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Attending the RNA's 2021 Virtual Conference

The Romantic Novelists' Association holds a yearly writers' conference. It's a great opportunity for members of the RNA, both established authors and aspiring writers who are members of the RNA's New Writers' Scheme, to meet up with agents, editors and other industry professionals for talks, workshops and some social networking. There is also an opportunity to book a 10 minute pitching slot with an agent or editor. This is an amazing opportunity for any writer seeking representation or hoping to further their career.

I have never been to the conference, but when the pandemic forced the conference online, it seemed the perfect time to 'attend', albeit from the comfort of my own home. So what is the event all about?

The event, held in mid July, ran from the late Thursday afternoon to Saturday evening. Each talk had a private zoom link and was well attended, with nil technical glitches as far as I was aware, which is a miracle in itself. Below is a summary of the weekend, so please join me as I relive the event...

Practice Makes Pitch Perfect
Approximately twelve (brave) authors pitched their novels to agents Juliet Pickering, Kate Burke and Sian Ellis-Martin from the Blake Friedmann Agency, who subsequently offered their feedback. I say brave, as they not only pitched in front of agents, but the audience aswell (pitches are usually private one-on-one meetings). For me, it was an excellent opportunity to see how others pitch and it put the intense experience into perspective. It made me realise that everyone is nervous and not everyone is perfect. The good pitches stood out as the stories were unique and the delivery was clear.

The agent's feedback was also informative. Although specific to each pitch, the more general advice from the agents were:-
Be positive and enthusiastic about your novel.
Be clear about what the story is about.
Don't get bogged down in what emotions you want your story to convey to the reader. Agents are interested in the plot and your ability to write.

121 Pitches

Those attending had the opportunity to pitch to an agent or editor on the Friday. Needless to say, the demand for these slots was huge, as was the administration task to sort out the hundreds of requests. Those lucky enough to be allocated a pitch was provided with instructions to submit the first chapter, synopsis and cover letter by a specified date. Nearer the time, a zoom link for the ten minute slot was provided. I am sure the time flew by and that it was a very intense experience for those who took part, but it was a great opportunity for everyone involved. Agents and editors are just as keen to find that "great novel" as writers are keen to find that "amazing agent" or "brilliant editor".

Building a Writer's Resilience

Hosted by author, Nicola Cornick, international best selling author, Dinah Jefferies, shared her experience of building resilience and revealed that even best selling writers can suffer from self-doubt, lack of confidence and impostor syndrome.

A - Z of Agenting
A talk about the role of the agent followed, delivered by someone in the profession who knows - agent Felicity Trew. It was packed with information and Felicity's enthusiasm for her job shone through.

The Proposal: Structuring Your Rom Com to Create Movie Magic
Screenwriter and senior lecturer, Marie Macneill, walked us through The Proposal film, using the key plot points to show us how to structure a rom com for the big screen.

Anatomy of a Scene
Towards the end of the day, award winning author Fiona Lucas discussed the anatomy of a scene, stipping a scene back to its basics in order to keep the story moving forward and the reader turning the pages, sometimes using samples from her latest book to illustrate the points made.

Digital Publishing:The Five Ws
Rhea Kurien, Editorial Director of Orion Dash, explained how digital publishing works, why it is so popular and how it is here to stay.

Interview with Beverly Jenkins
The weekend came to a close with author and podcast host, Dorothy Koomson, chatting with Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award winner Beverly Jenkins. Beverly's wise words, delivered in a calm, no nonsense way, was a joy to listen to as she chatted about her life as a writer and how she hoped her books educated readers about the real history of black people whilst at the same time enjoying a romantic read. Author of over forty novels, this interview is well worth a listen to when it is uploaded onto The Happy Author podcast.

I hope that next year I will have the opportunity to attend the RNA conference in person, in the meantime, I shall take on board all the advice given and channel it into my writing career for the future. Partying and enjoying a drink (or two) with other members of the RNA will have to wait until we can meet in person at the next conference.