RNA Conference day 2

Up with the lark and over to the college in good time for my editor appointment. I re-read my chapter and synopsis and made some notes of things I thought I might want to emphasise that didn’t really come out in the synopsis. And tried not to panic.

Reader, I babbled. I babbled about cows and piglets. I babbled about my previous publishing career. I babbled about the book. Eventually I remembered to stop talking and let her say something. She said she liked it! She liked my writing. She thought it was exciting and hooked her from the first page. She pointed out that most of the conflict in the first chapter is external, and she felt that the hero in particular needed more backstory to beef up his emotional conflict. And she wants me to email her three chapters. So hooray!

After a cup of tea, during which I managed not to break any cups, I went to Jessica Hart/Pamela Hartshorne’s session on writing in two genres. She doesn’t write in two genres of romance, she writes in romance and non-romance historical time-slip. It was fascinating to hear about her career. She started writing category romance to fund her PhD… She’s written 60 M&B’s and 2 mainstream novels, and she was very honest about the differences between the two, including some of her assumptions about writing mainstream books that turned out not quite to be the case. I waited to talk to her at the end and she kindly signed the book I’d brought to send to Miss Bates.

We walked over to the plenary session on ‘The Future of Romantic Fiction’ featuring a panel which included the presidents of the RNA (Pia Fenton), RWAus (Nikki Logan) and the Historical Novel Society (Richard Lee). Also Katie Fforde. Mostly this was a Q&A session. Mostly it was a bit disappointing and discouraging, with quite an overtone of defeatism. The person who was really impressive was Nikki Logan. Australia, you are lucky to have her!

After lunch, I spent an hour wandering round the site to find someone who could tell me the security code for the swimming pool, during which time the sun disappeared behind black clouds. Eventually I did get the code and I did swim and it was nice, but not quite the warm, sunny time I had hoped for.

I made it back in time for a session on ‘The Future of Bookselling’. Apparently the panel were expecting this to be a Q&A session, though there was nothing to indicate that on the programme. No one was chairing the panel and as a result, the discussion was a mess. There were some great questions from the floor which the panel sometimes were unable to answer and at other times appeared not even to understand. If the future of bookselling really were in the hands of people like this, I would be worried. Oh, wait. The panel consisted of an agent, a Big Five editor, a small press publisher, and a major bricks and mortar UK retailer. Terrific. I was quite shocked, actually. I can get personal anecdata about reading an ebook and then going out to buy it in print anywhere. I was hoping for a bit more actual data from industry professionals. I don’t expect everyone to have precise numbers at their fingertips, but some ballpark understanding of the market would have been nice. The insightful comments mostly came from the floor – selling through subscription, through Blinkbox, bundling ebooks and paperbooks, and so on.

Anyway.

I caught up with a couple of people over tea and finally got an answer to a question I’ve been asking on and off for ages: why should I become a member of the RNA? Apparently, you get good discounts on rooms at the In and Out Club in London. That’s worth knowing. Also, they’d all been to much better sessions while I was swimming. Ah, well.

So, I’m glad I made the decision to go to the conference. I think two days is plenty for this introvert and I’m glad to be home in the quiet of my shed tonight. I met some great people I’d previously only known online and had some fun and very useful conversations. I had a good outcome from my editor appointment. I learned things from several of the sessions I attended.

I admit, I am still not really sure whether the RNA is worth joining. If I thought they had a vision and strategy for where the organisation is going, I would be more inclined to support them in that. I know it’s run by volunteers, but I don’t think that means it has to be amateurish. But as it is, money is tight and that £50 could be well-spent on other things, and I think I’ll be happy to pay the non-member supplement if I want to go to the conference again.

RNA Conference

Is happening. Today, tomorrow and Sunday. I am only going today and tomorrow and, since it is happening half an hour away from where I live, I am going as a day visitor. I write this from the comfort of my own home at the end of the first day.

It’s being held at the agricultural college where my brother was a student, many years ago, and which is now calling itself a university. I mean, it is a university and they are allowed to call themselves that, but it is still basically an agricultural college. I spent some happy minutes communing with the cattle and then falling in love with some tiny baby piglets that were only a couple of hours old. Outside, it smells like a proper farm, which makes me very happy.

Inside, there were no farm smells.

There was a LARGE goody bag. I have divided the contents into: readable stuff (7 books!), useful stuff (pens, paper, cards), edible stuff (chocolate, biscuits, tea bag), and other stuff (flyers, postcards, business cards). I was going to be really dismissive about the value of the ‘other stuff’ except I have already bought one book on the basis of the bookmark (Say it with Sequins). Whereas I have eaten all the chocolate and haven’t bought any of the books they were supposed to advertise. So there’s something. The teabag is a really brilliant idea for residential conferences, I think.

Anyway, I was loitering forlornly in the reception area when someone waved me over enthusiastically. To point out that I was wearing my cardigan inside out. Excellent. Turns out she wrote that fun re-telling of Much Ado About Nothing I read earlier this year.

And then, and then one of the people I REALLY wanted to talk to came over to say hello to me! Amy Andrews who was only there today, in the middle of a family holiday to the UK. We had a great chat and I only wished I’d had longer to pick her brains properly. But then we were joined by Fiona Harper and Lucy King and I started to get all starstruck.

The first session I went to was a Mills and Boon thing. The main take home message was: Everyone wants to be Sarah Morgan*, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur.

Then I broke half the teacups by mistake. In the manner of a cutely klutzy romance heroine, perhaps. Though no dashing hero stepped forward to rescue me so I ran away. And then Jessica Hart asked me if I was Ros who did the funny tweets and I no longer cared about anything else.

After ‘tea’ there was the main welcome session which was a mix of tedious housekeeping and announcements of various achievements. I am ashamed to admit that I got the giggles at the announcement of a book which comes with accompaniment of folk music composed and performed by the author. Courtney Milan, your enhanced ebooks have some way to go to beat that.

I went to the M&B single title session next and spent the time outlining a book set on a cruise ship. And then I went to the drinks party sponsored by Amazon Independent Publishing. Thanks for the warm orange juice, Amazon! And then I had had enough of people so I came home. I bought fish and chips on the way and ate them out in the garden. Lovely.

Tomorrow I have to get up Very Early because I have an appointment with a M&B editor to talk about my sheikh book. The appointment is not that early but there is a local show happening two fields away from the agricultural college and I predict that the traffic will be vile.

But tonight I am giving books away! I already gave the Sarah Morgan book away on twitter, and I’m keeping a couple of the others, but I have these up for grabs. I’ll chuck in some of the other swag too, probably (unless you live on the other side of the world and it makes the postage extortionate). Just leave a comment and I’ll contact the winner of each next week.

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*Okay, there was more to it than that. And possibly some people don’t want to be Sarah Morgan, more fool them.