The RNA Conference is always a highlight of my year. I love re-connecting with old friends and making new ones. I love the workshops and the celebrations.
I do find it all a bit dazing, though. All those voices in small spaces, all those faces and names... by the end of the first evening I'm always reeling a bit, in danger of losing my voice and with a ringing in my ears usually only experienced after an AC/DC gig.
So, though my ringing ears and reeling brain, and delivered to you in a croaky voice, these are my impressions...
Lizzy Kremer did a fantastic overview of contracts and what to look out for. She reminded us to read a contract with an eye to the best and worse case scenarios - will this clause work for me if the book bombs? And if it takes off, what then?
Louise Allen, Elizabeth Chadwick and Jill Mansell showed us (whether they meant to or not) just how hard working award winning novelists are, and that there as many processes in writing a book as there are authors writing them. Oh, and Louise mentioned that one of her working titles was once rumoured to be Gonad the Barbarian...
I met someone who edited memoirs of soldiers in the Peninsula War, someone who (like me) is fascinated by the breakthroughs of early scientists, someone who recently signed a six-book contract and someone who is interested to find out if pregnancy hormones are going to make her write the best book ever, or the worst book ever...
I learned that there are three golf balls on the moon.... and that shoe envy can be offset by knowing that said shoes are really, really painful.
Louise Allen ran through some of the basic mistakes that all authors can be prone to, for the benefit of our New Writers' Scheme members, including the ones about punctuation, Point of View, and that if you're moaning that a reader "didn't get it" then you're not doing your job as an author.... (and I've caught myself moaning that one myself once or twice!)
Valerie Webster taught us that Regency dances were all about flirting, that men were happy to skip and occasionally formed a couple in the dance if there weren't enough women, that a deep curtsey is Victorian, not Regency, and that I have two left feet.
Elizabeth Hawksley reminded us that characters that feel real have to be seen in their world in the round - showing how they relate to themselves, friends, family, their work, passions, goals... and that at some point a hero must develop emotional goals and recognise them for that.
When Cally Taylor won the Elizabeth Goudge Trophy, and Liz Fenwick came second and I was in the shortlist of six, I remembered what talented company I was in.
And all in all I remembered just how lucky I am to be an RNA member, and how priveleged to be part of this crowd of talented, hard working, savvy, no-prisoners, creative women, with hearts as big as the world.
(If you're on Twitter, follow the fun on #RNAConf11)