Being a writer isn't all about sitting in a garret or some other lonely and isolated place, producing words and hoping that eventually you will end up with a book that people want to read. Sometimes they let us out. The past weekend was one of those times.
Last Thursday morning, with excitement and expectation levels considerably raised, I met several friends at Euston Station in London and travelled with them to the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual conference in Lancaster. I knew I was going to have a good time. I always do. The amazing Jan Jones has been organising this event for years and her attention to detail is unbelievable. I honestly don’t know how she does it but I do know she has to put the rest of her life on hold to achieve what she does. We owe her a debt that’s impossible to exaggerate.
|The Incomparable Jan Jones|
On arrival, we collected the keys and went to our designated flat – student accommodation with eight bedrooms and a shared kitchen. Since everyone else was in the same fever of anticipation as I was, any observer might have been forgiven for thinking we were of the age when the majority of students would be attending university. Our majority was something we’d all attained several years ago! We were familiar with the campus, having been there three years earlier and that gave it, for me at least, a feeling of coming home. It not being term time and the facilities being self-catering, we found ourselves without any equipment in the kitchen and I’m sad to say I purloined some plastic cups when we went back to the hub at the George Fox building. Well, students we may have been for the weekend but too old to drink from the bottle. The wine bottle, that is. Somehow it’s different when it’s beer.
I'll skip over the next twelve hours or so as we bedded in and move to Friday when the conference proper began, starting with the AGM. It being an election year, the chair passed seamlessly from Nicola Cornick (huge thanks for everything she's done for the organisation during her tenure) to Alison May (good luck to her and looking forward to seeing her achievements over the next two years).
And this is where in many ways it all becomes a bit of a blur. Panel talks; Q&As; workshops; Quiz the Agents; In conversation with… So many choices and mostly three at the same time. Now you tell me, how do you choose when you want to go to everything? No, I didn’t know how to either! In between all that, if you were lucky enough to have booked, there was the opportunity, organised again this year by Elaine Everest, of having a ten minute one2one with Industry Professionals. Arranging this too is a monumental task and I know Elaine spends hours and hours liaising with IPs and delegates to ensure it all runs smoothly. This particular element of the conference is priceless to any writer and several very happy people were given invaluable advice or asked to submit their full manuscript. And that’s how it was, full on, with a lot of food and visits to the bar, until suddenly it was Saturday evening and time for the Gala Dinner. Below are my dinner companions and flat mates.
|Elaine Roberts and Viv Brown|
|Viv Brown, Rosemary Goodacre, Sarah Stephenson and Catherine Burrows|
|Natalie Kleinman and Francesca Burgess|
|Rosemary Goodacre, Sarah Stephenson, Catherine Burrows and Elaine Everest|
AND THEN THERE WAS THE FLAT PARTY! Nobody hammered on the wall or banged on the ceiling so we can’t have been THAT noisy. This was the best flat party ever although it might have been quite painful to any listener with an ear for music as we sang our way around the table time after time with songs from the shows, films and popular solo artists and groups. Failing to answer a question or identify a song resulted in having to take a sip of wine. There was one member in our flat whom I wouldn’t dream of naming, who professed she didn’t know the answers and was therefore obliged to drink during every single round. She’s only a little person. I am in awe of her capacity.
Sunday came and once more we were up with the lark, though possibly a little jaded, only to return once more to the hub for more sessions during the morning. And all at once, for those not staying for the Sunday Extra, it was all over and time to go home. Hugs and goodbyes to friends old and new and we were on our way, very tired, very happy and up to here with an input of information which it will take (me at least) some time to assimilate.
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this thing work and thanks to all the delegates, without whom there would be no conference. We did have fun, didn’t we?
All photos courtesy of John Jackson. Thank you, John.
So now I’m back in my garret but filled with inspiration
See you next year.
PS My apologies for the strange formatting. I tried. Honestly I did!