Writing, Award Ceremonies and Comfort Zones

Sometimes I can be a bit slow on the uptake… No, I hear you cry, not you – you’re the epitome of quick-wittedness. Nothing gets past your razor-sharp brain…

Well, sorry to disillusion you, my lovely reader, but sometimes I totally allow things to slip the net.

I’ve never been one to stand in the spotlight. I’m definitely happiest in a crowd (or failing that, alone on a beach somewhere. With a dog. Maybe an ice cream? Or as I am now, just me and my laptop in perfect synchronicity and my fave toons on in the background) and so being the partial centre of attention last month left me a bit bedazzled.

Because I was up for an award – I know…right? Craziness… But my debut novel – The Valentine Retreat – was one of the contenders for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award at the recent RNA Conference.

My novel didn’t win – let’s just get that out there right now. No TV drama attempt to drag out what should be a simple reveal into something needing another whole season of episodes to get to… No. I didn’t win. Someone else did – and she’s lovely. Suzie Hull, with her debut novel called In This Foreign Land (if you like historical novels set in the First WW – check it out).

But in my need to control my urge to run away and hide my introverted self, I kind of turned the entire weekend into a dream-like blur. And only now, with some space and distance (and having recovered from the trauma of seeing how horrible I looked in Every. Single. Photo), only now am I beginning to appreciate what a great time I had.

It only occurred to me the other day that I should blog about the Conference, about the fact that I was supposed to go to my first IRL one in 2020, but of course the ‘virus which shall not be named’ put paid to that idea. That the progress in my writing career between 2020 and now has totally changed the landscape over which I walked when I attended this year. Back in 2020, I was a wannabe author, loads of first drafts to my name and not much else. Scroll forward to July 2022, and I have a debut novel out in paperback, its sequel with the publisher’s (Champagne Book Group) editor, and another two-book deal with a different (and soon to be revealed) publisher signed and sealed…

Okay, that was a bit trumpet-blowey… But as it’s not something I do very much, please allow me that little fanfare…

I suppose the point of this blog (other than the trumpet-blowey bit) is two-fold. Firstly, it’s about comfort zones. There’s no way I could have told my 2020 self that pushing myself out of my comfort zone sufficiently enough to book the conference (and then feeling a guilty level of relief when it was cancelled) was only the beginning. And that the ‘being out of your comfort zone’ thing never really goes away. All it does is change. Which is fine. Sometimes it’s worth remembering we can do very little to control situations, only our reactions to them.

So, while I stood on the stage and smiled and managed (I hope) to look composed, inside I was willing myself not to fall over, inadvertently vomit, or have a sudden Tourette-moment and scream something inappropriate at the, frankly, enormous crowd. Comfort zone most definitely vacated until I slid back into a group of people and again became happily anonymous.

And the other point of this blog?

Is that I had an absolute ball at the RNA Conference. People had told me what a friendly and welcoming place it would be. I didn’t totally believe them, but by the time this year’s event rolled around I had made enough connections with fellow conference goers to know I wasn’t going it alone, that I would have people to latch onto and hang around with – whether they wanted me to or not šŸ˜‰ – but it truly was a fantastic experience. Loads to learn, loads of goodies and free books, the venue – Harper Adams University – was excellent, and the friendly thing was on an unparalleled level. Such a wonderful group of (mostly) women. Added to which, there were also scores of football players staying at the same time as us, playing in some tournament or other (proper football players, not the sculpted hair and sensitive shin bones of the overpaid professionals) – so added blokes to sneak a sideways glance at. Win-win…

If you live in the UK, and write novels with a romantic element, I urge you to check out the http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org

If you’re already published and fit the criteria, you can become a regular full member. If you’re yet to be published – grab the chance to join the New Writers’ Scheme when the opportunity next rolls around. I did. I learned so very much from the RNA, from the critiques gained as a member of the NWS, from their online learning courses…

With their help, a handful of years after joining you too could be standing on a stage trying not to vomit onto the onlookers… What’s not to like about that thought? xx

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