Distance won’t divide us!

Geography was a bit of an issue when the original duo of Write Romantics formed, as Jo lives in Kent and I live in North Yorkshire so all our communication was in the virtual world. When we became ten, geography presented an even greater challenge as we weren’t all based in the UK. We had a huge geographical spread from Cumbria to Kent, the North Yorkshire Coast to Brighton on the south coast, and Wales to Australia.

Personally, I quite fancied the idea of a WR pilgrimage to Australia to meet with Helen R, but I’m not sure we could have quite pulled it off! Helen did, however, move back to the UK so it was just the length and breadth of the country to navigate if we wanted to meet up. And, amazingly, we’ve managed to spend quite a lot of time together over the years…

Jessica xx

 

2013

We formed and bonded online, Helen P had her very first novel, The Ghost House, released as an eBook, and Rachael entered a competition called ‘So You Think You Can Write’ that changed her life (although she didn’t know it yet). And we began to meet face to face…

When the Write Romantics formed as a collective of ten, the only members who had met were Alys and Jessica. They didn’t know each other very well, though, as they’d only briefly chatted after lunch at an RNA event in York.

1044259_10151820111269073_501754017_nAlys and Jessica arranged a couple of get-togethers for a drink and dessert in a pub halfway between their homes in York and Scarborough (sticky toffee pudding – nom nom!) but the first opportunity for a larger group of WRs meeting was the RNA’s annual conference in Sheffield, held in July 2013. Jo, Alys, Helen P, Rachael and Jessica all attended. It was exceptionally hot and the air con wasn’t working which was slightly traumatic, but it was so lovely to be able to meet up with some of the group in person after months of chatting online.

Also in the summer, Alys connected with Hull-based Sharon via social media and they arranged to meet up to discuss all things writing. Jessica was invited to join them and the three of them met in Bridlington on the North Yorkshire Coast. Sharon was in the NWS for the first time but having major doubts about her writing, thinking she might not even submit. No way were Alys and Jessica going to let that happen! Thankfully Sharon changed her mind and the rest is history.

 

2014

The year started with great news. Rachael had been delighted with top 10 success at in the ‘So You Think You Can Write’ competition, and resolved to keep trying. She didn’t need to, though. In January, she got “the call” from Mills and Boon and fulfilled a lifelong ambition to become one of their authors, with her first book released in September. This seemed to open the floodgates later that year when Jo and Jessica both signed a publishing deal with So Vain Books, Deirdre and Helen R joined Crooked Cat and Alys secured an agent. New member, Sharon, joined us and we launched a charity anthology called Winter Tales (see yesterday’s post for great news on this).

RNA PartyOur second year together brought another opportunity for Rachael, Deirdre and Helen P to meet up at the RNA summer party where Helen’s debut, The Ghost House, was up for the Joan Hessayon Award.

A couple of months later was the RNA annual conference at Harper Collins agricultural college in Telford. It was another incredibly hot few days, which didn’t make the farming aromas any more pleasant but the company was certainly very pleasant! Alys, Deirdre, Helen P, Helen R, Jackie, Rachael and Jessica all attended the conference which, to this day, remains the biggest gathering of WRs in one place at one time.

conf 2014 10Lynne wasn’t able to join us for the conference but she drove to a pub near the venue to meet some of the group for lunch and an afternoon of chat and laughter before the conference started.

Sharon was invited to join the group in the September when original member Lorraine dipped out, and, over the next few years, Alys, Sharon and Jessica met up when they could; slightly easier given that they’re all Yorkshire-based.

 

2015

A big year for debut novels from the WRs with traditionally-published releases for Helen R, Jo, Jessica, and Deirdre. Sharon, Lynne, Alys and Helen R all released debut indie novels.

Joan Hessayon contenders smaller

Lynne’s debut pocket novel was shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award, meeting up with some of the others at the awards ceremony. Jackie, Helen R and Rachael met up at the RNA conference in London.

 

20145788162_b63a60f089_zIn August, Helen P and Rachael had an amazing opportunity to travel to New York for the Romance Writers of America 35th annual conference and the Harlequin party. The rest of us didn’t think we could have got away with gate-crashing the event but would very much have liked to try!

The Yorkshire contingent continued to meet when diaries allowed.

 

2016 – 2017

Books came out thick and fast across 2016 and 2017 including the debut release for Jackie. Jessica parted company with her publisher in late 2016 and re-launched her books as an indie writer. New publishing deals were secured by Jo with Accent Press, Helen P with Bookoutre, and Helen R with Orion.

Some of the WRs met up at the RNA conferences or at the summer/winter parties in London. For the rest, it was sporadic meet-ups wherever possible. Sharon and Alys separately met up with Lynne whilst on holiday in Glastonbury, not too far from where Lynne’s based in The Cotswolds, Jo met with Deirdre on a day out in Brighton, and Jo and Alys have met up when Alys has been visiting family down south.

Sharon, me and Alex in Beverley - Christmas 2016Alys, Sharon and Jessica – the Yorkshire contingent – managed to coordinate a meet-up as a three near Christmas 2016 but have since only managed to meet up as pairs since then as diary coordination has proved a massive challenge.

In late 2016, Jessica met up with Jo, Deirdre and Helen R whilst working in London one weekend, although a late train deprived her of 90 minutes of valuable writing chat. How rude!

Jessica was particularly grateful to have Sharon support her at a Writer’s Talk at a café in Scarborough called The Seastrand in April 2017. It was part of a big Writers’ Event they were hosting … but nobody showed up!

Sharon, Jo and Me - Leeds 2017Sharon and Jessica were delighted when Jo visited Leeds for a weekend with friends as it gave them a perfect excuse to meet up, have some food, and talk writing. Perfect way to spend a day!
For some time, we mooted the idea of getting together and, at the start of 2017, decided to pin everyone down to a date. We chose a reasonably central location of Derby and a weekend in November 2017. Eight of the group committed to the date; not quite a full compliment but it was certainly very close and would have been the biggest meet-up to date.

Derby 2017Unfortunately, some of the eight couldn’t make it when the date got closer so it was a smaller event than hoped, but any opportunity to meet up and talk about writing is welcome, no matter how many are there. Jo, Sharon, Jackie, Helen P and Jessica met up on the Friday but Jo and Helen could only stay the one night so it was a cosy trio the following day and evening. As an added bonus, Jo managed to meet up with Lynne en route.

 

2018

We’re a third of the way through the year and there’ve been a few releases already, with loads more planned. Sharon had exciting news, leaving her day job to become a full-time writer. This week will actually see the start of this exciting new chapter in her life. Helen P will be releasing her first indie novel and there are several other exciting possibilities on the horizon.

29261333_10156373676374073_679575850520693346_nJo and Jessica met in London in February when Jessica had a weekend working in London, and Jessica and Lynne met a couple of weeks ago when Lynne holidayed in North Yorkshire.

Sharon and Jessica have plans to meet up twice this month, firstly to celebrate Sharon becoming a full-time writer and then to attend a talk by the incredibly talented Ruth Jones as part of Scarborough’s Books by the Beach Literary Festival. In May, they’re both attending a lunch in York organised by Anne Williams of Book Connectors, and are excited that Alys will be attending too.

IMG_4226The RNA conference will be in Leeds this year so, being the closest it’s ever been to their homes, Sharon and Jessica have already signed up, as has Rachael. Jackie and Helen P will hopefully attend too. Sharon and Rachael haven’t met yet so this will be a great opportunity for them to do so, leaving Deirdre and Sharon, plus Helen R and Sharon as the only WRs who haven’t met yet; something we must rectify soon.

Sharon and Jessica will also be going to the York Tea in September and I’m sure that there will be lots of opportunities for WRs to meet up at RNA parties and whilst on holiday in the UK.

 

So, as you can see, we haven’t let the geography stop us from meeting up. I’d love to think that, one day, we could all be in the same location at the same time but I’m not sure we’ll manage to coordinate ten busy diaries.

As a group, we are all very different. Age-wise, we have a 30-year age-gap from oldest to youngest. We represent massively differing careers: farmer, police, social worker, HR professional, tutor, medical receptionist, and cabin crew to name a selection. And, although we all write romance, we represent many different genres from fantasy to thriller to cosy to gritty true-life. Definitely very different!

Yet, somehow, it works.

Please join us for the next two days where we’ll be exploring five things we wish we’d known five years ago.

Jessica xxx

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There are four thousand love stories in Central Park

Central Park has over nine thousand benches. You might wonder why I’m telling you this, but I promise it will all become clear. Most people who head to New York, can’t wait to hit the shops, take in a Broadway show, visit the Statue of Liberty, and look out from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. I was no different, but what I didn’t expect, is that all of those things would pale into insignificance for me, when I fell in love. With Central Park.

At heart, I’m a country girl, so maybe it’s no surprise that I loved the oasis of tranquillity that Central Park provides in such a vibrant city. But it fired my imagination in a way that I’d never thought possible. And it was all down to those benches.

Over four thousand of them have been ‘adopted’, which means they’ve had plaques assigned – each one a mini love story in its own right. There were hundreds of them that touched my heart, and, if I’d had the time, I could have spent the entire ten days I was in New York, just wandering around Central Park, reading those plaques. There were proposals, dedications of love, and the marking of every momentous occasion you can imagine. But this was my favourite:

Isn’t that the most beautiful love story you’ve ever read, in so few words? I’d really like to know more about Meg and Wes, but what I do know is that they inspired the idea behind my latest novel The Christmas Shop at Central Park’. When Libby moves to New York to recover from the death of her parents, and takes a job working in a Christmas shop on Seventh Avenue, she reads a message on a bench – from Charlie to Grace – that changes her life.

The benches in Central Park weren’t the only things to influence the story, though. There’s a scene in the novel where the heroine can’t find the Empire State Building, even though she’s standing right in front of it. It happened to me, and I’ve never seen a police officer laugh so hard! But shrouded in mist, it didn’t look anything like I’d expected. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it… Just look how different it looked in these two pictures, taken on the same trip, I think it was a case of being too close to see what was right in front of me, first time around!

Leeds trip – Paula’s in the centre and I’m back left.

 

Four of the characters in the book are named after some friends I met up with on a trip to Leeds, and a throw away comment from someone when we were at that stage of the evening where rash promises are made! I’d gone on the trip with one of my best friends, Paula, and she was probably an even bigger influence on the story than those beautiful benches in Central Park. She’s an absolute inspiration, dealing with health issues which would stop most people, but somehow she keeps grabbing life by the scruff of the neck. One of the main characters in the story represents everything I love about her – intelligence, wit and the absolute refusal to do anything but live life to the full. I’d give Paula her own plaque in Central Park if I could, but for now she’ll just have to settle for having the novel dedicated to her instead.

If you get the chance to spend an hour or ten wandering around Central Park, reading those plaques, you won’t regret it. After all, you can go shopping in any city, but where else will you get the chance to read thousands of mini love stories, all in one place?