Preparation for Information and Inspiration

Francesca considers the preparation needed to get the best out of writing events.

PaperworkJuly is fast approaching, a time for me that is busy with writing related trips away. Both the big ones in my writing year happen in July. I wish they were a bit more spread out, but there it is.

The two events – the Romantic Novelists Association weekend conference and the Fishguard (formerly Caerleon) Writers’ Holiday, are quite different, but I prepare for both in order to get the maximum out of them.

Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Everest and Elaine Roberts at the 2014 RNA conference.

Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Everest and Elaine Roberts at the 2014 RNA conference.

The RNA conference, only two weeks away now (where has the year gone?), is very valuable in that it provides industry one-to-ones with publishers, agents and independent editors. When the conference pack hits the mat in May I quickly email over the appointments I’d like before they’re snapped up. But before I do that, I find out which publishers/agents would be best for my book so do a little research. There’s no point in sticking a pin in and hoping I get lucky.

Having sent off the required synopses and first chapters to the organiser to be passed on, I then need to prepare any questions I’d like to ask, or think of answers to questions I might be asked, and write them down. I will not remember them at the best of times, let alone under stress.

Caerleon 2013. Rosemary Goodacre, Angela Johnson, Elaine Everest, Ann West, Natalie Kleinman, Linda Barrett.

Caerleon 2013. Rosemary Goodacre, Angela Johnson, Elaine Everest, Ann West, Natalie Kleinman, Linda Barrett.

The RNA Conference offers many brilliant talks; often there are three going on at the same time. I plough through the programme and subject matter, often looking up the people speaking so that I can pick talks that are going to enhance my writing knowledge.

With the Fishguard Writers’ Holiday it’s a lot simpler, with two courses to pick from around eight (though it’s still hard to choose!). I’m a little more relaxed with the ‘after tea’ sessions and often don’t pick which one to attend until the day. There’s only one evening talk so I don’t have to think about that at all.

But what to pack? On the computer I keep a list of items necessary for these occasions so that every year I don’t have to make them up from scratch again.

Notebooks Caerleon RNANumber one item, of course, is the notebook. Like many writers I know, I do love a beautiful cover. What’s more important is that it’s dedicated to that particular course or conference. Afterwards it gets labelled with the event and year before it’s put on my shelf. I learnt the hard way how difficult it is to find the useful info you learnt or the ideas/inspiration you had when you use the same notebook for lots of different things. Some people I know favour using a laptop or net book, which I guess helps to keep the information organised. However, some events dissuade their use because of the noise of the keys.

Though they’re often provided, I always take several folders to put the handouts in. There’s nothing worse than coming home to a scramble of notes and having to spend ages sorting through them. Paperclips are also useful for the same reason. And I wouldn’t go anywhere without my pencil case: different coloured pens can be very handy when taking notes.


Ah yes, there was one more necessity I forgot to mention…

I always take a laptop or net book to Fishguard. Since I’m away the best part of a week, it’s useful for keeping in touch on social media. There’s also time to do writing in the generous lunch and coffee breaks between courses and talks. Last year I was busy finishing off my RNA New Writers’ Scheme entry so it was necessary. I wouldn’t dream of taking my net book to the RNA Conference though – much too hectic!

And I wouldn’t go to either event without my camera. Apart from storing memories, it’s jolly useful for taking photos to fill blog space!

What do you do to prepare for writing events?


See what I’m up to as a ‘reluctant grandmother’ on Nonna Blog


Fishguard Writers’ Holiday (they also do a weekend in February)

Romantic Novelists’ Association conference (non members welcome)

Other writers’ events I’ve heard good things about:

Swanwick Writers’ Summer School

Arvon courses (run year round)

8 thoughts on “Preparation for Information and Inspiration

  1. Excellent blog, Francesca. Although you haven’t added the beauty prep. I need to schedule in my roots as well as celebrate the twins’ birthday. Look forward to seeing you at conference xx

    • Ha, know exactly what you mean about the roots, Catherine! Didn’t want to give away all my secrets. (Like the fact I have also keep a list of necessary beauty products to take – a girl has to look her romantic best!)

      I hope the twins have a wonderful birthday. Such a lovely age.

  2. Again, an entertaining and illuminating blog, Francesca. Procrastination is engraved on my heart, so everything is last minute.Will definitely be buying a new notebook, in anticipation of the, brilliantly inspiring, James Nash’s poetry course and Carol Fenlon who always offers something different. It is also a time when I look at my poetry notebooks, especially this year, as I’ve been writing more verse and been encouraged to hone some new skills.
    The most important part is deciding on books ( which often come back unread) to take. I’m supposed to be tackling the Bailey’s shortlist. So far, I’ve only read the Sarah Waters, which is so enjoyable, although some critics have been a bit sniffy about the second part.
    The other preparation is psyching myself up for the emotional impact of returning to the land of my fathers: both my parents were born in the Welsh speaking area of North Pembrokeshire..

    • The Writers’ Holiday must be quite a different experience for you now it’s moved from Caerleon to Fishguard, Angela. I can understand the emotional aspect. As you know, Caerleon is just a few miles from where my mum came from, so we’ve gone from your my ancestral area to yours. Although, of course, South Pembrokeshire is my ancestral area also.

      If James is as good as last year and Carol as good as the last time I did her course (and I’m sure they will be), it will all be wonderful.

      I must pick a book for Fishguard: something undemanding, I think. No point with the RNA conference – not a page would be read, and besides, I know I will come home with several more!

  3. A great piece Francesca. I don’t know where the time goes, it’s hard to believe it’s that time again. I’m sorry not to be attending Fishguard this year but I had to make choices. The RNA Conference with it’s talks and workshops is a tiring weekend but I get a lot from it. I hope you and Angela enjoy Fishguard, it is certainly a beautiful area, and I look forward to hearing all about it. Elaine R.

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