Making memories at the RNA conference 2014

Jul 18, 2014 | 2 comments |

Last weekend, I attended the conference of the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) held on the beautiful, rural campus of Harper Adams University near Telford, England. 

Learning about craft
From sessions on taking control of plot and using setting more effectively, to tips on writing linked books and romantic comedy, I came away inspired, motivated and humbled too. 

How exciting to have new tools in my craft toolbox that will help me become a better writer. Yet, how much I still have to learn to become the writer I want to be.

Friends and fan-girl moments
From putting names to faces recognized from Twitter profiles, to meeting old friends and making new ones, the weekend was about connecting with my ‘tribe.’

Where else could I find 250 other people who love writing as much as I do? Who understand the joys, fears and challenges being a writer entails? And who don’t think it’s at all unusual I spend much of my time with characters who don’t exist beyond my imagination.

The weekend was also about seeing writers whom I admire and whose writing inspires me. Trying not to stare when I spotted them in the breakfast queue or two rows behind me at a talk, pinching myself I was there – and they were too.

Books and other treats
From the bookstall to the oh so pretty goody bags, to the book swap table and Sunday morning author sales, the conference was a book lover’s feast.

Historical romance, recent Mills & Boon titles, a time slip novel and a chick lit comedy all came home in my suitcase. The most pressing decision – which one to read first?

Apart from the need to extend my book shelf to accommodate those new books, said a bemused Tech Guy, shaking his head, as English Rose went for the goody bag chocolates.

From independent editors to publishers, to chats at the gala dinner and in taxis and on trains, the conference was also a treasure trove of  industry information.

Who is buying what? What do readers what? Which publishers to query and which to avoid?

Questions of advances and backlist rights were considered too, as was the future of romantic fiction in the changing marketplace.

And, not least, much discussion focused on the different routes to publication – traditional print, e-books and independent publishing – or all three.

From the news  of ‘celebrations’  that opened the conference to the wisdom and generous support given to me by those much further along the journey, I came away with renewed faith – in myself, my stories and my writing career.

Most of all, the conference was about making memories.

From the lowing of cattle punctuating the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) gathering to the pungent smell of those same cattle – and then the appearance of Harper Adams roast beef on the Sunday lunch menu.

From Choc Lit author Jane Lovering in her penguin onesie at the writing comedy session, to the sparkly shoes and posh frocks at the gala dinner and the sea of colorful umbrellas when the heavens opened, rain showers chasing the sunshine away. 

From a sweltering lecture room to a lecture room where conditions were decidedly arctic, from kitchen parties to impromptu parties on the lawn and everywhere in between, each of us made memories both funny and poignant.

For those of you who are part of my conference memories – thank you.

And to the Harper Adams student ambassador who directed me to my hall of residence when I got lost, I’m honored to be the first romance writer you’d ever met.

I hope I and all the other romance writers who took over your campus last weekend lived up to your expectations! 


  1. Jean Bull

    What a wonderful account of such a great conference!

    • Jen Gilroy

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Jean. Lovely to meet you at the conference and happy you’re one of my newest writing friends.


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