My RNA Conference 2013

We leave the house at Crack of Doom so that I can catch the 7.30 train from Aberystwyth. My head’s full of ‘what ifs’ covering all kinds of worst case scenarios from missed connections through taken seats, stolen bags, comfort breaks and so on. I am, however, carrying plenty of anti-fainting rations so hopefully that’s one ‘what if’ I can forget about. For the first part of the journey I can just relax and enjoy the view as the train winds out of Wales.

I make The Edge, where the conference is taking place just after lunch and without a mishap. Result.

The accommodation’s excellent and a far cry from the student housing of my day when my clothes seemed to carry a permanent whiff of mould.

The conference begins with a welcome from RNA Chairman, fellow ChocLiteer, Pia Fenton, but what happens next? A quick internet search of any Romantic Novelists’ Association gathering will bring up plenty of pictures of shoes, frocks and parties, but a great deal of thought and hard work goes into the conference programme. There’s something for everyone, new writers, newly-published authors and experienced authors alike. It’s a packed schedule too with workshops, lectures and yes, a very great deal of talking.

A selection of ChocLiteers, but we missed those who couldn't attend.
(My thanks to Janet Gover for the photo)

There are too many stand-out moments to recall here, but those that will particularly stick with me are award-winning romantic novelist Linda Hooper’s advice to ‘keep the joy in your writing’, being brave enough to put my hand up in Headline Associate Publisher Sherise Hobb’s workshop and winning a bag of Haribou sweets for my efforts, and not being brave enough to volunteer in fellow ChocLiteer Janet Gover’s media skills workshop, but being very grateful to another fellow ChocLiteer, Liz Harris, who did! Somehow there’s never quite enough time to catch up with everyone and soon it’s time to leave.

My homeward bound ‘what if’s’ are greatly eased by the good company of a fellow writer Ann Ankers as far as Telford. From there, one of the hottest carriages I’ve ever travelled in subdues me for the rest of the journey.

At Aberystwyth my heart skips a beat at the sight of Tom waiting at the station for me. I walk through the door to flowers, fizz, a lovely meal… and a ‘what if’ I never saw coming. But that’s a story that can wait for another blog.


Teresa said…
You look lovely in that dress... you, writers, know how to dress to cause your-own impact. Women usually do but look at that picture - WOW!

Wales is a wonderful Land. I'd get up at - what is it you called it?! - Crack of Doom - to see it coming alive in the morning :sigh:

Thank you for sharing - The emotional rollercoaster of the first paragraph, the smooth and fun social sailing after and the crawling home tired but happy of the last paragraph... and thank you (not! ahahahah) for leaving me wanting for more ahahahah.

Jane Lovering said…
It was great to see you at Conference, Chris, wasn't it a fabulous Choc Lit get-together in the kitchen? So many of us all in one place, all drinking so much wine! It was a wonderful weekend, such a shame we have to wait for a whole year until the next one. x
Chris Stovell said…
Aw, Teresa, you are very kind to say such lovely things! That train ride was beautiful - you describe how it was exactly, that sense of watching the landscape come alive. And yes, I'll tell you more as I absorb the latest 'what if?' at home! Thanks for your time, Cx
Anonymous said…
Was lovely to meet you Chris, and lovely to get as many of the choc lit writers together as we did. And now I'm on tenterhooks for your lastest 'What if?' x
Chris Stovell said…
The kitchen get-together was terrific, Jane, and it was lovely, Alison, to talk to you there. It was a shame the rest of our merry band weren't there too... imagine the noise level and the empties then!!
Kath said…
Knowing how nervous you were before the trip, I'm glad you had such a smooth trip to Conference and a wonderful time while you were there. And you know I think it's well worth getting up at Crack of Doom if Wales wakes up as your train passes through it. But then I would, wouldn't I?

I love that pic of so many ChocLiteers together at one time. How brilliant that the RNA gives you the chance to get together and meet up with other Romantic novelists too.
Chris Stovell said…
It's such a wrench leaving Wales, Kath, especially when its looking like that! The other train journey I love is from Carmarthen, across Carmarthen Bay. I stop every time and simply watch that view unfold. And yes, thank you, I was glad I had the opportunity to go to Conference and meet up with everyone for all my nervousness beforehand!
Margaret James said…
It was so lovely to see all you Choc Litters and everyone else. It reminds me why I'm a writer. It means I can have lovely writer friends.
Margaret James said…
It was so lovely to see all you Choc Litters and everyone else. It reminds me why I'm a writer. It means I can have lovely writer friends.
Flowerpot said…
Sounds fabulous - and I'm dying to hear about the What If!!
Mandy K James said…
Glad you had a fabulous time! I hope to go next year! xx
Chris Stovell said…
Aw, so sweet, Margaret!(Don't forget the Exeter Novel Prize, people - see Margaret's blog for details!).

Sue, I'm still trying to get my head round that 'what if?'!!

You must, Mandy! The GCs must attend in force!
Pondside said…
You look so pretty!.....just what a romantic novelist looks like in my imagination.
I had to smile as I read the first line of your post. One of the results of my visit with Jane last year was that I learned to say Aberystwyth.
Chris Stovell said…
Oh,you, Pondside *blushes*.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch next then?
Chanpreet said…
I'm glad you had such a great conference Chris. I'm inferring, (hopefully correctly), that the title of work #3 is, "What If?"

Thank you for sharing the lovely photographs and I think it was so romantic your husband surprised you getting off the train. *Sigh* :)
Deborah Carr said…
I was so sorry to miss the conference but assumed I'd have just started a new job so didn't book to go. It's sounds amazing as usual. I'm glad you had a great time.
Chris Stovell said…
Chanpreet, hi, it would be a great title, but no, that's not it. And, my goodness did Tom surprise me! Thanks for your comments!

Debs, I'm sorry you weren't there - hopefully next year? Some of the messages were, I felt, quite bleak this year, just underlined really how tough it is out there and that the support of friends, family and a good organisation soften some of the bad news.

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