Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Writers' Wednesday - Writers Courses, Conferences and Holidays

I’ve just finished perhaps the busiest  month of the year.  I’m glad to be drawing a breath and taking
time to do things – actually remaining in the same place for more than a couple of days at a time.  I’ve been travelling, teaching,  talking . . . I  don’t think  I’ve had a moment of ‘peace and quiet’ except for the times when I crashed out asleep  - usually around the early hours f the morning. And yet I feel more refreshed and invigorated than if I’d spent the month at a spa of taken a holiday somewhere in the sun for a few weeks.

That’s because I’ve been  at several writers’ events – the  fabulous RNA Conference at Lancaster University  at the beginning of the month and then the week long wonderful Writers’ Holiday at Fishguard in Wales last week – we finally arrived back on Monday  and I seem to have spent the rest of the week doing the laundry that has built up  - I’m sure it breeds in the suitcases. That is, when I wasn’t making notes and planning stories  or future courses as a result of everything I’ve learned at both events.  (I spent the middle of the month visiting my dear friend Michelle Reid  so that was obviously time to talk about writing  and books and publishing as well  so there was never really a time when I wasn’t  deeply involved in the world of writing and romance – and poetry and  crime stories and discovering ideas on your doorstep   - and music (this last list is from the Writers’ Holiday) .

Several people have asked me why – why spend so much time and energy travelling to these writers events  - and teaching at them? Why put so much effort into planning and preparing courses and handouts  for them when I’m ‘the other side of the desk’  and  teaching, rather than listening to other presentations?

Well, first of all for the company . Writing is such a solitary occupation. Most days it’s me, the desk, the computer – perhaps a cat  or two . The Babe Magnet is around  but he’s always in his office upstairs, writing his own books (or preparing a course or two that he’ll be teaching).  We have to have a ‘date time’ to meet for coffee or we’d never see each other all day – my characters and his research would see to that!  So never underestimate the value of the companionship of other writers.  If there’s one way of proving the irrefutable rule of writing – that there is no ‘right way’ of doing things – then it’s listening in to a gathering of writers and seeing how we all meet up with so many of the same problems but we have our own individual ways of getting out of them. I may have spent 30+ years in this business and be  focussing on my 66th title – but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn.

Nor, thankfully, that I have no new people to meet and new friends to make.  This summer I met the brand new Harlequin Historical author Lara Temple – we  bonded over several late late nights in the kitchen in our flat and I hope to get her to come and meet everyone on my personal blog.  I also had a chance to snatch an all too brief chat with Sarah Wendell  the power behind the web site
Smart Bitches Trashy Books after her great talk on dealing with reviews – Something we all need to take on board in these days of  viral communications the minute you poke your nose out into the internet world. (It was even worth missing another talk that was  going on elsewhere in the conference  - with former Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Gibbon and someone called  Stephen Wade (aka the Babe Magnet) talking about Murder Investigation, Fact or Fiction)   
Sarah  Wendell at RNA
Oh, and talking of internet communication, sadly the   Skype Q&A with  director Laurie Khan  didn’t happen but if you haven’t already seen it and you get a chance to  see the film she directed Love Between  The Covers – do grab the opportunity.  After so much mocking  and the  dubious value of   Julie Moggan’s Guilty Pleasures  this is a wonderful, affirmative look at romance writing and its value for readers, the strength and independence – and variety of its authors. 

These were the highlights of my conference. The highlights of my ‘Writers’ Holiday ‘ were – well everything.   From my small but beautifully formed group of students on the Complete Romance Writing Course to the  multi-sized, multi-aged  group of alpha males   whose glorious voices made up the CwmbachMale Voice Choir  in the concert – and until-midnight extra singing performances – that round off the wonderful week by the sea at Fishguard – there was nothing not to like.  Great courses if you wanted to go to them – comfortable rooms if you wanted to write or to sleep or to talk.
Cwmbach Male Voice Choir

One of my favourite times this year was sitting discussing  a student’s novel  with the two of us constantly pausing to scribble down notes, lines, ideas for our own work as a result of the inspiration that comes just from  sharing the writing experience and possible ways of dealing with problems.  The truth is that a Writers’ Holiday is never really quite that.  Given the freedom from household chores, from cooking (the friendly and welcoming staff deal with those)  and any ap
pointments other than those dealing with writing, you can have your own private retreat and let your mind range over  your current idea of the new one that strikes in the middle of a class  (my eldest, male student’s inspiration as he built his character around her name, her age, and the image of a falling leaf is one that will remain with me for ever).

I’ve been going to Writers’ Holiday (at Caerleon and then at Fishguard)  for over 17 years – and every time I come back refreshed and invigorated. I even loved the Thursday night poetry reading  and that’s not something I’ve admitted to for a long time.

Disappointments? Well, yes – the fact that I couldn’t get to every course on offer. But there were always the ‘After Tea’  sessions and the after dinner Main Lectures  all of which sparked off interest and ideas and we were well worth listening to.   There was also the best back and shoulders massage I’ve ever had in my life (well – apart from last year and the year before . . .)  to relax me just in case I wasn’t already relaxed  enough.

Obviously I’m partial where writers’ courses, conferences and Holidays are concerned but if you fancy experiencing any of these then you need to consider  whether it’s worth investing your money in any event. There are so many writing courses around these days. But are they worth spending your hard earned cash on?

How can you choose?

Look at the tutor’s credentials -  If you want to get published, get someone to teach you who is well published themselves. It helps if their past  students are too.

Look at what past students/attendees say about the place and the people. The last night’s presentation of thanks to Anne and Gerry Hobbs at Fishguard spoke of the way they created a ‘family’ atmosphere  where old friends meet up again time and time again  and new ones  soon become old ones.

How long has the course been running?  This year’s Writers’ Holiday was their 30th! They have a huge repeat rate of students, who can’t resist their courses because they are well organised, the food is fabulous, the location is wonderful and the tutors are all working and well published writers.

On Facebook everyone from the RNA and Writers’ Holiday  have been posting photos of the event – bringing back such great memories and making me want to go back again right now. I’ll be back in Fishguard again in February for the Advanced Romance Writing Course  (already running close to being booked up) and I just can’t wait.   I’m also running a Focus on Romance Writing Retreat in September – and more courses in the future. Check out my Events Page on my web site for details.

I'm currently working on a duet of books about two sisters so I'm having double the enjoyment creating double the conflict, double the emotion and double the resolution - with two happy endings to look forward to.

My next  romance to be published will be Indebted to Moreno which is out in October. I still  don't have the UK cover yet but I can share the USA one with you. 

Also coming soon is a reprint of  A Throne For The Taking - which was originally published in  June 2013. This is reprinted in a 3 in 1 By Request - entitled Claiming His  Princess which is out in August.

All the up to date news can be found on my web site  on my blog    or my Facebook page

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