RNA Conference 2022

The weekend of 15 – 17 July saw the first RNA Conference in two years. As I joined the Association in February 2020, it was my very first one – and the first time I’d been anywhere on my own since H had his stroke.

I arrived on the Friday, and promptly got lost. Harper Adams is an extensive university and their map is utter rubbish! I figured it out in the end and found my room. I liked that these were individual but the kitchens were communial – there was a chance to social and get some quiet time.

With the weather being so hot, the first thing I did was shower! I collected my goodie bag and then had my 1-2-1 session with editor Alex Hammond. I’d been quite nervous about this as I’d submitted my Camp NaNo project-in-progress and hadn’t written much of a synposis. Despite this, Alex had managed to figure out what I was writing and loved it! We discussed its various influences and he gave me some great ideas to develop the story further. I came away buzzing with excitement!

My choice of afternoon session was “Creating Realistic Characters in a Fantasy World”, led by Sarah Rees Brennan. It was a really interesting talk, with my take-away being to make things hard for my characters but not impossible, and that their skills ought to be baked into their backgrounds.

Afterwards I met up with other authors, including Jessica Redland, whom I’d “met” online during her RNA course on writing a romantic series. Dinner was extremely loud and overwhelming, but I coped and actually had a really good time.

Saturday

I opted to skip the AGM as I knew the details would be provided through the Association, and I’d be able to take them in better by reading through. After the morning coffee break, I attended the talk on writing main disabled characters, followed by writing a single-page synopsis.

The talk on centring disabled characters was really enlightening, and made me reconsider what I thought of as disabled. It also made me realise how important identifying disability was over simply coding characters.

The evening saw the presentation of the Joan Hessayon Award for published members of the New Writers’ Scheme, and the Elizabeth Goudge Trophey for the best short story, followed by the Gala Dinner. This was rather disappointing as there seemed to be some snarl up (we got dessert at 11pm!) but at least there was free wine!

Dressed up for the Gala!

Sunday

I started Sunday with what I thought was a mindfulness session but it ended being too woo-woo for my tastes – there are coping strategies and then there’s “emotional muscles.” Yeah, no. I went outside and waited for the coffee break, where I met up with my What’s App writing group.

Following this was the Rainbow Writing session, which was far better. Most interesting was the lady from Mills & Boon, who are looking for queer romances. Although there was one horror story, the overall outlook on publishing LGBTQ+ was incredibly positive. I cornered the M&B editor afterwards and discussed my own writing, with the result I feel enboldened to write the stories I’ve been avoiding.

My last session was the brilliant Julie Cohen, who talked about the “But why?” method of digging into our characters. I made copious notes and will be applying them to my main characters in the space opera.

Then it was lunch and home. I was quite sad to leave, but determined to attend the conference next year. I’ve already started saving and planning my outfits!

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