Thursday 20 February 2020

On Saturday, I attended the 'Love Writing Manchester' event put on by the Research in Arts and Humanities department at Manchester Met university in collaboration with the RNA. It was part of the association's 60th Anniversary and the special guest author was Debbie Johnson. 

After introductions, Alison May as chair of the RNA gave an excellent presentation entitled 'Then, Now and into the Future'. She gave us insight into why the RNA was formed and the original aims of the organisation which were to:

  • to raise the prestige of Romantic Fiction, a genre sometimes views with prejudice and outdated stereo types
  • to nurture authors
Presently, there are over 1000 members of which 300+ are members on the New Writers' Scheme. There are now annual awards recognising authors writing across all sub-genres - from traditional romance, historical fiction, sagas, fantasy, romantic comedy, romantic thrillers. In all these different genres, there is a love story thread. Looking to the future, the RNA is becoming more inclusive. Alison encouraged us to be proud of the breadth of authors and their fiction. and to celebrate what we do. 

Next was Jeevani Charika/Rhoda Baxter who writes romantic comedy. She took us through some tips for writing in this genre. One of these was, she suggested, 'the bigger the build up or tension, the bigger the laugh.' All the basic rules of romance such as the happy ever after ending will still apply in a rom. com. She said that when comedy arises organically from the characters that is far better than trying to force it. Her message to us was to have fun!

Liam Livings, gay romance author and RNA Diversity and Inclusion Officer, spoke about his life in writing giving insight into how he developed his writer's voice. As well as photographs of his early life, he treated us to some excerpts of his diaries and poetry that were part of his journey to becoming the multi published author he is today. 

After lunch, Kirsty Bunting of Manchester Met, who writes as Kiley Dunbar, was in conversation with the special guest, Debbie Johnson. We learned of Debbie's journey from writing short stories to winning the Harry Bowling prize for New Writing in 2010, joining the RNA through to becoming a highly successful author of romantic fiction. She was asked what she likes about being a writer and she explained how satisfying it is when fans message her and readers get in touch. She deals with big life issues in her books and readers often contact her to say how her books have helped them when dealing with the same things. 

'Troubleshooting Tips for Writers' by Katherine Fox of Manchester Met was another excellent session. Her talk centred on the following points:

  • the slow start
  • not enough tension
  • the backstory
  • cliches
  • show don't tell
  • keeping it real
As she went through each one and gave examples, I found myself reflecting back to my own writing to identify if and when I'd been guilty of them.  

A very interesting session was chaired by Alison May when she asked questions of members of Hera Books, a new all female publishing house established in 2018. The panel consisted of Lindsay Mooney and Keshini Naidoo, the publishers, and Jeevani Charika and Kiley Dunbar, two of their authors. They gave an insight into the world of publishing from submission through to publication. 

When the Writing School's One Thousand Word Meets Cute Competition winners were announced, it was great to hear that fellow ChocLit/Ruby Fiction author, Lucy Keeling was highly commended with her story, 'Getting the Shot'. Congratulations, Lucy!

All too quickly, the day came to an end. All that was left was to sample a glass of bubbly and some delicious cup cakes and say our  goodbyes. Congratulations to the organisers for such an enjoyable and informative day.  

Thank you for reading. Have you and your writer friends have any plans to celebrate the RNA's 60th anniversary in 2020? I'd love to hear what they are. 

You may aslo follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award empowers bloggers to celebrate other bloggers who are creative and bring positivity to the blogging community.

I was surprised and delighted to be nominated by Jessie Cahalin for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thanks, Jessie! It was just what I needed on such a grey blustery day. Having started my blog in January 2014 to trace my writing journey, I am thrilled to receive this accolade from such a prestigious blogger as Jessie, whose ‘Books in My Handbag’ blog is well known and followed globally. I’ve got to know Jessie over the last twelve months and value her support, enthusiasm and, above all, her friendship within our local RNA Chapter.
Here are the 11 questions set by Jessie for her nominees, with my answers:
Which three photographs would you present to capture your life? 
In my grandad's garden. I was extremely lucky to have a very happy childhood growing up in rural mid-Wales.
Walking on a beach in Crete on one of our many holidays in Greece. It came as no surprise to set my first novel on a fictional island there.
Holding my very first book in my hands.
Amazon Link
I believe laughter is one of the best tonics in life.  When was the last time you could not stop laughing?

The silliest things set me off laughing. I love Christmas cracker jokes, the cornier the better, and puns. This is a typical Facebook post that made me laugh from ex-colleague and writer, Paul Manship. Go on, you know you want to sing it.

Explain the last act of kindness you showed to a friend or stranger.
I consider myself to be a good listener and people have said it helps when they're able to share something that's worrying them and know it won't go any further.
Do you prefer the winter sun or the summer sun?  Explain your response.
Although I love crisp sunny days in Winter, especially as this year there haven't been very many, I much prefer the long days of summer with lots of warm sunshine. I would love to live in a country with guaranteed summer sun. Every year we try to spend our main holiday somewhere in Greece. The wall to wall sunshine is my idea of heaven. 

Describe your perfect Saturday evening.
It depends on the time of year. Last Saturday, it was horribly wet and windy so we ordered a Thai take-away meal cooked locally and then settled down to watching a new-to-us Scandi Noir series starring Rebecka Martinsson on the TV. 
What sorts of characters do you prefer to meet in novels? 
I like to meet well rounded characters with whom I can empathise. To be authentic, they may have some flaws but they will be people I'm rooting for to overcome the obstacles set in their way. Above all I need to like them.    
Give one sentence of advice to yourself when you were sixteen.

I would tell her to smile more! I seem to be pouting in every photo taken at that time. Perhaps I thought it made me look more interesting, ha, ha.

Is there a friend from the past you would love to get in touch with and why?
My friend, Pauline, and I were inseparable until she left for Art College after Form 5 (Year 11) and we lost touch. These days I'm sure we would have kept up the friendship with social media. 
What is your food heaven and food hell?
My food heaven is fish. I like all kinds of fish especially sea bass, maybe garnished with succulent juicy prawns, too. Food hell would be kidneys. It would be offal - boom, boom! (I told you I like silly jokes.)   
Share your favourite recipe.
My husband, Alan, does most of the cooking in our house and is good at it. However, I do like to make Welsh cakes using my mum's recipe. When our three children were in university, they often received a parcel containing Welsh cakes from their Nan. Nowadays, our grandchildren are learning how to cook them and then enjoy sampling them.

If you could travel back in time where would you visit and who would you take with you?
I'd love to go back with Alan to any Greek island before tourism arrived and sample the real Greece. We'd live a simple life, spending time in idyllic fishing villages and mixing with the locals. 

And now it's my turn to nominate 11 lovely bloggers whose blogs I enjoy:
I know how busy everyone is so please don't feel obliged to respond. Just enjoy your nomination. If you do choose to accept, here are a few rules to follow:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your blog post.
  • Nomin ate 11 new bloggers and their blogs. Do leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions.

Here are the questions for my nominees. I look forward to reading your answers.
  • What is your favourite room in the house and why?
  • What is your proudest moment?
  • What is your biggest fear?
  • What would be the biggest compliment a reader could give you about your writing?
  • What question would you ask your main character at the end of your novel?
  • Where would you take a guest visiting your home town for the first time?
  • What song has a special meaning for you?
  • If you could choose to be a famous person in history, who would it be and why?
  • Name a treasured possession.
  • What is your best quality and what is your worst?
  • Are you a lark or a night owl?
I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog and hope that my nominations will lead you to these other bloggers and find out more about their books.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.