Friday, July 24, 2009

RNA Conference 2009: Saturday

Yes, I didn't post yesterday. For the same reason that I missed a couple of conference sessions on Saturday: labyrinthitis. Makes me feel very sick and very dizzy and often quite unable to get out of bed. Nonetheless, I made myself get up on Saturday, in time for morning coffee (or more to the point, tea) and some sympathy from my fellow RNA-ers, including Anna Louise Lucia who advised me to try Nelson's Travella, a homeopathic remedy for motion sickness, and Jean Fullerton, who even knew which medication I should be taking. Nobody at all mentioned hangover.

Friday's session, I forgot to mention, was a panel on the subject "How too much?", which I made notes on for the RNA website and magazine. If you'd like to see what went on, go and have a look here. There are also reports of other sessions on the website.

Okay, Saturday. Unfortunately I missed Victoria Connelly's "Surviving Rejection" and Hugo Summerson's "Public Speaking", but I made it to Veronica Henry's chat about her writing career. Veronica has written for quite a few different types of media, including several TV shows and the Archers on Radio 4. She explained how a 10 point plan learned from her TV days helps her in her novel writing.

Next was Moira Briggs's entertaining and informative session "Crazy Like A Fox" on the literary blog Vulpes Libris, to which she is a contributor. The blog has had several strokes of very good luck--such as a complimentary piece in the Guardian and an interview with my crush de jour and general Romantic Novelists favourite, Richard Armitage, but more than that they have a solid foundation of very good book reviewers who really know what they're talking about. They review absolutely all types of books, from the very serious literary kind to much more light-hearted romantic fiction, including the works of several RNA-ers. I'm always heartened to discover 'serious' readers also enjoy, and aren't ashamed of, romantic fiction.

After this was Jessica Hart's excellent session on emotional tension. Jessica has written 53 books for Harlequin Romance, so she ought to know what she's talking about. She gave the analogy that the longer you hold your breath, the greater the relief when tyou let it go. The same goes for emotional tension in a book: the greater the uncertainty, the greater the tension, and the greater the reward when it all comes good.

As for the source of the tension, it must come from real emotion, such as hate or fear. Fear is a common source of tension in romance novels: fear of rejection, of loss, of failure. This fear often provides the character motivation: why is s/he so afraid of loss? This is the reason why the hero and heroine believe they can't be together--and they must believe it, utterly. If the tension can be resolved with one simple question ("Who was that woman I saw you with?") then it's not strong enough. Assumption ("That woman was his lover!") isn't enough. Sometimes the tension could be resolved with a simple question...but the character has a good reason for not asking it ("He'll know I've been watching everyone he meets with because I suspect him of a crime"). That's your conflict.

After afternoon tea, by which time I was feeling considerably better, was Chas Jones's enthusiastic session on "Why I hate publishers and what I've done about it." Chas believes the entire publishing model is flawed, and that publishers ought to be working for authors, not the other way around. Chas also shared our table at dinner that evening, and I don't think we frightened him too much.

Ah yes, dinner that evening. Saturday night is the gala dinner of the RNA conference, when we all dress up and try to outdo each other with our footwear. I wore my pink 1950s butterfly dress, with a butterfly necklace and hot pink Gwen Stefani shoes with the 5 inch heels. More pictures were taken of my shoes than of my face, I think. I greatly admired Anna Louise Lucia's gorgeous tropical-print dress, bought locally that same day, and Jane Lovering's very pretty rose-print prom dress, which I believe she actually got married in.

Also seated at our table was Kate Thompson, who finalled as a runner-up for the Elizabeth Goudge trophy. She wore an adorable black fur bolero, and didn't seem to mind people stroking it all the time.
Kate Thompson, Elizabeth Goudge runner-up

The Elizabeth Goudge trophy is awarded each year to a conference attendee who has entered the unique competition: to write the opening of a novel on a given theme. This year's theme was an email or text that had gone awry (I love that word, awry). Last year's winner, Imogen Howson, had returned the trophy (albeit reluctantly) with a miniature bottle of champagne for the new winner.

Stephanie Cage, Elizabeth Goudge runner-up (thanks Imogen for the photo)

Stephanie Cage was the other runner-up, while Lesley Eames walked away with the trophy. Congratulations Lesley!

Lesley Eames (left) with her trophy, and Imogen Howson, last year's winner (thanks Imogen for the photo)

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