I am just back from my first ever RNA Conference and I can’t believe what an amazing time I had. So, whilst I can still remember it all, I am jotting down a few reminders.
Can you go if you’ve never met anyone before?
Absolutely! The RNA have a First Timers group, organised by Kate Thompson who, prior to the event sends welcome emails and organises a kitchen party on the first night. In other words, they look after you!
Kate will answer any question you can ever think of, sends lists of things to bring, and is a great point of contact if you are feeling lost.
In amongst the information you get on arrival, there is a list of names and rooms, so it is easy to catch up with anyone else you might have had previous contact with. And for the majority of first timers, I would say you will know someone, either online, twitter,fb, etc, or you’ve met them at a Chapter meeting. And if you’ve not made it to a Chapter meeting yet, try and get to one, because its great fun.
Everyone is so chatty, and ready to talk to brand new people that you won’t feel like a sore thumb. It is great to sit down next to a complete stranger and start chatting. The best introduction I kept hearing, after introducing yourself of course, was, ‘are you published?’ because basically we like to know these things. Writers are an inquisitive bunch!
You get a goodie bag which includes all the information you might need, plus free books! Yay! It also has little goodies like chocolate and sweets (always a good thing) and lovely extras like bookmarks, postcards, and I even got a mirror! So a big thank you to all who donated items.
The kitchen party on the Friday night was a great way to find friends, especially over a bottle of wine. Note I said bottle, believe me, it’s rarely just a glass! But that’s fine, because its so much easier to bond with a glass in your hand. I met most of my flat mates at the kitchen party, and they were busy helping me get my elevator pitch honed before I left.
If you are a member of the RNA New Writers Scheme, this conference is a gift! Well, not actually a gift, you do have to pay, but there is so much there it is like having Christmas in July. You learn so much, you rub shoulders with published authors and you can book one-to-one sessions with agents and editors. Now that is like winning the lottery!
What were the highlights of the weekend for me?
Well, (a little fan-girl moment), sitting next to Liz Fenwick at dinner one night, and then Janet Gover the next night! Basically seeing published authors knowing I’d read their books and they were actually here! Meeting Iona Grey who signed a copy of her book, and making a brand new set of writer friends who I will be able to keep up with on social media until the next meeting.
My Top Three sessions;
- Speed dating for a critique partner with Immi Howson, with was great craic. Although, as a suggestion for next year, I think if it was held after dinner with a glass of wine it would be perfect!
- Joss Sterling’s session on YA – so informative and creative, coming up with mash-ups of different tropes. Again great fun.
- A session on editing with Helen Bryant from Cornerstones; I learnt more about editing in that one session than I had in a long time.
So all in all, it was a really fun but exhausting weekend, but worth every penny and I would highly recommend it. I feel as a new writer in the New Writers Scheme, actually being there, meeting authors, seeing agents and other professionals and getting such a wealth of information, can only help me move my writing career along immensely. So if you are serious about your writing, and you want to get published, do think about going, and don’t be put off if you don’t know anyone.
I will be there next year, and one day I will be published.