Six get Steamy in Sheffield (or The Write Romantics do the RNA Conference)

This year’s conference was held at the University of Sheffield. What do you associate with Sheffield? Steel? The Full Monty? Probably not Mediterranean temperatures but that’s what we got. Which would have been lovely if the air-con in the conference centre hadn’t packed up the day before we arrived. So it was pretty steamy and not just in the session about sexing up sagas!
Rachael, Helen P and Lorraine have all attended the conference at least once before whereas Julie, Jo and I were newbies. Unfortunately Lynne, Deirdre, Jackie and Helen R couldn’t make it this year.
I’ve asked the others to let us have their highlights from the conference and what they brought home from it. I banned them from saying that their highlight was meeting the other Write Romantics as I thought we could end up sounding like a broken record. However, as I’m writing this post I’m allowed as many highlights as I want so here they are:
Goody Bags: I’d heard some chat about goody bags on Twitter before I set off. People had said don’t bring a book because you’ll be given some. I hadn’t expected to be given NINE! (Okay, two of them I’d only read if all other books on earth had turned to dust and not realising that I could swap them I ended up carting them home only to give them to my Mum for a charity book sale). The bag also contained a lot of chocolate, numerous flyers and courtesy of Jane Lovering, some bubble bath. Julie was far more organised than me and took a picture of the contents of her goody bag.1001874_10151820110669073_1015527228_n
Sessions: Julie Cohen’s session on Using Theme was the stand out for me. I’d always thought only literary novels had a theme. I was absurdly delighted and felt like a proper writer when I discovered that not only did my novel have a theme but it’s a pretty meaty one. Julie Cohen is an excellent tutor and I’m sure I’ll use the exercises that she showed us in my writing in the future. For my next book I’m going to actually plan the theme. And who knows, maybe that’ll make writing it a little less chaotic!
I also enjoyed the session by Anna Boatman from Piatkus Entice but I’ll let Jo tell you more about that.
Pitch meetings: All of us (with the exception of Helen P who is already on the road to publication) had editor appointments over the weekend and there were definitely a few nerves on Saturday morning. My appointments went pretty well. One of the editors asked to see the full manuscript. The other suggested a number of changes to my first chapter, all of which make perfect sense, and said she’d be willing to have another look at it after I’d made those changes. She also said that I’m a good writer. To be honest, I could have hugged her at the point but that would have been weird. But as self-belief is not high on my list of personality traits those few words meant an awful lot.
Meeting the other Write Romantics: It was a joy to see Julie and Jo again and to meet Lorraine, Rachael and Helen P. We had so much to talk about that really a weekend wasn’t long enough!
I had a good time at the conference but I’d be surprised if I decided to go to another one. That’s simply because the conference made me realise that I don’t see myself as a writer of romance. Yes, there’s some romance in the book I’ve just finished and I plan to put some in the books that I want to write in the future but it’s only a small part of what I’m trying to do. I briefly spoke to Liesel Schwarz (author of A Conspiracy of Alchemists and winner of this years’ Joan Hessayon Prize) and she suggested that I join the British Fantasy Society as well. Thanks for the advice, Liesel – I’m going to give that a go.
I’ll hand over now to my fellow Write Romantics to share their conference experiences.
I had three and a half highlights from the conference. The first two arose in what were, for me, the two most useful sessions I attended. Julie Cohen’s session on deepening themes made me realise that I need to do more of this in my first novel and, following a useful pitching session, I can see a way forward for that now. My other favourite session was with Anna Boatman from Piatkus, of all the editors she impressed me by far and away the most. Anna had lots of useful information and advice for aspiring writers, but the real highlight of the session was her specifically mentioning the book Alex had pitched to her the day before. It gave me a real buzz, as I am sure it means that one of the Write Romantics is going to make it big soon and I can say I knew her when! The third highlight came as a result of the entire conference and a bit of reflection after the event. The whole experience was a reality check and an opportunity to consolidate why and what I really want to write, which I don’t think I would have come to realise without attending. And the final half a highlight? Since we’re not allowed to mention meeting the other Write Romantics… can I just say “drinking wine and eating Pringles with them in the kitchen” instead?
What are my conference highlights? Well that’s a hard one. The whole weekend was a whirl of fantastic people and inspiring talks, everything from characters to procrastination. There seemed to be quite a few talks on dealing with time management and the dreaded self-doubt. Most of which I attended.
But the highlight I think was seeing just how much the publishing world has changed, just since I went to my first conference six years ago. There are brilliant opportunities out there, whatever kind of romantic fiction you write. The eBook has certainly revolutionised the world of publishing.
Editor appointments are another highlight. They are a precious chance to pitch your latest story to an editor, which is invaluable and worth attending the conference for that alone.
My editor meetings. I was lucky enough to secure meetings with MIRA and Harper Impulse and found these most enlightening. First learning – editors are human! They’re actually friendly approachable people and not these scary beings who’ll stamp “reject” on my forehead in indelible ink. Second learning – I can write! I was told by both that I have a great concept and a very strong and lovely voice which was a huge boost. An even bigger boost was that they both would like to see my full MS. But the greatest learning for me was a light bulb moment triggered by a question that Charlotte from Harper Impulse asked. We were discussing my protagonist and her motivation for finding love and she asked me something to which the answer was, “no”. But then I thought, “What if the answer was yes? What if that did actually happen?” And suddenly I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle; the part of chapter 1 that I’d always felt was missing. So now I have a new chapter 1 and I absolutely love it (she says very modestly).
Julie’s also written about her conference experiences for the RNA Blog which you can read here:
And I’ll leave you with some photos of Julie, Jo, Lorraine and I on our way to the gala dinner.


3 thoughts on “Six get Steamy in Sheffield (or The Write Romantics do the RNA Conference)

  1. What a brilliant post, Alex and everyone! In fact I’d go so far as to say it’s the best yet. Great that you all came away from the conference with something really useful to take forward into your writing, ranging from a new plot twist for your latest through to the realisation that romance writing may not be ‘you’. There’s a wicked side to me that’s burning to know which two goodie-bag books Alex poured her scorn upon – so come on, tell all! Or actually, since we are in effect in a public place, maybe better not!

    I’m off now to read Julie’s bit on the RNA blog.

    Deirdre x

  2. Thanks Deirdre. I’ll get back to you by email about the goody bag books!
    Apologies to anyone who follows this blog who got this post twice by email. I’ve not tried to put photos into a post before and I got myself in a bit of a muddle.

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