When I was ten, I fell in love with my first ‘favourite’ band — ABBA. I was a proud supporter. I sung ‘Fernando’ at the top of my lungs, I played ‘Mamma Mia’ on a cassette player with its own built-in-speaker, and I was excited to receive their new album every Christmas. I had huge posters on my bedroom wall, too. But being an ABBA fan wasn’t popular back in the day. I don’t know why. It didn’t bother me. I stood up and was counted.
In the same way, I am proud to be a writer of romantic fiction, and delighted that thirteen years ago, I found the RNA, and my very own ‘band’. My band of sisters, The Romaniacs.
We were unpublished writers who had found our way to the NWS and then to each other. We blogged together, interviewed new writers, established authors, and industry professionals. We wanted to share information and support the romantic fiction community. There were features such as Life Cycle of a Writer, and Chit Chat Tuesdays, and we created ‘Sparkle Spotlights’ — five-minute filming slots in which delegates at the RNA conferences could introduce themselves in a video we later shared on RNA social media. It was hectic, but it was brilliant fun, and I for one, learnt plenty. Then, in 2015, to our surprise, we won the inaugural Media Star of the Year Award in the RNA’s Industry Awards. For me, being acknowledged for doing something I loved with my band of sisters was a great privilege and honour. I remember that evening. I remember what I wore. It was a short-sleeved, dark purple top, with glittery purple whooshes and flourishes. They reminded me of exploding fireworks. We were awarded with a certificate and a beautiful crystal star trophy, which travelled the country with The Romaniacs. It partied hard.
With such a personal attachment, it was without hesitation I took on the role of Industry Awards Organiser four years later.
I am now in my fifth and final year, stepping down and passing the reins to my fab Deputy, Helen Conway. It’s time for me to share the joy I’ve experienced in being involved with these awards. I have met so many brilliant and interesting people, ranging from publishers to cover designers, and librarians to narrators, to mention a few. At last year’s event, I had a fascinating conversation with one of the Narrator finalists about voice recording for video games. As an original girl gamer from the nineties, I was captivated.
The Industry Awards have evolved since their inception and will continue to do so as publishing and technology changes. Last year we introduced a mini brochure, and this year we are excited to convert it to a digital format accessed via a QR code. It’s not only environmentally friendly, but it allows more scope for content as we are not restricted by the traditional set page counts of physical booklets. Award categories have been added or retired, trophy styles changed, and we’ve welcomed and celebrated established industry professionals as well as the rising stars, but the awards remain the RNA’s way of showing love and appreciation for the people who support, promote, and share our passion for quality romantic fiction.
And to top it all off, the IAs take place during the glittering RNA Winter Party, a wonderful, festive opportunity for writer friends and industry professionals to enjoy great food, chilled drinks and plenty of chat, laughter, and love.
I have chosen my outfit. I have a red jacket. I love it. I found it in a small curios shop in Builth Wells. I live nowhere near Builth Wells – I was on my way to Aberystwyth University to drop my son at university when we had to make a *ahem* brief stop. The shop caught my eye, as did the jacket.
It was meant to be.
And this is how I feel about the last five years.
So, in the words of Melba Moore, (always have a music reference handy) this is it.
Thank you to all the RNA members who have nominated, judged, planned, and volunteered their time to produce what is always a magnificent evening, and thank you to the RNA for the opportunity to look after the Industry Awards. It has been an honour and a privilege.
I am so looking forward to seeing you all at this year’s Winter Party as we celebrate our gorgeous writerly friendships, the wonderful industry professionals, and our glorious genre that is ROMANTIC FICTION.