Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Ivory Towers

I'm not thinking of the kind that you get in fairy tales, but the kind inhabited by writers when they're practicing their craft. (Or, alternatively, sitting staring into space, wondering where they lost the plot and why their hero and heroine have stopped talking to them.)

It's a cliche that writers don't usually get out much - considering that several that I know write in their pyjamas at odd hours of the night, covered in coffee stains and crumbs, perhaps that's no bad thing.

The alone-ness of the act of writing often means that belonging to writers' organisations and critique groups takes on a special importance.

Today I decided I'd talk a little about an organization I've belonged to for a number of years – the Romantic Novelists' Association. (Helen is a member too.)

While there are many writers' circles, reading groups and creative writing courses in the UK, the majority of professional organisations over here will only accept published authors into their membership. The RNA is an exception to this - they not only welcome unpublished as well as published writers, but also run an annual contest for new writers who have made it into publication. As a ‘New Writer’ you are expected to submit a manuscript every year for a professional critique from a published author – a service that has helped polish many manuscripts that have subsequently made it into print.

Membership of the RNA gives you the chance to attend meetings and conferences – those are the chance to learn things. Then there are the parties -- with that all important opportunity to network, drink wine, gossip, admire everyone’s posh frocks, and generally have one heck of a time – when writers do get out of their ivory tower, there’s usually no stopping them –

At the beginning of next month there will be a big social occasion for the RNA which has a serious purpose at its heart – the award for the UK Romantic Novel of the Year. The long list for this major award, chosen by a panel of readers, features 20 books across a wide range of genres – chick lit, regional family sagas, historical novels – they are all very different, but they are all guaranteed to be an excellent read. If you want to take a look at the long list then check out the new link to the RNA which I’m adding to Title Magic’s list – at least I hope I am. If I can’t get it to work then I shall be screaming for super tec help from Mel – or Trish, or Mai. I know one of them will come galloping to the rescue.

Anyway, away from my techno deficiencies and back to the award. In the next few days the long list will be reduced to around six books by another round of reader recommendations. Then it’s down to a panel of judges to make the final choice.

The contest has a special significance for me this year as a fellow Welsh author and inspirational friend Catrin Collier is on the long list for her book One Last Summer. It’s a poignant and carefully researched novel that draws on her own family background to weave a fragile love story into an account of a woman trying to hold her home and family together. The story begins in Prussia, in the turmoil of World War Two, but has its conclusion in the present day. I really hope that Catrin makes it onto the short list and has a chance at the prize.

I’m hoping to be in London for the lunch when the winner is announced – definitely an occasion for the posh frock - some of the biggest names of romantic fiction on this side of the Atlantic will be there – if I make it then you’ll hear all about it – that’s a promise.


Helen Scott Taylor said...

Wish I could make it to the lunch as well Evonne. Something I always find interesting is how the definition of what qualifies as romance (and is eligible for the romance award) varies so greatly between the UK and the USA. The UK includes a much wider range of books within the definition--books that would be considered to be love stories or womens' fiction in America.

Holli Bertram said...

Best of luck to your friend, Catrin Collier!

I was surprised to see Lisa Kleypas on the long list. Interesting that Sugar Daddy was pubbed in England first.

Hope you make it to London for the awards. I'd love a first hand report.

Mel Hiers said...

I have to say again how much I love the concept of the RNA's new writer rule. At the very least it keeps a new writer writing (instead of just talking about writing, which is a pitfall a lot of us fall into.) I'm looking forward to hearing who takes the award!

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, luv to hear a report if you make it. Best of luck to Catrin also. So true about us writers in our ivory towers. Gee, if only that hero I'm wriing about would stop by for a long visit. And ain't it true when we writers get out to party, it's a real parteee!