I wasn’t keen on finding my way from Paddington to the campus on the Mile End Road, on the opposite side of the city. Little did I suspect that a strike on the underground and one on First Great Western would make my journey quite a challenge.
So, back to the packing. Jettison the fizzy wine, books and chocolate biscuits. Too heavy to carry through London during a tube strike!
Deciding to ignore the station I was due to leave from, as First Great Western trains were few and far between, trusty husband drove me to Warwick Parkway, where I caught one to Marylebone. Very civilised.
Sadly, the rugby scrum of people shoving themselves onto the busses was less so. Whatever happened to queuing? I knew a 205 bus would have taken me all the way to the university but, after failing to get on two (think I’ve lost my city sharpness) I hung around the taxi rank, looking forlorn.
A lovely London cabbie came to my rescue
Half expecting him to refuse, I told him the destination. He warned me it would be expensive and it was. The city was gridlocked. We edged along the Marylebone Road at less than walking pace.
I amused myself by watching out for a woman with a striking brindle-coated Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She marched along beside us and frequently overtook. I saw her later at Euston Square. She’d arrived a good ten minutes before us. The dog was having a wonderful time!
At least my cabbie got me there. Just don’t ask how much it cost!
I was lucky. Other delegates had to stand all the way in their overcrowded First Great Western train, had taxis booked which didn’t show up (being unable to get through the traffic), busses which broke down and some walked all the way, complete with their luggage. I just hope they had the sense to leave the wine at home too.
Narrowboat moored peacefully
I relaxed when I’d unpacked and found a couple of friends sitting by the Regent’s Canal which runs along the Queen Mary campus. It was an oasis of calm. We amused ourselves by speculating on the owner of the narrow boat moored up opposite. Hero material for a contemporary rom-com, surely? What a great place to live.
Margaret James and Her New Found Family Of Geese!
Photograph taken by and reproduced with permission from Cathie Hartigan
The RNA’s remit is, and I quote, ‘to enhance and promote the various types of romantic and historical fiction, to encourage good writing in all its many varieties.
Gala Dinner Menu
To facilitate this, the conference takes the form of workshops and lectures, a gala awards dinner (hence the need for a posh frock) and appointments with agents and publishers.' This year there was also the chance to make a video promo. Look out for mine if you feel very, very brave. The best part, by far, is the socialising.
Video reproduced with permission of The Romaniacs
I’ve made some amazing friends and met some inspirational writers through the RNA – and I’ve learned a lot too.
Among this year’s highlights was a useful workshop about rewrite techniques by Julie Cohen, an intellectual insight into the writing voice by Emma Darwin and a very entertaining session on getting your name better known by Jane Wenham-Jones.
Some publicity And Some Goodies!
As a direct result of attending the conference in Sheffield, two years ago, I was signed by Harper Impulse, who have just released my latest book, While I Was Waiting. I doubt very much that the book and my writing career would exist without the support of the RNA.
Choc Lit Authors reproduced with permission from Janet Gover
Jane Lovering, Sarah Waights, Kate Johnson, Sheryl Browne, Linda Mitchelmore, Margaret Kaine, Margaret James, Laura James, Evonne Wareham, Liz Harris. Janet Gover, Alison May, Rhoda Baxter, Sue Moorcroft, Christina Courtenay, Henriette Gyland.
It’s not all work by any means. Romance novelists know how to have fun and the bar is frequently drunk dry. There’s always lots of laughter!
Freda Lightfoot, Jane Lovering, Linda Mitchelmore, Rhoda Baxter.
Photograph taken by and reproduced with permission from Margaret James
If you write romance, in any of its varied genres, I can’t recommend membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association highly enough. It gives support, training and networking opportunities for writers – its members know how to party too!