Elaine Everest chats about her experiences attending the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference.
I’m fairly new to RNA conferences, although I’m an old hand with many other writing holidays and events. While still a member of the New Writers’ Scheme I attended my first conference along with fellow blogger, Francesca Burgess. Being amongst so many professional writers, that weekend, was akin to attending ‘big school’ for the first time. Walking into a venue, where I recognised the names on almost every name badge, was like being in a book shop. Was it daunting? Yes. Was it a friendly environment? Absolutely.
At this point I have to admit to being a coward. I would never attend an overnight event on my own. I always go with friends. However, members of the RNA are so welcoming that I would recommend anyone thinking of attending alone to go ahead and book. You will never be on your own, either at talks or meals, and will leave on the Sunday with a list of new friends – and books to read.
Living in Kent meant that for the conferences I’ve attended I’ve had to head north. Venues are gradually moving south so train fares are becoming cheaper. As a group (there are six of us attending this year) we book our train tickets three months in advance. This means we not only receive a good discount but can afford to travel first class. The first class lounge on a London station is a good place to meet before heading for the train – less chance of getting lost!
After collecting the keys to our accommodation and picking up a goody bag we head to our rooms to unpack. By mentioning on our booking form who we wish to ‘live’ near we always find ourselves staying next door to friends and sharing a kitchen. The kitchen is never used to cook – all meals are supplied – it’s where we meet to chat, share wine and party! Kitchen parties are common at most writing events but the RNA conference parties are the best.
The first event is the get together where we meet the organisers, listen to important instructions and hear about the successes of so many writers. This can take an hour! Nowhere else will you hear of so many book deals, competition wins, book sales, agent news and sales of back catalogues. We clap, we cheer and we are enthused by the success around us and hope that good luck will rub off on the beginners.
There’s a choice of three or four talks ever hour to choose from. Attend all and you will quickly burn out. Be choosy. Pick what you are interested in and don’t feel guilty if you just want to sit outside in the sun and relax.
Conference organisers also offer the opportunity for one to one’s with industry experts. Details are in the information packs that are sent out in May. Being able to obtain feedback on a synopsis and first chapter is most valuable when we are chasing that elusive publishing deal.
Attending any writing event is not cheap. Attending an RNA conference, even if you aren’t a member, is definitely an investment in your future as an author.
This coming July the RNA conference is to be held at the Harper Adams college in Telford:
See you there!