A Weekend to remember

 Writing is a lonely occupation. You can spend hours at the computer without speaking to a soul. Small wonder then that when a group of writers gets together, they talk. And talk. And if there are a couple of hundred voices all raised at once, the decibels hit the roof and bounce back again. They talk about the book that’s just been published, the one they are writing and the one yet to be written and still in the planning stage. They bounce ideas of each other, grumble about publishers and deadlines, ask for and receive advice.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) exists for that very purpose. Its aim is to encourage new writers, support established authors and promote the romance genre, which has numerous sub-genres, all of which have a place in the Association. The membership ages range from very young to very old, mostly but not entirely female.

Each year there is a conference held on a university campus in vacation time. We become students again, sleeping in accommodation blocks, queuing up for food, hanging out in the kitchens drinking wine and making tea, and great fun it is. But there is a serious side. There are seminars, workshops, discussion groups, ideas exchanged and burning issues debated. For those who need them, interviews are arranged with publishers and agents. Books are bought and sold and mulled over.

This year we were at Sheffield in the Endcliffe Village. The organisation was, as always, superb. The company stimulating, the accommodation very good, the staff friendly and helpful. It was unfortunate that the air conditioning in the lecture rooms broke down on the hottest weekend of the year and we had to make do with numerous large fans. Some forward thinking members had brought their own fans as my picture illustrates. The long queues for meals stretched out of the dining room and into the scorching sun which had more than one of us skipping lunch in favour of a cuppa and a biscuit in the kitchens of our quarters which were blessedly cool. The kitchens were also the venue for parties in the evenings, when a surprising number of bottles of wine were drunk and various nibbles consumed with no thought for waistlines.

The highlight of the weekend is always a gala dinner when everyone dresses up and the tables are laid with shining cutlery and glass and we are served by smiling waiters and waitresses. Speeches are made and applauded, and the Elizabeth Goudge trophy presented.

All too soon another conference has come and gone and we return home rejuvenated, re-motivated, bursting with good ideas and looking forward to the next conference. In the meantime there is that novel to write.

The photgraphs are by kind permission of Annie Burrows.