The Romantic Novelists’ Association (@RNATweets) is sixty years old this year. You can read a little of its history here. I’ve been a member for twenty of those years, initially as a member of the New Writers’ Scheme and then graduating to full. During those years I’ve given talks and workshops at various of their meetings and conferences, been minutes secretary, vice-chair and editor of its two anthologies, Loves Me, Loves Me Not and Truly, Madly, Deeply. The Association has been instrumental in my connecting to publishers and agents, making a huge number of friends and developing a can-do attitude.
I’ve attended the annual Romantic Novel Awards just about every year and coveted winning one of those crystal stars so much! Dream a Little Dream and Just for the Holidays were shortlisted and I went along to the awards revelling in being amongst the chosen few. I didn’t think I’d win and I was proved right.
This year, A Summer to Remember reached the shortlist and I plunged into the fun of shortlistee photographs and the champagne reception with utter enjoyment. I’d got into a dress that I hadn’t been able to wriggle into for a while, my shoes were reasonably comfortable and settled in to chat with the other shortlisted authors.
Eventually, the reception expanded to encompass the rest of the guests, including my husband, who had waited out the photoshoot in the bar. It was time to claim our name badges, check our table numbers and find our seats at the circular tables dressed with snowy cloths. My agent Juliet Pickering from Blake Friedmann Literary, Film and TV Agency and editor Phoebe Morgan from Avon Books UK joined us, along with authors Dorothy Koomson, Lorna Cook, Jenni Keer and Bella Osborne.
The first excitement on the table was when Lorna Cook won the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award for The Forgotten Village. As this book had also lifted the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award, Lorna’s obviously written something special! The awards were presented by performer and broadcaster Jenny Eclair and compered by the ever-lovely Jane Wenham-Jones.
I’d backed Jules Wake to win my category, which was seventh in the running order, because Notting Hill in the Snow is such a charming book, but had also suspected it would go to one of the top-selling authors on the list, Carole Matthews or Sophie Kinsella. When Jenny Eclair announced that I had won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020 my jaw must have almost hit the table!
I remember very little about the next few minutes apart from chanting ‘Don’t fall up the stairs’ to myself as I made my way through the tables, doing the bump with Jenny Eclair as ‘social distance’ was being (somewhat) observed in view of Coronavirus concerns and grabbing my crystal star with both hands. I know I attempted a speech and choked up and I’m glad I retained enough presence of mind to thank the RNA, my fab agent and wonderful Team Avon and also Goldsboro Books for sponsoring the award.
I made my way back to my table with lots of lovely people shouting congratulations but I was too much in a daze to respond much. Sorry if I just gazed through you. Winning ‘a RoNA’ was such a dream come true for me that I was somewhere between Cloud Nine and Over the Moon. I have seen other winners act with dignity or with cool professionalism. I was just an over-excited mess!
At the end of the other awards, which I was too dazed to really concentrate on – even the wonderful speech given by Milly Johnson who received an outstanding achievement award – I was ushered off for more photographs with all the other winning authors.
Thank you not just to my agent, publishers, the RNA and the sponsors but to the volunteers who run the RNA and make it what it is, including working hard to give awards to authors like me at a glitzy event I’ll remember forever.
Thank you to the readers who read A Summer to Remember and loved it enough to put it at the top of the scoresheets.
Thanks to everyone who wrote the hundreds of congratulations I received on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, email, text and WhatsApp. This post is partly the speech I wish I’d had the presence of mind to make at the time.
But being an over-excited mess is what happens when you have a dream … and eventually, it comes true.