Thursday, 21 July 2011
Writers bottom is potentially a bit of a problem for those who spend large amounts of time sitting, tapping away. But finally, there's a solution. ZUUUUMBAAA! Classes are spring up all over the place although they're not exactly classes because you don't have to learn zumba as such. Basically it's a fusion of a number of different dance styles, salsa, merengue, cumbia and all you have to do is follow the leader. My zumba teacher Ashley is a dancer, so he makes the moves look good (on him anyway!) and he makes it terrific fun. We all jump around like crazy for an hour - an hour is all I could manage believe me - and end up sweating like horses which have just run the Grand National. The thing is, you definitely know you've done some exercise but it's only taken you an hour. It's far less boring than the hideous gym with its endless hours plodding on a treadmill and part of the fun is watching how everyone else interprets the moves. Some are wigglers, some jumpers, some always half a step behind and others like me look as if they don't know what's hit them.
Zumba is, though, the perfect antidote to writers bottom so I'd say give it a try!
Sunday, 17 July 2011
This is Hunton Park in Hertfordshire, venue for the new Festival of Romance which takes place on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd October. It looks like a beautiful place to hold an event giving readers the chance to meet authors of romantic fiction. I believe this will be the first time such an event has taken place in this country although there are similar conventions in the USA which attract massive audiences. Only yesterday I went to hear author Janet Gover talk about the Romance Writers of America event she has just been to in New York. There, they had readers queueing out of the door and up the street to meet their favourite authors and the conference programme was like a small booklet it was so full. There are all sorts of ways to connect with readers, Facebook, Twitter, blogging but few opportunities to meet people face to face. And yet readers are the people who keep us all going with their loyalty, enthusiasm and addiction to romantic fiction.
The Festival of Romance is a brave new venture with its own easy to use website which encourages discussion and interraction. There will be awards for the Best Romantic Read and the Best Historical Read and the Have a Heart Ball on the Saturday which, as with all these things, will be a fantastic opportunity to wear a posh frock. I wish Kate Allan the organiser much luck with what looks to be an exciting new venture for all our diaries. Here's a link so you can look for yourself.
Monday, 11 July 2011
An excellent conference in the beautiful hills of Caerleon, Wales. I went to so many sessions, my head is spinning but here's a snapshot of what went on... Liz Fielding (photo below in the yellow top), long term Mills and Boon author talked about how putting subtle humour into her books, juxtaposed with more serious subjects has added tone and colour to her very popular stories. Mills and Boon books aren't romcoms, but readers still like a lightness of touch. Jane Wenham-Jones (photo above) chaired an excellent session with Jill Mansell, Louise Allen and Elizabeth Chadwick which covered a variety of issues. The thing I picked up on most was the different methods really successful authors have to come up with the goods. There really is no right or wrong - Jill writes on the sofa, with the telly on, in long hand and plots on the longest piece of paper you have ever seen using coloured post-its. Wonderfully low tech, but it works for her. I was very encouraged at two different talks (firstly by Mills and Boon editors including Flo Nicoll with whom I had a one to one earlier, and secondly by MIRA editors) to hear publishers who were still keen to have submissions which is always nice to know. The MIRA editors made a point of saying how many Mills and Boon authors had gone mainstream and that they were always looking for new slants on established themes - a recent acquisition by MIRA of a werecat (as opposed to werewolf) paranormal was an example of how, if you are inventive, you can create new interest in genres that might otherwise appear to have peaked.
Fiona Harper gave an excellent talk which included tips on how to dig deeper into your characters' motivations to provide a more emotional story and create heroes and heroines who are real and believable. The main thing I got out of this was that you have to know your characters inside out and that it is useful to identify a single phrase with which to sum up a character, eg 'live life to the max'. Then of course you have to dig deep to decide why that individual has that trait. So, for example, they might have lost their parents at a young age which makes them feel that they have to grasp every moment as if it were their last. That though would be just one layer, you always have to dig deeper....
A fun session was given by Louise Allen (seen in the blue t-shirt below) who writes Regency romances and has a wonderful collection of prints from the period. Not cheap (she buys most of them on Ebay), these provide invaluable insights into the period not just the clothes that people wore, but insights eg into how people were grouped. For example one lovely print showing the entrance to Oxford Street near Tyburn in London. Louise explained how she looks with a magnifying glass at these prints many of which are small and very detailed, to get the maximum information and essence of the period out of them. All sorts of things can be of interest, such as curiously the fact that ladies often held their parasols with the handle facing down, presumably to keep delicate silks and other fabrics away from the dusty streets. I couldn't help buying a copy of her book on Regency walks through London even though I had promised myself I couldn't carry another thing.
A warm thank you to Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson of the RNA for a wonderful, inspiring conference with lots of good food and good company.