It doesn’t feel like a week has passed since we started to pack our suitcases
and prepared to travel home from the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s
Conference. This year we visited the wonderful Lancaster University in
Lancashire. Our congratulations and thanks must go to Jan Jones for finding
this star amongst the many conference locations. 

Rather than fill the RNA blog with photographs, as by now they would have been
shared by members all over social media, I chose to ask a few delegates what they thought
about certain aspects of the weekend. Who better to commission than the ladies
who shared my dinner table on the first night of our exciting weekend?

We Arrived! – Elaine Roberts
of us travelled by train to Lancaster and met a dear friend at the train
station. After much

The Room!

hugging and chatter we secured a mini bus to take us to
Lancaster University. Being highly intelligent females we then became very
confused. We thought we had to pick up our room keys from the George Fox
building – but were wrong. Out came the maps and we set off to walk all over
the very large campus before we finally picked up our keys from Barker House
Farm. Luckily for us, a lovely young man took us to our block!

soon settled into our apartments, which were clean and complete with wardrobes
and desks. The en suite bathroom had a shower, toilet and hand wash basin. We
were also given bath towels, mini shower gels and shampoo. Nestling on the
desk, next to a mug, was a bag of tea, coffee, sugar and sachets of milk.
Personally, as a non-coffee drinker, one teabag is not enough to get me through
twenty-four hours so thank goodness for the university shop!
Kitchen – Party!
kitchen, that serviced eight flats was a lovely size with two large fridges and
freezers, ours soon filled up with wine for our after dinner drinks. We did
spent hours sitting around the table chatting and laughing. A good time was
clearly had by all.

First Timer – Catherine
OK, I admit I accidentally on purpose forgot to hand in my name card at the
close of conference. I

couldn’t be parted from it (I gave the lanyard and
sleeve back, of course). The pink, sparkly flower was my passport to feeling
extra special, marking me as a first timer. I’m going again next year and I
won’t have my floral name card but it won’t matter because I was overwhelmed by
how friendly and relaxed everything and everyone was. It was a whirl of one to
ones with agents, workshops, networking, making new friends and catching up
with familiar faces. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles, laughter, and words of
support or shared knowledge.  I came home with a bag filled with goodies
and a mind filled with memories and fresh inspiration. My one big regret? That
I waited this long before going to my first RNA conference.

Conference Virgin!

Gratefully Received Feedback – Sarah
121s provide a fantastic opportunity to have ten minutes with someone from the
industry; agents, editors, publishers representing a wide variety of agencies
and publishing houses.
slots would disappear fast as enthusiastic writers snapped them up when the
conference packages arrived. Occasions like this don’t often arise. When do
writers, unpublished, and many published, get the chance to have feed back on
the synopsis and first chapter of their new manuscript?
queue for appointments, were filled with anxious authors sharing their fears,
grabbing those who’d just come out. Fishing for reassurance and information.
 ‘Was he nice? What did she say?’ Many had been asked to send in their
full manuscript, others provided with helpful ways to move forwards and always
masses of encouragement.
must pick out one member of the industry for a special mention; Kate Bradley
from Harper Fiction. Kate specially asked all those she was seeing to send her
not just the first chapter but the first three chapters.. She felt it would
give her a better idea of what they were writing. And when she met one member
of the RNA struggling with her plot suggested seeing her for an additional
thirty minutes on the Sunday, so she could help her sort it out. Kate Bradley
is not only a very generous woman but totally dedicated to her job.
Food Glorious Food – Natalie Kleinman
was lucky enough to arrive at Conference a day early and the first meal began
with a lovely starter

Thursday night starter!

of melon, mango and sorbet. The meal continued with a
very acceptable buffet and though as a vegetarian I couldn’t sample a lot of
it, the nut roast was a good alternative. Chocolate brownie dessert – what’s
not to like? This held promise for the rest of the weekend, a promise that was
sometimes fulfilled and sometimes not. Breakfast was extensive and
well-presented though long queues sometimes formed when dishes were not
replenished swiftly when they ran out. The Gala Dinner was a huge
disappointment for vegetarians. That said, there seemed to be an endless supply

tea and coffee, cakes and biscuits and the catering staff were engaging and
very helpful. My strongest adverse comment is that there was inadequate seating
at lunchtime. Otherwise, seven out of ten.

Fantastic Opportunities – Vasiliki
know that moment when you’re caught between hopeful anticipation and crawling
dread? That!
called the One to One.
moment when the hidden flaw within your work is exposed.
not. Perhaps it is the moment all the blood, sweat and tears invested in your
product garner the accolade of a Request for Full (or more).
of these happened at RNA Conference 2016. Some people were left disappointed
knowing they have to go back to the drawing board and start again, while others
spent the rest of the weekend in a little bubble of joy. Many, like me, landed
somewhere in between; in a keep-at-it-it’s-not-quite-there-but-it-could-be,
kind of place.
usual the conference organisers provided a wonderful cross section of editors
and agents, the meetings were well organised and they continue to give RNA
members rare access to a fantastic opportunity to use editors and agents as a
resource, a learning aid and a doorway into the business.
Gala Night – Rosemary Goodacre
evening found us assembled in an array of glamorous dresses for the Gala Dinner.
We enjoyed a cheese and tomato starter followed by chicken garnished with
bacon, and panna cotta. Naturally there was wine and chocolates!
There was applause for our
Chairman, Eileen Ramsay, who announced the results of the annual Elizabeth
Goudge Award. This year the theme for a short story was on the theme The
Joy of the Snow
, taken from the title of Elizabeth Goodge’s memoirs. Eileen
had received 23 entries, including some amazing interpretations. There were
commendations for The Adventuress, by Adrienne Vaughan, All Will be
, by Jan Jones and Like a New Beginning, by Samantha Bentall.
Third Prize was awarded to Rae Cowie, for The Ice Opera, and Second to
Jane Lovering, for Holding Florence. The overall winner was Chrissie
Bradshaw, for Such Small Moments, which was inspired by her son’s
medical trips to Syria.
there was much cheering and applause as Jan Jones was presented with a
beautiful bouquet for all her hard work organising the conference.
Thank you for your thoughts and opinions, ladies. We
all agree that a fab time was had by all thanks to Jan and her team. See you
next year at Harper Adams for #RNAconf2017

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