The second my book deal was announced and I was able to share I’d now also be writing love stories under the pen name Amelia Henley (you can read about that here), I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The very second. Before I tweeted my news or posted on Facebook, I was eagerly signing up for membership.
I had waited a long time to join. I didn’t know exactly what the RNA was but isn’t the name wonderful? Romance conjures such evocative images (raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens).
After I’d joined I was super excited to discover there are ‘chapter’ meetings held in various locations throughout the UK. My local one was Leicester. I was thrilled. My son is at Uni in Leicester so I’d be able to go to a meeting and then see him afterwards. Immediately I sent him this message telling him my news and sharing that I thought the Romantic Novelists’ meetings would surely consist of members lying on clouds, under rainbows being fed chocolate by unicorns.
He asked me what the actual benefits were.
Unicorns, chocolate, rainbows and clouds? I thought about it properly, my expectations were, perhaps, a little bit high. I didn’t know what the benefits were but I couldn’t wait to find out. I pondered what I should wear to give out that romantic vibe.
“Do you think my wedding dress would be overkill?’ I asked my husband.
He thought that it probably would.
I arrived late, flustered. I’d been writing and had lost track of time. Everyone was already there. Everyone already eating. The room crowded, I couldn’t see a seat. Luckily Sue Moorcroft, who I already knew spotted me lingering uncertainly at the door. She kindly invited me to sit with her.
Lizzie Lamb, who I’d already been messaging gave me a huge smile and told me she was glad I’d made it. Instantly I relaxed.
The other writers were lovely, LOVELY. I was made to feel hugely welcome and after so many solitary years spent writing it was fabulous to connect with a local group who had experienced the same highs and lows of publishing, and the same hopes and fears.
After food, those that had news to share, shared. There were new book covers, publication days, nominations for awards. Each announcement met with a huge round of applause. The atmosphere was encouraging, nurturing. It felt a safe space to be. Instinctively I knew that this group would not only celebrate each other’s achievements, they would also be a shoulder when things weren’t going quite so well.
Literary agent, Kate Nash, came along to talk about submissions and the industry which, even as a published writer I found enlightening.
There might not have been any rainbows or unicorns at the meeting but I found something even better – friendship and support.
Thanks everybody for making me feel so welcome. I can’t wait until the next meeting.