A few weeks ago Tricia and I ventured up north for the 2014 RNA Conference. It was a pleasure to be driven for once, and thanks to Tricia’s skilful driving we arrived relaxed and rearing to go, if a little late for afternoon tea with no thanks to the motorway traffic, miles of roadworks and an incident that had blocked one of the two lanes through the roadworks.
The venue this year was Harper Adams University near Telford, Shropshire, an agricultural college where we were lulled to sleep by the wafting smelly air from the pig pens – good, healthy country air, as my mother would say. That aside, the food was exceptionally good, all prepared and produced at the college, and here I was even brave enough to sample goats’ cheese, which was excellent. I had always imagined it to be strong tasting and overpowering; it was quite the contrary.
Our quarters were in the student residence halls. My, student digs have certainly come on some over the years! A comfy bed, decent furniture and wardrobe and en suite bathroom, with every-thing else required (irons, kettles, fridges, etc) in the communal kitchen areas, where much socialising (and drinking) took place well into the night, with the exception of our first evening. Many had settled themselves on the lawns outside our halls for a picnic party. Too tired to join in, Tricia and I retired to the kitchen for a quick nightcap and left the youngsters outside to enjoy themselves. One of the main attractions of these conferences is catching up with old friends, finally meeting people perhaps only ‘spoken’ with via the internet, and talking and chatting to like-minded people – the mingling.
This was the first RNA conference I had attended for several years and had learned through experience not to attend every talk and workshop I could in the hope to glean and gather as much help and information on the rocky road to be being published. That’s something we all do as an aspiring writer when we first begin but that had always proved far too exhausting. One finds after a few hours, the body and the mind sags, the brain goes into shutdown through overload and you come away often more confused than when you started; so this year I paced myself, giving many of the talks a miss, particularly the first one after breakfast and lunch.
Thanks to the beautiful weather we were blessed with all weekend, I took myself off for long walks around the campus during this time, finding beautifully kept flowerbeds and lawns and quiet areas, a large lake with weeping willows and gliding ducks, fields of sheep, a game of cricket in progress, and a chatty, friendly man who told me lots about the work the university does.
I’d also noticed a step gear change in the RNA this year, something I was surprised by. Listening to the speakers at the talks I attended, there was definitely an undercurrent of unrest amongst the committee members which centred on self-publishing. This was evident in the fact that Amazon Kindle sponsored the drinks parties, many of the talks were geared towards being self-published and how to get your books into book shops, and a talk given by an editing company clearly touting for business from authors looking to self-publish. These seemed at odds against the recent vote taken within the RNA whether or not to allow self-published authors membership, which had resulted in a ‘no’.
It was all a little disheartening really. I came away without the usual buzz of excitement, with no inspiration or eagerness or that compelling draw to the wordprocessor to write that usually follows these events. The only positive I gained was attending Tricia’s Yoga for Writers workshop as the final event of the weekend. She has such a calming voice, is an excellent teacher and the many exercising and techniques we did left me feeling refreshed, relaxed and calm after what was a busy, noisy, weekend. I will certainly continue her regime.
We enjoyed ourselves, there’s no doubt about that, and came away loaded with books and treats in the goodie bags given to everyone. After a leisurely, trouble free drive we arrived home safely, if tired. I’m glad Tricia encouraged me to go with her. Will we do next year’s? I’ll think about it.