Saturday, 21 July 2012

Five Things I Learnt At Penrith

Last weekend I attended the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, held this year at Penrith in Cumbria.  It involved far too much talking (and drinking) and far too little sleep, and was - therefore - great fun! 

I had wondered, having attended these conferences for a number of years, whether I would learn anything new, or whether I was just there for the company.  It turned out it was possible to be there for both!  

In addition to having a very good time, I learnt:
- there is a computer programme which allows you to check your writing for the over (or under) use of words.  It can be found at
- there is no definite agreement on what (or who) constitutes the perfect romantic hero, but Johnny Depp was definitely highly-rated.  Worryingly, so was Leonardo DiCaprio, and I really don’t get DiCaprio
- e-books are no longer the poor relation to their paper counterparts, with the US e-publisher Samhain regularly having books in the main as well as the ‘e’ US best-seller list.  Samhain also publish print copies 9 to 12 months after the e-launch, for books over 50k words in length, and find the two versions complement one another
- if you’re stuck for inspiration you can trawl your family history to find not only some amazing names and some even more amazing incidents (but you might not be able to use some of them - they're really too unbelievable)
- I need to watch more films!  Keeping abreast of current trends and/or studying the plot lines is essential for a romantic novelist.  We do have to suffer for our art.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone else who was there of other tips they'd like to pass on.

And I also learnt, when I got home, that my family can clean and tidy the house to an impressively high standard.  Unfortunately, some of the things they tidied away may never be found again…

Gwen Kirkwood, Janice Horton and Rae Cowie
 Here are a couple of pictures of some of the Scottish contingent, looking very chic at the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening.   

Joan Fleming, Jenny Harper, me and Rosemary Gemmell

They must have been taken on the rare occasion when we didn’t have our mouths open, valiantly trying to talk loud enough to be heard over all the other noisy novelists.


  1. Sounds like it was a great conference. I must try out Wordle - though I fear I may not like the result.
    It would be great to hear from others what five things they learned.

  2. Likewise Bex, I htink we exchanged about 2 sentences and then there were other people interrupting and that was it. Next year.

    Yes, Mary, I'd be interested in other people's top 5 too.

  3. My five things:

    * The other session is always better than the one I've chosen
    * There's always new friends to be made
    * Never put a bottle of wine in the door of a fridge
    * Just being with other writers is stimulating
    * I need to build my brand (which I've managed to cobble together – 'Strong women under pressure'

    Good blog, Gill!

  4. Agree with all of them Jenny, especially the not putting a bottle of wine in the door of fridge! You're doing really well building your brand, much better than me.

    I hope to take the first steps when I go to a website-buidling workshop on Wednesday.

  5. My five things...
    1/ Wordle is just fab - and taught me that I overuse the word 'just' massively.
    2/ That it's definitely not a good idea to go to the conference for just one day, and then have to leave as everyone's getting ready to go the Ball.
    3/ That many romantic writers need only look to their own fascinating lives if they ever run out of inspiration.
    4/ That I heartily concur with Jenny - being with other writers is enormously stimulating.
    5/ That the RNA does ace goodie-bags!

  6. Were you only there for the day Gilly? That explains why I only seemed to see you for a micro-second and never got the chance to talk. Totally agree about the goodie-bags!

  7. Oh wow! Loads of things on here I'd completely forgotten about - Wordle being one of them that I definitely need to try. Daniel Craig scored highly in the romantic hero conversations I was part of, but I really don't see the attraction myself.

    I also learnt that wine is not my friend... there was probably other stuff too, but the wine made it hazy ;)

  8. So pleased you had such a happy and useful time. I must make the effort to join you all next year....oh yes I will!

  9. Alison - Daniel Craig didn't feature in our conversations, fortunately. Definitely doesn't do it for me!

    Linda - yes, next year we should all be there. I think the venue is Sheffield, is that any easier for you?

  10. This is the second comment I have entered. The last has disappeared. I think I have a jinx.
    I could almost believe we have been at different conferences Gill - due to different talks of course. I am struggling to keep up - even less follow all the good advice on marketing via blogs and twitter. I did enjoy the talk on family trees though and think I could find inspiration there. In fact I did try some time ago and may try again.
    Jenny if I have a strap line it would have to be "characters who rise to the occasion" because mine come up with so many problems without warning me first.

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  12. Gwen, your comment got through this time! Agree that sometimes it feels like there is more than one conference going on - so much is happening. Exhausting but fun.

  13. My five:
    - Samhain publish sweet romance too
    - Some copy editors are paid by the word, not by the hour - so...make his/her job as problem-free as you can
    - There's always one member of the kitchen staff who's an avid reader
    - Plan your shower. Saves soaking the loo-roll etc.
    - No bag/case is big enough for the return journey