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RNA Conference 2015: Day One

A photograph of Queen Mary University of London

These posts will be packed with book titles as I like to promote those I meet. Where authors are known solely by pen names, I have used those.

A couple of months ago I was invited by Jenny Barden (The Lost Duchess) to be a panellist at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s summer conference. I happily accepted and so last Thursday made my way to London. Frustrations of a longer journey due to the Tube strike were offset by the views of Fleet Street and I arrived at the venue later than planned but grateful nonetheless.

The conference was held at Queen Mary University of London and shared the campus with another conference and students. Those staying the night(s) used the student accommodation. Organiser Jan Jones (The Kydd Inheritance) provided a generous number of coffee and milk sachets. When author Kate Johnson (Impossible Things) said there was an entire bag full for each flat, she wasn’t kidding.

Everyone got a goodie bag upon signing in. Here’s mine:

A photograph of the RNA goodie bag including books, a mug, book postcards and business cards, chocolate and tea

The book selection varied but the crucial item – the mug – was something everyone received. I’ve been using it since I got back and may make use of Alison May’s (Midsummer Dreams) idea to keep it on a desk.

Dinner that evening was held in a little restaurant on campus. A choice of chicken, vegetable chilli and something else I can’t remember was offered alongside a slice of chocolate cake or fruit salad. I met several authors: Henriette Gyland (The Highwayman’s Daughter) who invited me to join the group heading there; Sue Moorcroft (The Wedding Proposal) who kindly lent me a dinner voucher as I’d forgotten mine; Gill-Marie Stewart (Music And Lies) who also writes as Gilly Stewart; and Pia Fenton (New England Crush) who writes historical time slips as Christina Courtenay.

Have you heard of Choc Lit? It’s an excellent name for a publisher and the one many of the authors I met are signed to. Books by indie publishers don’t often make it into stores. Waterstones Piccadilly, with its space, will, but others rarely do. Fenton, together with Stewart, Claire Watts and Katy Hayes, has formed the Paisley Piranha collective to sell their YA books together. The group will have a stall at next weekend’s YALC and if you’re planning to go to the event I recommend you take a look.

Barden’s invitation was the first time I’d heard of the RNA. I’ve since learned much. The association has its own awards – one year they were presented by Darcy Bussell. The chairman changes every two years – Fenton recently handed over the reins to Eileen Ramsey. Membership is open to authors and others in the industry who reside in the UK and Ireland. It was founded in 1960 by Denise Robins, Barbara Cartland, Elizabeth Goudge, Netta Muskett, Catherine Cookson, and Rosamunde Pilcher. New writers are always welcome, whether already published or at the start of their journey. There are many events to attend and local chapters to join.

A photograph of where we stayed

After dinner met Nicola Cornick (The Lady And The Laird) I joined Fenton and Barden as well as Liz Harris (A Western Heart) and Evonne Wareham (Never Coming Home). Harris shared the story of her journey to the 2005 conference. The first day was July 7th. She spoke of the people, the crowds, of how it was frustrating at first until the news spread and the reason for the hold up became apparent. Taxi shares were offered. The conference went ahead.

I later joined Johnson, who also writes as Cat Marsters, May, Helen Green (blogging at English Cottage Lifestyle and writing a novel), Imogen Howson (Linked), Marie Frances, and Janet Gover (The Wild One). Conversation included Johnson’s cats, which are very cute and can be found on her Twitter, Terry Pratchett, the problems blogger’s face from Google’s algorithm changes which Green aptly calls ‘doing the Google dance’, and the meaning of the U in URL.

For a conference I turned in early at 12:30. It was a great day and a fantastic beginning to an excellent event.

Having used up my positive word quota for this post, I’ll leave it there. The conference proper started the next day and I needed sleep…



July 13, 2015, 2:44 am

Conferences always make me feel inspired and excited. Glad you’re enjoying it.

April Munday

July 13, 2015, 9:19 am

It already seems so far away, but it was a lot of fun and I have so many notes to put into practice.

Gill Stewart

July 14, 2015, 10:51 am

Great to meet you Charlie. Lovely blog and thanks so much for the mention.

Christina Courtenay

July 14, 2015, 2:39 pm

Lovely to meet you, Charlie, and what a great summary of the first day! I look forward to reading about the other days too. It was great fun but I think I need a week to recover now … Hope to see you at YALC this weekend! Christina xxx (aka Pia Fenton)

Jenny @ Reading the End

July 14, 2015, 10:00 pm

How fun! I’m so jealous! I have been wanting to go to a conference like this ever since reading a murder mystery set at one — it deals with romance novels as constituted in like 1985, so of course a very different landscape from now!

Sue Moorcroft

July 15, 2015, 10:06 am

Great to meet you, Charlie! I’m glad you enjoyed the conference so much. I always have a blast there.

Great blog, by the way. :-)


July 19, 2015, 6:37 pm

Sounds like a lovely first day! I’m looking forward to reading your other posts :D

Literary Feline

July 20, 2015, 1:28 am

That’s an awesome goodie bag!

It sounds like a good first day, Charlie. So much fun!


July 20, 2015, 3:50 pm

Elizabeth: Exactly that; I left feeling very inspired to blog.

April: It was indeed.

Gill: Likewise, and you’re welcome :)

Christina: Thanks! My next week was busy… as you know, too.

Jenny: That’s an interesting set-up.

Sue: Likewise! Yes, I loved it, would like to go again if I can. And thank you :)

Alice: It was indeed.

Literary Feline: Yes; lots of books and the cards were useful. I’ve noted down a couple of boks due to the latter.



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