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Thursday, 3 April 2014

RNA Creative Writing Study Day, Hereford, 31st March 2014

Hard At Work...
In 2013, The Romantic Novelists' Association announced a generous donation toward  all its local groups. I'm a member of the RNA's Marcher Chapter, and we decided to put the money toward the hire of a room at The Courtyard, Hereford. The intention was to have a critique session. As it would be held so close to April 1st, the day was called  "Be A Fool For Love".

The prospect of spending a whole day with like-minded people talking about writing was irresistible, but we wanted to show we'd taken the RNA's  aims of promoting romantic fiction and encouraging good writing to heart. One month before the workshop, everyone emailed a ten-page sample of their current work in progress to organizer Ann Ankers. Ann collated them into a document which was then circulated among the group. The extracts were anonymous and we did a critique of every one, including our own. That way, we could make our comments without prejudice and still remain anonymous on the day.

Marilyn and Ann
Nobody likes the idea that their precious literary baby might be torn to shreds in a gladiatorial arena, so Historical novelist Joanna Maitland provided some invaluable advice beforehand. She advised that each critique should contain "three stars and a wish"–that is, highlight plenty of good points for every query or suggestion for improvement you make. This worked really well.

On the day, there were seven of us: Fay Wentworth, Georgia Hill, Christina Courtenay (fresh from winning the RNA's Historical Novel of the Year Award for The Gilded Fan), Joanna Maitland, Marilyn Rodwell, me and organizer Ann Ankers. Ann also acted as our chairwoman and did an excellent job. She  kept the discussions moving, and made sure the day ran to schedule.

Fay, Georgia, Christina and Joanna
We were treated like royalty by the hardworking staff of The Courtyard. Regular refreshments (including delicious home-made biscuits) and a fantastic lunch was included in the price, and we worked so hard the time flew by. A photographer from Herefordshire and Wye Valley Life came to record the event. This was organised byChristina Courtenay. That gave me pause for thought. As I'd played an April Fool joke on my DD that morning, when a guy tapped at the door and asked for "Christina" I thought for an awful moment  DD had sent a male stripper  to our meeting as revenge. Thank goodness I was wrong!

We all had an amazing day. I learned a lot, and can't wait until we can do it all again.

Have you attended a workshop? What was the most useful thing you learned?