Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 110 – Conferring

So, today was a first as the RNA triumphiantly launched the speaker sessions of its Virtual Conference. Thanks are due to many people: Alison May, Sheila Crighton, Jan Jones, Elaine Everest (for the admin behind the 1-2-1s) for preparation and behind the scenes and Janet Gover for hosting. I am humbled by the amount of time and the dedication shown by so many to bring us an event in the absence of a physical get together. Thank you all.

Tonight would have been the Gala Dinner, but…

However, last night saw DH and I enjoy a wonderful meal from Café St Honoré. Main course of pork belly and black pudding, which is one of their signature dishes, pictured above. Saving the pud for tonight means there will be a touch of something special, if not enjoyed in a cocktail frock.

Tomorrow, the Scottish branch of the RNA is hosting an Historical Writers Day on Facebook. Several of us will be posting in the event telling you a bit about our novels. There will be giveaways! You might find a writer new to you and it would be lovely to have your company.

.How’s your weekend going? Family reunions? First outing in a mask? First trip on a bus?



Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 73 – A world elsewhere

An earlier RNA Goody Bag

We all have the things we really, really want to get back to. Whether it be outdoors like croquet or indoors like socialising with other writers in person, there will be something.

I was invited to join DH and his sailing friends for another Zooming slide-show last night. This time we were north and seeing stunning photographs from Finland, Norway and Sweden. The sailors are all a bit glum as sailing needs landing places and those don’t look to be opening up anytime soon.

Managed a little shopping although the bee sting is reaching, I hope, its climactic hours. There are downsides to being a redhead – didn’t you know?

Scottish country dancing friend circulated a wonderful Stanley Baxter u-tube short yesterday about how naughty it can be. (Or maybe that’s just Mr Baxter’s take on it.) Don’t see dancing with partners returning anytime soon either.

This is supposed to cheer you all up by focussing on the small positives so I’ll add that I met a neighbour I haven’t seen in the whole period. He and his all well and the reason we haven’t seen them is that the family have been doing all their shopping. So, many people looking out for others, is a real positive.


Burlesque Dancing and its place in the RNA conference

So what better way to round off three delightful days of sitting on our bums than by joining in a dance class to wiggle, shake and generally celebrate that often generously endowed part of the writer’s anatomy. Ali Adams’ event was innocuously described as a life story – Baby Wipes to the Burlesque Stage. The audience participation wasn’t revealed till later…


Leeds Trinity University, Horsforth








There are no photos of several distinguished and some of us not so distinguished RNA members strutting our stuff and throwing boas, lace thingummies and smouldering looks here, there and everywhere – takes practice does smouldering.

Jennifer Young, Horsforth







Capital Writer, Jennifer Young, was much too sensible to try any smouldering around the Sunday morning Book Stall, but she did bring along some copies of Storm Child for sale.

And me, what else did I enjoy? Found Debbie Taylor’s ‘Writing the Pitch Letter’ particularly useful and also Andrew Cornick’s ‘Emotional Resilience for Writers’. But there were as always endless goodies for the ardent conference attendee covering the art and craft of writing that best selling romance novel and making some life-long friends along the way.

Anne in Leeds Trinity 2018

Conference Know-How RNA starts from Thursday


Gala dinner Library

There’re are one or two tips I’d like to share with you. Any similarity to the marvellous advice sent out by RNA conference organising supremo, Jan Jones, is entirely intentional. Are tips copyright? I first posted this blog on 7th July 2014 and it still seems relevant.

Tip One Do not bring extra reading material. Goody bags are awaiting your arrival and they contain reading material. Also, there is a pop-up book shop on site.


Tip Two There are tenners and fivers in circulation or available from your bank. Get hold of some. The bar staff will be very pleased to see you.

Tip Three Yes, dressing-up on Saturday night is fun. the original of this one was made with insect wings. The copy uses plastic fingernails. Wouldn’t put either in the wash though.

early 2012 087

Tip Four Do bring extra coffee, tea-bags and fresh milk. (Jan Jones, see above.) When it comes to food, I miss cheese and fresh fruit that isn’t a rock hard apple, too.

Tip Five Remember the quiet person in the corner is probably a really important editor, agent or author, but they still want to be loved for themselves. Do spare a moment to talk to them.

Tip Six A small paper fan is really useful for creating a breeze in an overheated room. (thanks to Melanie Hilton).

Tip Seven Do keep to your ten minutes in ten minute slots at 1-2-1s Saying it once with feeling and commitment is good.

Tip Eight Think up a few pertinent questions to ask if the speaker invites them. It’s a horrible experience as a chairwoman looking at a sea of silent faces. Chances are if you want to know then others will appreciate the answer, too.

Tip Nine Never mind the photo opps, You can never have too many pairs of comfortable shoes. Slip-on and offs are particularly good as the days pass.

Manchester night out

Tip Ten Relax. Enjoy the moment(s). Go home. Apply lessons learned. Write best-seller.

Till next year…

http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US

“Oh, Mariah, let us not quarrel. We will be married within the month. At least your papa’s house contains plenty of books. You may practise throwing them.” anne stenhouse

http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK

http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US

 …a solitary figure ahead among some gorse and shrubs. Charles thought she made a beautiful picture in her riding habit with the exquisite hat Jenny Menzies wished to inherit. He thought the girl might get it sooner rather than later if he followed his instincts. At that precise moment, he wanted to shake Bella hard. Then he would lock her in the castle in Strath Menzies and hold her forever. anne stenhouse

http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK


html https://www.omnilit.com/product-mariah039smarriage-1173550-149.html


Diary of a Writer

DSC00433A Writer’s Diary is particularly given to feast and famine, I find. Look at July…

New Novel is at that nerve-shredding stage before consigning it to the electronic ether. Have I spelled the heroine’s name the same way every time? What about her hair colour? Find and Replace is one of my favourite buttons in word. Does everyone suffer from this desire to do just one more check? How many redundant words does the ms contain? That, just, then…

Next Novel is written, but lacks sparkle. Where to buy fairy dust? Ah, it’s more like blood sweat and tears. I see.

Short Story in Scots dialect Write another while first remains under consideration.

Short Article for Friends of the Botanics newsletter. No problem, I said when ambushed at breakfast recently. Were the bacon rolls in the  John Hope Gateway café that good? Probably. Have I mentioned how I think I may have lived in

Inverleith House in a previous life? No? (Maybe as the skivvy. Ah Well) It is one of my favourite houses in the world.

RNA committee responsibilities Getting there. There will be party tickets – just bear with me.

Real Life – And that is? Ah, yes. The DH likes to eat. Some shopping and preparing in advance required.

Conference So looking forward to Lancaster and meeting up with folk old and new. The RNA is truly one of the friendliest organtsations I’ve ever been in. Love it to bits.

Writers’ Club Edinburgh writers’ club is my alma mater where fiction writing is concerned and we’re really busy plotting. Watch this space (for when the publicity lady says Go, go, go!)

Then along comes August…  Society of Authors in Scotland AGM and lunch, Book Festival and other Festivals.

Did Jane Austen suffer feasts and famines? She was often on the move and maybe that inhibited writing.

Conferring and what-not

Gala dinner Library

Gala dinner Library

The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual conference took place in Queen Mary University, Mile-end, London this year. Every worthwhile conference needs its Gala Dinner and ours is no exception hence my photograph above.

The serious work of the conference, however, was by no means overlooked. Jo Grassick has written a blog about the industry day on Friday 10th. That’s here I don’t need to repeat it.

I enjoyed two interviews with publishing houses and so did many others. People also went to 1-2-1s with several agents. then from 2pm on Friday the conference proper got underway.

I heard Hazel Cushion of Accent Press tell us what she like to hear in a pitch. Praising the House is good. but, seriously, they like a well-proofed ms. She recommends retired teachers and curiously one of my newly published friends received her only overt criticism from just such a one. Their guidelines are on their website and Hazel was really going over what anyone can find there.

Reasons for being turned down might include a ms that’s too similar to something just published or one that just isn’t good enough. Her senior editor Cat Comacha was asked about pet hates and she offered too many adjectives and over-writing.

Regent's Canal

Regent’s Canal

A walk along Regent’s canal was a welcome breath of fresh air. You have to be alert to cyclists, however, as the towpath is only one-horse wide.

An editors’ panel included the distinguished Jane Johnson (Harper Collins) who spoke about the extent to which an editor impacted on a writer’s work.

Welcoming us to her first conference as Chair of the RNA, Eileen Ramsay commended us all for braving the tube strike and recommended the Fabulous At Fifty volume (about the history of the RNA) we would find in our goody bags. Oh yes, we love goody bags and I hope many of you are using my Daisy’s Dilemma pen. From me to you with love. We always need a pen.

Jane Holland conducted a whirlwind tour of her many names and pseudonyms which left her audience breathless and collapsed in giggles equally. Jane is multi-published and the thrust of her argument is that separate names reduces the confusion for readers and publishers alike when a person writes in several genres.

One of the panels asked the question ‘Can writers be expected to write happily ever after?’ Caution was urged over signing away rights the publisher has no intention of using. While those rights are contracted – neither can the author.

There were also workshops aplenty. From author insights to how to dress a Victorian many aspects of the modern writer’s life were covered. There is so much involvement in social media that speakers like Prof Alison Baverstock were eagerly listened to.

Water lily

Water lily

Research is important for all writers and particularly for historical authors. Jean Fullerton illustrated her talk on the difficulties of writing in the 2Oth century with some telling slides. Not only do medievalists have few mss to refer to, but they are not trammeled by facebook, twitter, photograph archives etc. We had a good giggle over one or two of the posters Jean used, but they were maybe tinged by a little nervousness. It can be difficult to express idealogy which was current but is now unacceptable. We concluded it was best to let the secondary characters utter the words and hold the opinions.

Too soon, it was John’s champagne cocktails and Roger’s Quiz (lethal and fiendish, if that’s not too many adjectives). Friendships renewed or made, business liaisons undertaken, books bought, borrowed and swapped, ideas swimming…

Till next year in Lancaster, 8th – 10th July. See you then?


Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference 2013

Roses in the Botanical Gardens Sheffield

Roses in the Botanical Gardens Sheffield

The Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference (RNA) was held this year in Sheffield University at The Edge. Lovely campus set among established Victorian houses with many mature trees (given the wonderful hot summer weather, this was important) and a rolling expanse of parkland behind the dorms.
After stuffing goody bags on Friday morning, I set off for the Botanic Gardens where the bees were hard at work making honey.
One of the main attractions of the conference is the social side. Writing can be a solitary, even isolating activity, and it’s great to get together with folk who are like-minded.

MuseItUp authors Helena Fairfax and Marie Laval

MuseItUp authors Helena Fairfax and Marie Laval

My fellow MuseItUp authors, Helena Fairfax and Marie Laval came along on Saturday for the day.
Scots based writers were thin on the ground this time, but Eileen Ramsay, Scarlet Wilson and Susan Bergen all made the trip too. I also met the delightful Ruth Long who has an uncle and aunt living round the corner from me in Edinburgh! And Canadian based Diana Scott who trained as a nurse in the ERI. One of my flat buddies is an ex-pat Scot, Jacqueline Cooper, and she distinguished us by coming third in the Elizabeth Goudge trophy comp. Congratulations, Jacquie. the brief was the first 2,000 words of a novel with the theme Ice.

Morton, Jacquie, Kate - top trio, Elizabeth Goudge Trophy 2013

Morton, Jacquie, Kate – top trio, elizabeth Goudge Trophy 2013

Two first for me this year. I appeared on a panel as a New Writers’ scheme graduate. I signed up to do a report of a talk: Food revealing character. No idea why I chose that one. Oh well, maybe a little idea. You can read that in a future Romance Matters if you’re an RNA member.