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Monday, July 20, 2009

RNA Conference Part 5

The Morning After the Night Before

Groan. I woke up the next morning wondering just how many glasses of wine I’d imbibed the night before (answers on a postcard, please! Umm, trust me, you really don't want to know!). Still, my sluggishness was dispelled by a post-dawn shower, followed by the big task: it was time to load all of our (well, Sue’s) belongings back into the car. Just where had the weekend gone? I was soon traipsing back and forth between apartment and vehicle and acquainting myself with the early morning drizzle that had decided to descend upon the university campus. Inevitably, it was half past eight again before we made it to the restaurant for the final time for a spot of breakfast.

This time we were surrounded by French students on some kind of foreign exchange programme who had reserved half of the tables. C’est la vie! Nonetheless I just had time to polish off yet another English breakfast – and I’m pleased to say that Sue joined me this time – before stretching my weary legs on the way to Melanie Hilton’s discussion of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme.

This was another useful and informative hour, and it really helped that there were a number of real-life readers for the scheme in the audience who were able to handle audience questions. With our minds slowly dawning to the fact that we have a LOT of work to do between now and the end of August, Sue and I headed upstairs for the final talk of the weekend, entitled “Sense and Sensitivity”.

This one was hosted by Linda Gillard, a well-established author who took us through an exploration of the five senses and showed how to use them in our writing. I have to admit, I was a little subdued when I entered the room, noting that the desks were arrayed in a square around the edge and that each of us had a pencil, some notepaper and some photos. Did this mean that we were going to have to work? With the last remnants of the Pinot Grigio still in my system I really wasn’t in the mood to do anything active, but thankfully this feeling soon passed when I learnt that our work wasn’t going to be ‘shared with the class’.

Our first activity was to recall a major childhood memory and describe it by using the four senses other than visual. I was immediately transported back to the shed in my next door neighbour’s garden, which was our ‘den’ back when I was seven. Yes, I read and was influenced by the likes of Enid Blyton’s The Secret Seven when I was this age! The smell of freshly sawn wood was strong in my nostrils and I found myself really getting into the task. Next up was a photo exercise, where we picked a snapshot and had to describe the scene, again relying on non-visual senses. I chose a picture of a group of monks at prayer, and this time I could almost hear the shuffling of robes, the turning of pages, the cough from one of the brothers who’d caught something when he’d been outside weeding the garden earlier. My footsteps were echoing on the tiled stones as I walked among the monks and I could almost taste the stony dust in the air as I ran my hand along one of the roughly hewed blocks that made up the walls...

Anyway, I digress. I loved this task and really got into it. Maybe you can tell? We then had to choose a more recent memory and once again describe it, so I recalled a moment on the beach at Bamburgh Castle with Sue, when we paddled in the chilly North Sea waves. I had to check under the table to make sure that the sand wasn’t between my toes because I could have sworn I felt it. The final task was picking a photograph of a person and describing them using the senses once again. I ended up with a grumpy-looking chef and I could almost smell the spices from his kitchen. I’m sure he had pasta seeping from his very pores.

With the last talk over, it was time to head back down to the conference room, where some pretty amazing statistics were read out about the popularity of romantic fiction, the fine magazine Romance Matters was discussed and finally Katie Fforde popped up to sum up what had just happened. There was a lot of clapping in this section so I left with sore palms. As we had a long drive back, Sue and I decided we didn’t want to hang around for the buffet lunch, as we just wanted to get going. After a brief run-in with a stoat on the road just out of the campus (thankfully it survived the encounter), we were off, our heads filled to the brim with everything writer-y and romance-y! We came across quite a few of those modern-day scourges of the road (I’m talking caravans), but otherwise our trip went smoothly on our way home.

I even had time to stop off and treat myself to an all-time favourite (a double chocolate milkshake) before we finally reached our quaint little village, exhausted but satisfied, our appetite for romance fiction conferences sated...at least for this year.

The End – but some useful advice to follow in tomorrow’s part six!

Catch up on earlier RNA Conference posts here:
Part 1
Part 2

Part 3
Part 4


Linda Gillard said...

Hi Sue

Catching up with this rather late... I was really interested to read how you got on in my workshop. I do hope you'll find it useful in future books.

And I know JUST what you mean about the shed! Your description took me straight back to my Dad's shed where I too played Blyton games with my friends.

Best of luck with your writing.

Graham said...


Thanks for your comments and thanks for doing the workshop. I think Sue and I both got a lot out of it.