July 31, 2015 · 13:35
Having a birthday while teaching a course for Arte Umbria, in Italy, was a lovely experience.
It seemed odd to take my birthday cards with me and stand them around my room, where nobody would see them, but word had obviously gone around regarding the significance of the date – possibly aided by nearly 500 Birthday messages on Facebook! – and there were more cards, hugs and birthday wishes. And there are far worse ways to begin your birthday than sitting on a sunny terrace with your e-reader while you sip a cup of tea and wait for someone to make you a scrummy breakfast.
One of the course participants had even brought me a present, a patchwork table runner made by his clever wife.
The courses are held on an Umbrian estate amidst a rolling landscape of trees, the village on the next peak, stone houses and olive groves. I claim the huge terrace as my classroom, and we began work after breakfast, as usual. More important than some old birthday – it was the first day of the course.
As luck would have it, the guests went on a trip on my birthday afternoon, to La Scarzuola. I had visited this amazing restored monastery on a previous trip, so I felt justified in staying behind. I worked for an hour – honestly, I did! My work in progress was calling me – and then I took myself down through the gardens to the swimming pool to dangle my feet and soak up a few rays. As I found the chef just finishing her swim, I chatted to her about how she’d come to work in such a fantastic venue. It’s a good story. I’m not going to tell you because I want it for a future book. (Sorry.) As with many conversations with novelists, the chat may have taken the form of me interrogating her, but she didn’t seem to mind.
When the guests returned, a little gentle work rounded out the day, until it was time to get ready for another fabulous meal, including prosecco jelly as a birthday treat.
I ate two bowls full.
Don’t tell anyone.
Here are a few of my favourite pix from Arte Umbria 2015, include those from our day off, when we went to Perugia. If you fancy joining me on next year’s course it’s 13-20 July 2016. (It won’t be my birthday!) Go to www.arteumbria.com for more information.
July 17, 2015 · 08:34
A few more pix from the RNA Conference last weekend:
1 The cemetery in the middle of the Queen Mary College campus. Never seen an on-campus cemetery before!
2 Participants in the ‘Show-and-tell versus show-don’t-tell’ workshop run by myself and Christina Courtenay.
3 and 6 The gala dinner on Saturday in the fab Rotunda library.
4 The ceiling in the library.
5 Gill Stewart and I have to refresh ourselves after filling goodie bags. (Those who know me well will not be surprised that I have the giant cuppa!)
7 Laura James and Christina Courtenay.
And my absolute favourite, courtesy of Janet Gover, the Choc Lit authors at the gala dinner.
Back row, L-R: Jane Lovering, Sarah Waights, Kate Johnson, Sheryl Browne, Linda Mitchelmore, Margaret Kaine, Margaret James, Laura James, Evonne Wareham, Liz Harris.
Front row, L-R: Janet Gover, Alison May, Rhoda Baxter, self, Christina Courtenay, Henriette Gyland.
July 14, 2015 · 13:27
The 2015 conference of the Romantic Novelists’ Association was fantastic. As it was at Queens College University, London, the city where many industry professionals are based, Friday was Industry Day.
Where else can you ask questions of agents such as Carole Blake (Blake Friedmann), Tim Bates (Pollinger), Lisa Eveleigh (Richard Beckley), Hanna Ferguson (Hardman Swainson) and Caroline Sheldon (Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency); and editors such as Kim Young, Helen Huthwaite, Martha Ashby, Kate Bradley, Anna Baggeley, Gillian Green, Jane Johnson, and many more? Also Matt Bates, fiction buyer for W H Smith Travel, Jim Azevedo of Smashwords, book bloggers, reviewers … the list went on.
Christina Courtenay and I ran a workshop titled ‘Show-and-tell versus show-don’t-tell’ on Saturday afternoon, and we were happy to get nearly 60 participants, some of whom allowed Christina to dress them in traditional Japanese costume and answer questions about how it felt to wear a kimono or geta (shoes). Thanks to everybody who took part, made it fun, wore the clothes and ate the biscuits and chocolate.
The workshops, talks and panels are only part of what goes on at a conference of course. One has to socialise a little.
July 14, 2015 · 12:34