The highlight of my year - or one of them, at least - is always the annual RNA Conference.
The Conference is held in various locations all over the UK. But this year it took place at Queen Mary, University of London, where I went to university myself 25 (ahem - well, I do make things up for a living) years ago. QM is to be found in the heart of London's East End and has always been an amazing place. While I was there as a student, I had a really good time. I got an education, too.
Conference organiser Jan Jones did a brilliant job once again and we're all hugely grateful to Jan. Who could ever take over from our lovely Jan and her sidekick, the indefatigable Roger Sanderson? Organising a conference for the RNA makes herding cats look like a breeze in a brewery. Yes, I love a good mixed metaphor!
It was great to see so many old friends again. These are people I've known most or even all my writing life, and with whom I keep in touch via private messaging and social media. But it's always wonderful to see them again, have a chat and a hug and (of course) a glass or two of wine. Hello again, Freda, Jane, Linda and Rhoda - looking good, ladies!
Some highlights of the Conference this year - and this is the result of a quick poll I did at the Conference itself - were talks by various members of the RNA, particularly the sessions given by Julie Cohen, Rowan Coleman, Liz Harris, Sue Moorcroft and Pia Fenton. Below, Pia and Sue show us how to get inside our characters' heads and also inside some very gorgeous kimonos that Pia has collected over the years on her many visits to Japan.
It wasn't all work and chatting. There was time for some leisurely walking and idling. I made some new feathered friends by the canal, which back in the day was full of coal barges and wasn't a pretty sight, but is now home to a wide variety of wildlife and a few houseboat people, too. Who would have imagined finding this almost rural tranquillity in the heart of London's old East End, which was bombed to bits during WW2 and was once home to some of the poorest, most disadvantaged slum dwellers in the UK?
The gala dinner on Saturday evening was wonderful. Perfect service, lovely food, a great atmosphere - who could ask for anything more? The last time I was in the Octagon Library I was revising for my finals, which was a far less jolly occasion. But it was time well spent. I got my degree.
What do writers need in order to be happy? One fabulous venue, to which we'll add a mix of industry gossip, general catching up and great food that we didn't have to cook ourselves.Then we'll all go home inspired and happy. My fellow Choc Lit authors and I were delighted to meet up for a group photograph and you'll see we scrub up really well. I think so, anyway!
See you all again next year!
I've set up this blog so that all my friends, relations and colleagues in the world of writing can keep up to speed with what I'm doing - from now on, I'll never have to say sorry for not keeping in touch.
Or anyway, that's the plan.
Or anyway, that's the plan.
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