Last month the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association conference was held at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. The pandemic meant the 2020 and 2021 conferences couldn’t take place, so for many of us, this gathering of romance writers was extra special and eagerly anticipated.
|Notepad at the ready...|
For four blissful days, I was surrounded by my tribe – people who were passionate about writing and, specifically, championing the romance genre. The conference has long been a highlight of my year: a chance to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and mingle with industry professionals. At Harper Adams, both the accommodation and the food are always top notch, and it was my privilege to share a flat with Clare Marchant, Rosie Hendry, Ian Wilfred, Nancy Peach, Kate Smith, Annette Hannah and Debbie Johnston. (What happens at the kitchen party, stays at the kitchen party – right guys!)
|A kitchen gathering.|
The long weekend is jam-packed full of lectures and panels, with barely a moment to catch your breath. Highlights for me were the talk by Elizabeth Chadwick, a panel on pitching your book to editors, TikTok and Instagram talks, the legend that is Charlotte Ledger, and various talks about diversity and inclusion. I also got to meet my amazing agent, Hannah Schofield of LBA Books, for the first time, as I had signed with her during the pandemic. She’s a real industry superstar, fantastically supportive of romantic fiction, and definitely one to watch.
|Myself and the amazing Hannah Schofield|
The RNA runs an amazing New Writers’ Scheme to support emerging romance writers. NWS members receive a critique of their manuscript and the opportunity to attend RNA events. Every year, graduates from this scheme are put forward for the Joan Hessayon Award, and this year the awards took place just before the Gala Dinner at the conference. The shortlist was overflowing with talent and the winner was Suzie Hull for her delightful debut “In This Foreign Land”. Congratulations, Suzie. I can highly recommend the book. Link below:
But what I love most about the conference is the things you learn over snatched cups of coffee and late night kitchen parties. THIS is where close friendships are forged, some serious networking takes place, and snippets of publishing gossip are shared. I finally got to chat properly to the very lovely Jessica Redland (after taking her on a magical mystery tour of the campus at midnight… oh, okay, yes, I got us both lost). I had a long overdue hug with my dear friend Mick Arnold, and Morton Gray shared useful underwear tips! But with 240 attendees, I couldn’t possibly shout out to all the wonderful people I talked to in those surprisingly short four days, but suffice to say, I returned home absolutely bouncing and brimming with new ideas. It was a time for me to reflect how much joy our genre brings to people, and gave me the confidence to continue writing what I love.
|My book in the bookshop!|
|A panel about the modern protagonist|
|Ian Wilfred - who grinned for 4 solid days!|
|I packed the essentials.|
|With Elizabeth Chadwick|
|Diane Saxon - you little beauty!|
Roll on summer 2023.