Today we welcome New Writers’ Scheme member, Kate Baker, to the blog to give her impressions of the Romantic Novel Awards, as a first-time attendee…
It was with a wonderful calm that three hours before the Romantic Novelists Association’s annual awards was due to start, I checked out the venue. A legacy from being the offspring of a military man – ‘Arrive on time, do your research and a recce trip if you need one,’ my father always told me.
As I sat in The Corinthia hotel bar opposite and waited for the arrival of my writing buddy Julie Morris I felt no pressure other than to enjoy the moment – an experience I suspect most of the shortlisted authors making their respective ways towards the metropolis did not share.
I sipped a sophisticated jasmine-pearl tea and tried to act worthy of my choice (when what I really fancied was a double vodka) and thought about the shortlisted writers’ combined years of effort to create the titles in each of the seven categories. They had each been, at some point, where I am now. Some authors may be better known while others are at the start of their writing careers, but what I’ve learnt through only fifteen months of RNA membership is that the gentle hand of encouragement is there for us all, should we choose to take hold. I’ll be submitting my manuscript to the New Writer’s Scheme very soon and I am eager to take my story to its next level of progress.
At 6pm Julie and I entered the building and the excitement levels were fizzing through the air, high above the glasses of bubbly. Friends found each other in the crowd; congratulations were delivered and exchanged. I was once again rewarded with that sense that I was in the ‘right’ place and I have felt this at conference, the York tea, the summer party, winter party and all the other RNA meetings I’ve been to. When I’m at an RNA event it’s like I’ve been sprinkled with a fine layer of hope, ambition, confidence and determination. Each time I come home I pray that the layer stays with me and doesn’t fall away in dust around my feet.
As the category winners were announced, I felt the honour of sharing a room with such talent. The teams behind the authors are often not the names we see until we open the book covers yet without doubt, they are often the rocks on which the authors stand. It was humbling to listen to words of thanks from each winner given to their editors, agents, cover designers, publishers, and that other group of background support – the family.
While our husbands, wives, partners, children and parents cannot write our books for us, they can provide copious amounts of tea (vodka), meals, a quiet writing space by going away and not feeling offended and a shoulder when it’s all going wrong. My own husband, known as ‘Man of the Woods’ in my blog posts, has been my loyal supporter – whereas my teenage kids nod, accept at face value then ask what’s for tea. Don’t tell him I said so, but I’m completely blown away by the moral support he is giving me in these early days of making my SFD shitty first draft (Julie Cohen’s words, not mine) that I’m genuinely able to take myself seriously.
The team who organises events such as these do such an amazing job and I felt the ticket price was great value for money. The canapes were delicious (did anyone else steal a couple of cute wooden heart decorations?) and the setting glamorous and rather relevant, with Gladstone library leather-bound books quietly absorbing all the applause and adulation.
Huge congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, an extra glass raise to the winners.
Finally may I just send a private kiss to the late Jackie Collins. The decision to create a new Romantic Thriller category from next year is rather exciting for the long-term future of my book. When Julie nudged me and said ‘There you go – that category has your name written all over it!’ I looked up and my mouth dropped open.
Until the next time we are all together, may we be blessed by continued support of each other at chapters meetings, and online.
Kate Baker lives in Suffolk with her husband of 25 years on his family farm. She has two grown up children and is ‘between pets’ although has her heart set on a Bengal cat.
As well as writing she runs her own business cleaning and repairing horse rugs in a workshop nineteen steps from the back door and can be frequently found under a mountain of equestrian wardrobe pieces.
Kate’s a member of the New Writer’s Scheme, and 2019 will see her first full manuscript submission – a romantic thriller set in Tuscany and Milan.