Miss Pym and the Slough of Despond


I seem to have been circling round the novelist Barbara Pym most of my writing life. A friendly librarian steered me towards her books when I was still at school. By then I knew that, one way or another, I was going to write fiction as long as I lived.

“You will enjoy Miss Pym,” said the librarian. “All writers do.”

First Encounter With Miss Pym

He was a reserved man with unruly hair and spectacles who hardly ever talked to the customers. My mother’s theory was that he was shy. Personally, I thought he had one foot in a fictional world most of the time and didn’t check in with Planet Earth often enough. Possibly we were both right.

Anyway, he had introduced me to Rosemary Sutcliffe and I trusted him. I borrowed Some Tame Gazelle. It had a rather dull cover but I had learned to ignore trivia like that. (It was actually a first edition, dust jacket preserved in library plastic.) I took it home, excited.

romantic novelist busy editingAnd found that he was not infallible, after all. Either that or I wasn’t a real writer. I hated it.

Returning it, I struggled to explain to the friendly librarian. All I could come up with was, “It’s a very lowering sort of book.” (I will come back to this.) He muttered something about my being too young perhaps and we both bowed and retreated to our corners.

But I felt his disappointment keenly. If I’m honest, I still do.

Miss Pym’s Progress

Then, some years later, Miss Pym made the headlines. She had been a modestly successful author throughout the fifties, but nobody much noticed when her books stopped being published. But then the venerable Times Literary Supplement invited its contributors to name  the most underrated author of the twentieth century. And Barbara Pym was named twice.

She had been out of print for 16 years.

Now publishers were falling over themselves to publish her next novel. She became a staple of the distinguished Virago Modern Classics list.

Where Oxford don and critic Lord David Cecil in company with distinguished poet Philip Larkin led, others were happy to follow, on both sides of the Atlantic. Her acknowledged enthusiasts include John Updike and Ann Patchett, among others.

In 1994 the Barbara Pym Society was set up, after a weekend gathering at St Hilda’s, her old college, to discuss her work. They organise an annual North American Conference as well as regular meetings.

And it’s not just academics and professional literary types that take part.

There’s even a FanFiction prize for a short story  “that prominently features one or more characters from Barbara Pym’s published novels, in any setting or situation the author chooses.”

Miss Pym’s Publishing

Barbara PymIf you’re wondering why I am calling her Miss Pym instead of something friendlier, it’s because she seemed to like it. She was at Oxford at the time when people called each other by their surnames so she was known to old student mates as Pym. Even poor Pym, sometimes, according to a recent biographer, of which more later.

Although we know that she wrote – and finished – a first novel when she was sixteen, she was no teen prodigy like Georgette Heyer (seventeen, published aged 19), Molly Keane, pen name M J Farrell, (seventeen, published aged 21) or Françoise Sagan (seventeen, published aged 18). She was thirty-seven by the time Cape published Some Tame Gazelle.

A timeline might help:

  • 1913 born in Shropshire, father lawyer, mother church organist
  • 1931 to St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Reads English, Falls in love painfully. Makes friends.
  • 1935, living at home, finishes 1st novel, many rejections, more writing
  • 1940 Bristol Censorship Office, falls in love painfully. Joins WRNS
  • post war continues to write, shares London flat with sister, more rejections
  • 1950 Jonathan Cape publishes Some Tame Gazelle
  • 1963, having published 6 Pym novels, J Cape rejects No7. As does everyone else.
  • Continues to write, many rejections, retires from day job, leaves London
  • 1977 January TLS poll, Macmillan publish Quartet in Autumn
  • 1978 Quartet in Autumn short listed for the Booker. She gives a talk on Finding a Voice about her writing history on BBC radio.

Fellow Feeling for Miss Pym

Flowers and star for RNA 2019 outstanding achievement award presented to Liz FieldingThis is where my writerly fellow feeling almost chokes me. It had taken her 16 years since she left Oxford to achieve publication. During that time a lot of rejection came her way. The woman, you feel, had paid her dues. When Cape accepted her, she must have felt justified. She’d made it, at last.

And then Cape said she was out of step with the times and dumped her. To be fair, other publishers agreed when she sent the ms out more widely. Even I can see that she has an almost pathological unawareness of the outside world, at least as it was at the time of writing.

The novels are beautifully written but the dramatic electronic benefitspersonae are straight out of Antony Trollope. The vicars per head in a Pym novel must have exceeded the norm, even in the 1950s, by several hundred per cent. I’m not at all surprised that she quotes Ivy Compton Burnett, Elizabeth von Arnhim and Trollope himself among her influences in the BBC talk. She was building a fictional world, almost as much as Tolkien.

Cruellest of all, the fact that she’d lost her readers seems to have come as a terrible shock to her.

She said in her BBC talk, “It was an awful and humiliating sensation to be totally rejected after all those years, and I didn’t know what to do about it.” Unbearable!

The Slough of Despond

Even when I was still struggling to enjoy her books, the impact of that awful blow got to me. So did her attempts to find another style or theme or genre. She had, after all, pretty much created her own genre. And I genuinely rejoiced at that  triumphant recovery after so many years.

And then I began to help put together the 50th anniversary memoir of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Ploughing through the archives, I was astonished to see that Barbara Pym was one of the judges of the Romantic Novel of the Year in 1974.

She described herself to the Award Organiser as “former novelist”.

Moth Anniversary memoir of RNA

Fabulous at Fifty edited by Jenny Haddon and Diane Pearson

Horrified, I took the offending Newsletter to my Senior Compiler, Diane Pearson, author, editor and then President of the RNA.

“Oh yes,” she said. “So sad. She never knew how good she was.” And Diane gave Miss Pym a namecheck in her bio for our book.

She had gone to work for Jonathan Cape aged 16 and read “voraciously and indiscriminately” through Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Beverly Nichols, Arthur Ransom, Ernest Hemingway (very raunchy and  disguised under a Dr Doolittle dust jacket), “the essential Proust (difficult), the first Barbara Pym (lovely!) and the early James Bonds.”

I suspect it was Diane who proposed Miss Pym as a judge, now I come to think of it.

Miss Pym the Life

So you will see why my eye, or rather my ear, was immediately caught by a new biography out now. The Adventures of Miss Pym by Paula Byrne was Book of the Week on Radio 4, read perfectly by the wondrous Hattie Morahan. She gives it just the right hint of irony, of courteous interest mingled with faint disbelief – exactly what that Barbara Pym’s novels  arouse in me, most of the time.

This is the third account of Barbara Pym’s life that I know of. The first was autobiography, A Very Private Eye, pieced together after her death by her sister Hilary and her literary executor Hazel Holt.

The second was written by Holt, a close friend, long term colleague at the International Africa Institute and fellow writer. It was published in 1992 which will have been about when I read it. I was still trying to engage with those much admired novels, you see, and I thought knowing more about her might help.

In one way it does. Holt is warm and appreciative but realistic. She says, “It seemed right… to try to put Barbara into her own setting, to define the manners and mores of the social scene around her (one day her novels will be a rich source for social historians), to describe her friends and colleagues, and to show how her books were moulded by her life, as well as the other way around.”

It’s very discreet, as so many of Miss Pym’s close friends and lovers (who often made their way into her books in various guises) were still alive then. But the social history is thirty years closer to the times it talks about. The two are definitely complementary, even when they cover the same ground.

Miss Pym and the Booker Prize

If I were writing this as a story, not only would the Evil Editor at Cape gnash his teeth and rue the day (it was Tom Maschler, and I think he did, a bit). she would win the bloody prize.

She didn’t.

But, after her death, the BBC had the inspired idea of creating a faction episode around the day when she went to the Booker dinner. It was written by James Runcie – he of the Grantchester series of novels and, so suitably, the son of a former Archibishop of Canterbury. Starring Patricia Routledge as Barbara Pym, it also featured real people from her life, including her sister Harriet and lifelong friend and object of devotion, Henry Harvey.

And for the lowdown on Henry Harvey, Paula Byrne’s book is truly rewarding.

Miss Pym’s Lessons for Authors

1    Never give up. You never know what will happen.

2    If you need to write, write what you want to.

In her BBC talk she said that, after the rejection from Cape and other publishers, she’d thought of trying something different – perhaps a thriller or an historical novel.

In March 1978, she told the RNA that the rejections never stopped her from writing. Then, “Later she went into hospital where she enjoyed reading romantic fiction and began to wonder if she could write it. She even started one, but an entry in her diary for March 1972 reads, ‘I have thoughts of an idea for a new novel, all old, crabby characters, petty, obsessive and bad tempered.'” That became Quartet in Autumn.

3    Make sure you have a day job. Her job at the Africa Institute paid the bills, even when she was published and was, of course, still doing so when no publisher would touch her.

She was a truly admirable writer, in so many ways. I see that I shall have to read her books again. This time I may gain greater understanding, perhaps.

I’m looking forward to it.
Sophie Weston AuthorSophie

Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?

  1. Special Licence Marriage — Heyer’s Research Failing?
  2. Heyer Heroes And Falling in Love With One
  3. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  4. Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas : 8 Maids a-Milking & Heyer
  5. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?
  6. Georgette Heyer Study Day
  7. The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities
  8. Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?

Eton_Schoolboys,_in_ad_Montem_dress,_by_Francis_AlleyneRecently, I’ve been indulging in comfort reading. And my comfort reading tends to be Georgette Heyer. I have all her historical novels in a long line on top of my bookcase. And this time, the ones I read were SylvesterFrederica, and Venetia. I noticed that they have something interesting in common, apart from being brilliant novels—they all feature children as main (rather than walk-on) characters. Heyer’s children here are Edmund (in Sylvester), Jessamy and Felix (in Frederica) and Aubrey (In Venetia).

The other thing I noticed was that, in these three books, Heyer’s children didn’t always seem—to me—to fit the ages that Heyer had assigned to them. Let me explain what I mean. (The texts in blue are direct quotes from the three books and—sorry—they do make this blog rather long.)

Exhibit #1 from Sylvester : Edmund, 6 going on 4?

Sylvester by Georgette HeyerEdmund is one of the most memorable of Heyer’s children in all her books. He looks like an angel, with golden curls and big blue eyes. He is both a little menace and totally captivating. Here he is as they travel across France in the party led by Sir Nugent Fotherby, his mother’s new husband:

“I want to go home!” announced Edmund fretfully. “I want my Button!  I’m not happy!”

Is that a six-year-old? Even after a horrid journey, does a lad of six sound quite so babyish?

And when Sylvester catches up with the party:

Edmund succeeded in opening the door, still shrieking Uncle Vester! at the top of his voice, just as Sylvester reached the coffee-room. He was halted on the threshold by having his legs embraced, and said, as he bent to detach himself from his nephew’s frenzied grip: “Well, you noisy brat?”
    “Uncle Vester, Uncle Vester!” cried Edmund.
    Sylvester Georgette Heyer 1958 coverSylvester laughed, and swung him up. “Edmund, Edmund!” he mocked. “No, don’t strangle me! Oh, you rough nephew!”

Leg-embracing seems to me to be the behaviour of a toddler. As does difficulty in opening a door. And being swung up by his uncle? That’s what you do to a very small child, isn’t it? But a sturdy boy of 6?

At that period, I am reminded, children as young as 4 worked in factories and coal mines. But Edmund cannot even wash or dress himself. Tom warns Sylvester that he’ll have to do it, several times a day, if he takes Edmund home without Phoebe to look after the child.

And yet…

After the incident with Fotherby’s precious Hessians, Edmund comes back to own up and apologise. When he then produces the missing tassels, Fotherby, infuriated, starts up menacingly. And Edmund stands his ground. Maybe he is 6 after all?

My final exhibit is this beautifully observed scene which still makes me laugh:

[As they dined in the coffee-room, an enormously fat French woman was so ravished by Edmund’s beauty that] she not only complimented Phoebe on his seraphic countenance but was unable to resist the temptation of swooping down upon him and planting a smacking kiss on his cheek. “Petit chou!” she said, beaming at him.
portrait of beautiful happy blonde boy with curly hair   “Salaude!” returned Edmund indignantly.
   For this he was instantly condemned to silence, but when Sylvester, after explaining to the shocked lady that Edmund had picked the word up without an idea of its meaning, …sat down again and directed a look at his erring nephew that boded no good to him, Phoebe took up the cudgels in Edmund’s defence, saying: “It is unjust to scold him! He doesn’t know what it means! He must have heard someone say it at the Poisson Rouge, when he was in the kitchen!”
   “Madame says it to Elise,” said Edmund enigmatically.
   “Well, it isn’t a very civil thing to say, my dear,” Phoebe told him, in gentle reproof.
   “I didn’t think it was,” said Edmund, in a satisfied voice.

Calculating, quick-witted, vengeful? Four? or six going on sixteen?

Exhibit #2 from Frederica : Jessamy, 16; Felix, 12 going on 8?

Early cover of Frederica by Georgette HeyerFrederica has three brothers and a sister. The eldest is feckless Harry, rusticated from Oxford and nominally guardian to his younger siblings, including the divine Charis.

Jessamy at 16 is destined for the Church and alternates between adolescent escapades and failed saintliness.
Fearless Felix, aged 12, is fascinated by science and engineering and pursues his thirst for knowledge with focused determination.

Choirboy late 19th centuryJessamy, in spite of being on the cusp of manhood, shows no signs of interest in the opposite sex. That could be justified. There is a theory that the age of puberty, for both boys and girls, is now much lower than it used to be. Evidence for the theory about male puberty is said to be the fact that choirboys’ voices now break at a much younger age than in previous centuries.

Bach wrote music to be performed by boy sopranos in their mid- to late-teens. These days, male trebles are unlikely to be more than thirteen.

And Felix?

Two children playing in mudFelix, aged 12, romps all over London, alone, investigating matters of science and engineering. That isn’t perhaps so surprising. In previous generations, children as young as 4 were allowed “out to play” without supervision. Mothers were rarely aware of where they were going or who with. If they were home in time for tea, that was fine.

Parents rarely found out about their children’s hair-raising escapades. What about dropping off a tree onto a sow’s back to see how far you could ride her? Or diving into a river with your ankles tied together (to improve the profile of the dive)? Or climbing over slag heaps and through pits full of murky water on a bomb site? Younger readers may be horrified but these all happened in my lifetime and seemed perfectly normal to the kids concerned (of whom I was one).

But are these extracts about a 12-year-old, or someone much younger?

[Jessamy says they need no refreshment.]
 “Yes, we do!” objected Felix. He directed his seraphic gaze, strongly suggestive of a boy suffering from starvation, upon Wicken, and said politely: “If you please!”
   “Felix!” exploded Jessamy.
  Raspberry sponge cake with lemonadeBut Wicken, not more hardened than his master against the wiles of schoolboys, visibly unbent, saying benevolently: “To be sure you do, sir! Now, you go into the book-room, like a good boy, and you shall have some cakes and lemonade! But mind now!—you mustn’t tease his lordship!”
   “Oh, no!” responded Felix soulfully. “And then will you take me to that foundry, Cousin Alverstoke?”

[and when they—inevitably—have visited the foundry and returned to Alverstoke’s house]
   “J-Jessamy said you didn’t w-want to come, but you did, sir, d-didn’t you?”
   “To be sure I did!” replied the Marquis, perjuring his soul without hesitation.
   “And even if you didn’t, you m-must have been interested!” said Felix, with a brilliant smile.

And then there’s the balloon:

Hot Air balloons cartoon

   “Cut line, Felix!” commanded Alverstoke. “If it isn’t a scrape, what is it?”
   “Well—well, it’s a balloon, Cousin Alverstoke!” disclosed Felix, taking his fence in a rush.
…His lordship merely said, in the voice of one inured to misfortune: “Is it indeed? And what have I—or you, for that matter!—to do with balloons?”

   “But, sir—!” said Felix, deeply shocked. “You must know that there is to be an ascension from Hyde Park, on Thursday!”
  Frederica by Georgette Heyer “I didn’t, however. And let me tell you, here and now, that I have no interest in balloons! So, if you are going to ask me to take you to see this ascension, my answer is NO! You can very well go to Hyde Park without my escort.”
   “Yes, but the thing is, I can’t!” said Felix. Suddenly assuming the demeanour of an orphan cast penniless upon the world, he raised melting blue eyes to his lordship’s face, and said beseechingly: “Oh, Cousin Alverstoke, do, pray, go with me! You must! It’s—it’s obligatory!” he produced urgently.

… “…Frederica said, afterwards, that she utterly forbade me to plague you to take me. But I am not plaguing you: I am just asking you, sir! She says you don’t wish to see a balloon ascension, but I think it would be a treat for you!”

And, of course, Alverstoke is persuaded to take Felix, which leads to other things…
But Felix sounds to me like a wheedling 8-year-old. What do you think?

Exhibit #3 from Venetia : Aubrey, 16 going on 60?

Venetia by Georgette HeyerVenetia comes from a family of thoroughly self-centred and selfish men. There may be another blog in that, one of these days 😉 (And Frederica’s Harry would be in it, too!)

Venetia’s late father was an obstinate recluse. His heir, Sir Conway, has left Venetia to run his estate while he continues to serve in the army, even years after Waterloo. He is a splendidly robust young sportsman to whom the writing of a letter [is] an intolerable labour.

Aubrey, at barely 16, has a brilliant mind and a very caustic tongue. His passion is the study of classical Greek and he pays attention to little else, including his sister, who carries all the responsibilities for running the household.

[Aubrey] was a thin boy, rather undersized… [He] had not long entered on his seventeenth year, but physical suffering had dug lines in his face, and association with none but his seniors, coupled with an intellect at once scholarly and powerful, had made him precocious… [He] walked…with a pronounced and ugly limp… Such sports as his brother delighted in were denied him, but he was a gallant rider, and a fair shot, and only he knew, and Venetia guessed, how bitterly he loathed his infirmity.

Boy genius…

Boy genius in front of blackboard, annotated "Greek is the answer. What's the question?"Aubrey seems to be a boy genius.
Is a genius always so focused on himself and his own interests?

The humorous gleam sprang to her eyes as she glanced at Aubrey, still lost in antiquity. She said: “Aubrey! Dear, odious Aubrey! Do lend me your ears! Just one of your ears, love!”
   He looked up, an answering gleam in his own eyes. “Not if it is something I particularly dislike!”
   “No, I promise you it isn’t!” she replied, laughing. “Only, if you mean to ride out presently will you be so very obliging as to call at the Receiving Office, and enquire if there has been a parcel delivered there for me from York? Quite a small parcel, dear Aubrey! not in the least unwieldy, upon my honour!”
   “Yes, I’ll do that—if it’s not fish! If it is, you may send Puxton for it, m’dear.”
   “No, it’s muslin—unexceptionable!”

…with a very nasty tongue

Fist from mouth to knock down brick wallWhat’s more, Aubrey takes a perverse pleasure in warring against his sister-in-law and her odious mother, even though his sarcastic jibes can only make real trouble for Venetia.
Jibes like this:

   [Mrs Scorrier] flashed a particularly wide smile at Venetia, and added: “It is the fate of sisters, is it not, to be obliged to take second place when their brothers marry?”
   “Undoubtedly, ma’am.”
   “Doing it rather too brown, m’dear!” said Aubrey, a glint in his eye. “You’ll still be first in consequence at Undershaw if you eat your dinner in the kitchen, and well you know it!”

I could add lots more, but this blog is long enough already! I’m sure you’ll have your own examples if you love Venetia as much as I do.

Finally, Aubrey is a boy genius, maybe, but continually addressing his much older sister as m’dear?
Not even an adolescent.
Sixteen going on 60, I’d say.

How do you read Heyer’s children? What ages do they seem to you?

Libertà co-founder Joanna Maitland

Joanna

Flying Into the Mist

Autumn mist in LondonWhen I started writing stories, I always set off flying into the mist. Well, I was very young. Often – no make that always, at least to begin with – I ran out of steam. Can’t tell you how many snippets of unwritten novels I have in my filing system.

One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is reading my way through them. 

It was part of my general de-cluttering objective. And no, that hasn’t got very far at all, if you’re wondering. To be honest, I have binned very little yet.

Partly, this is because of how long it has taken me.

Stories Flying Into the Mist

I got back into the stories pretty quickly, to my surprise. Even more surprisingly, I remembered pretty nearly every one. Continue reading

A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)

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  7. Making Covers Work for You, the Author
  8. Covers: should images be historically accurate?
  9. A Close Shave (or the gentle art of Pogonomotomy)

Life is getting difficult for writers of Georgian and Regency romance

Shave? Our Regency heroes have traditionally been clean shaven. In fact a quick flick through Mills & Boon’s book of cover designs, The Art of Romance, has  only one cover with any facial hair on a man. It is a small, neat  moustache. I confess I haven’t read the book, but I am not convinced that he is the hero. However, a quick look in any street or on social media will tell you that beards are now becoming fashionable. Designer stubble is already creeping in, will full beards follow?cartoon shave for a penny

My latest Harlequin/Mills & Boon release is set in the Highlands in 1746, so I think we can get away with a small amount of facial hair…

but how about designer stubble? It is definitely considered sexy now, isn’t it?

Bridgerton character without a shaveIt  certainly  didn’t  put  off the  fans  of  Bridgerton!

To be fair, stubble isn’t as inappropriate as we might think, in some circumstances. Read on….. Continue reading

Spring (in spite of the hail and sleet) for inspiration

garden in April after snowDon’t know about you, but here on the borders of Wales, we’ve got hail and sleet and rain. Not exactly inspiration in Spring, is it?

So today I thought I’d share images of places that inspire me in Spring, some here at home—some even in my garden, including the April snow scene shown right—and some further afield. The places abroad are wish list destinations for now, but they can still provide inspiration.

And maybe, one of these years, we’ll actually be able to visit them. I do hope so.

Inspiration at home

Gardens are wonderful. And, in Spring, when new leaves start to unfurl and buds break into bloom, we can almost feel the joy of new life. Continue reading

Springing into Summer, Today, Tomorrow, One Day Soon?

Today the Libertà hive are in celebratory mood, springing towards summer by relaunching our collection of novellas, Beach Hut Surprise.

In spring, says the poet, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. (Actually it was Tennyson in Locksley Hall, written when he was twenty-five and presumably knew what he was talking about. At least in the Young Man Department anyway.)

This spring, after a grim year of Covid 19 and at least three lockdowns, most of us, even the least romantic, are starting to think of Getting Out A Bit. It gives us hope. Continue reading

Non-Holidays : What I Didn’t Do on My Holidays

man holding no entry sign in front of faceHolidays? Wot holidays?
Just non-holidays, actually.

Towards the end of last year, Sophie blogged on the perennial school essay topic of What I Did On My Holidays. With Easter coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about holidays too. And I’ve realised how much I’ve missed over the last year of more or less permanent lockdown.
You might be feeling equally stir-crazy?

I haven’t been away from home for a year. But I should have been. I had holidays and trips booked. They had to be postponed or cancelled. So I’m going to muse on might-have-beens. Non-holidays, if you like.

After all, we writers use our imaginations all the time.
So why not holiday that way?

Lake District Non-Holidays (of the working variety)

Lake District in overcast weather. Non-holiday destination

Imagine walking down that beautiful hillside towards the water, smelling the freshness of the trees and feeling the breeze on your face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to do that? Continue reading

Yikes, I’ve won the Libertà Award : Guest Blog by Kate Hardy

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  5. Confessions of a Country House Tour Guide: Guest Blog by Nicola Cornick
  6. Romantic Series: Guest Blog by Sarah Mallory
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  8. Do you speak Oz? Guest Post by Janet Gover
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  13. Fantasy research: sweat the small vampires? Kate Johnson guests
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  15. Sugar tongs at dawn? Elizabeth Rolls guests
  16. Gritty Saga Research: Jean Fullerton guests
  17. Elizabethan York without Dung? Pamela Hartshorne guests
  18. Love among the Thrillers: Alison Morton guests
  19. My Hairy-Chested Hero : Guest Blog by Christina Hollis
  20. Veronica the crafty companion : Guest blog by Judy Astley
  21. Writer’s Pet? Sort of — Guest blog by Catherine Jones
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  26. Yikes, I’ve won the Libertà Award : Guest Blog by Kate Hardy

As a follow-up to last weekend’s blog on the virtual ceremony for the RNA Awards 2021, this week we’re delighted to be able to welcome Kate Hardy, the winner of the LIbertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award 2021 for A Will, A Wish and A Wedding.

Kate is an old mate of the Libertà hive. She was one of the very kind authors who welcomed the then unpublished newbie, Joanna Maitland, to her very first RNA meeting. That was well over 20 years ago and Kate says she doesn’t remember. But Joanna does and is still grateful.

Kate Hardy's spaniels, Archie and DexterKate comes—be warned—with hairy hangers-on. So this is partly a writer’s pet blog too. It’s about time we did another of those, don’t you think?

Kate’s hangers-on, Archie (the big one) and Dexter, rejoice in the title of Edit-paw-ial Assistants.
More from them later.

Keep reading, as Kate tells us about how she became a published author and how she came to write the lovely butterfly-filled book that won our award.

Kate Hardy writes…

I’m thrilled to be here, as the winner of the 2021 Libertà Books Shorter Romantic Novel Award. It’s a glorious collision of numbers: for my 90th M&B, in my 20th year of being a M&B author and my 25th year of being a member of the RNA. And it’s also the third time I’ve won the award. As the photo below shows, I really wasn’t expecting it — and I’m so delighted!

Kate Hardy is announced as the winner of the Libertà Books Award 2021

Continue reading

Going to a Party – Virtually (RNA 2021 Awards)

Last Monday saw the Romantic Novel Award for each of nine different categories presented – online.

Normally I would be brushing the cobwebs off the posh frock, polishing the tiara and heading for an evening of fizz, friendship and books to add to the TBR pile in some Big Hall somewhere in central London.

Or I might start with lunch and/or tea with out-of-town friends and rock up to the awards with a good deal of the f and f already under the belt.

Not so this year, of course. Lockdown had turned the party virtual.

This year there were ten awards, nine for books in various categories and one Outstanding Achievement Award for a body of work, many supported by various bookish sponsors, including Libertà. So all of the hive, and friends, were sitting at our computers ready to party.

Getting Ready

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Recommendations and Finding Books To Read

Over the last year I’ve spent a lot of time on reading recommendations and other ways of finding books to read. For all sorts of reasons, I’ve had spurts of reading wa-a-a-ay out of my regular sunny uplands.

One of the few cheering things at the moment is how willing people are to share recommendations – new books, favourite books, books their children love….

Of course, recommendations aren’t the only route. I find a lot of my experiments by following some byway that takes my fancy. I must tell you how I found the wondrous  Goblin Emperor sometime. Continue reading