This time last year, my diary tells me, I was reading The Bookseller and saw the writers listed for the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Award. It gave me a warm glow then. It still does, remembering.
That warm glow is one of those really solid jobs, like thinking about Christmas. It has a lot of history, some of it personal. Well, quite a lot of it personal, actually. And it includes people crying with happiness, a huge amount of generosity and some seriously good parties.
The list for this year’s Joan Hessayon contenders is due to be published on 20th June. So I thought I would try to share some of the history and a little of the glow this week.
Romantic fiction rocks, judging by the enthusiastic turn out at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Roars of delight, from the home team (publishers, friends, fellow writers-in-the-genre) greeted every winner’s name. Celebration was definitely the key word of the night.
Romance even made it into The Economist last week, (11th March 2023, p23). Although I have a couple of issues with the piece, it’s mostly good news. They report that sales of romance and saga fiction in Britain have risen by 110% in three years, to £53mn annually, their highest figure for a decade, according to Nielsen BookData.
print courtesy of 2023 Award Winner Louise Allen
Publishers, they say, “are starting to take notice.”
Well, some of them were cheering their lungs out the Monday before this article was published (see above) so that’s fair enough far as it goes.
Only – call me picky if you will – but even in my experience, they’ve been doing that for a good twenty-five years before the pandemic shut down the RNA annual thrash. Started to take notice? Continue reading →
With apologies to Abraham Lincoln – I couldn’t resist – it is thirty years ago, almost to the day (it was actually December 2) when my first book, An Image of You, was published.
It was my fourth attempt to write a book for Mills and Boon. I do, somewhere, still have my first rejection letter. I seem to recall the word “wooden” used to describe my characters, and a suggestion that I read books by Elizabeth Oldfield and Vanessa Grant. As you can tell, it is ingrained in my memory.
I later had the enormous pleasure of meeting Elizabeth at author lunches, along with so many fan-favourite romance authors. But back to that precious moment. The arrival of my first box of books. I’d been out somewhere and when I came home the box was sitting on my desk, with my husband and daughter staring at it, waiting for me to open it. Continue reading →
I’ve called this blog Points of View because that is what I’ve been thinking about, off and on, since the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference two weeks ago.
Not just in a relation to writing, either, as you will see.
I admit, however, that I have been struggling for some time with POV issues. I’m in the process of an Absolutely Last Edit of a book that, when I first imagined it, had a first person vibe. It didn’t last and it has much improved as a result. But in some places the “I voice” has left an uncomfortable shadow.
At least, I think that’s the answer. Especially after a really excellent workshop on Psychic Distance from Emma Darwin.
Tweets urging us to respect romantic fiction have been appearing daily in my Twitter feed this week. There is even a new Twitter hashtag: #RespectRomFic.
After the events set out in my last blog, the Romantic Novelists’ Association wrote an open letter to the Sunday Times. It pointed out the significance of romantic fiction to UK publishing. It also took them to task about the paper’s neglect and, indeed, apparent ignorance of the genre.
There has been considerable follow up. Best seller Milly Johnson had an article in The Bookseller. To their credit, The Bookseller reached out, as the phrase goes, and commissioned it.
Let me start with an admission: I love inventive punctuation. Of course, you can do an awful lot, just by changing a comma into a dash. But some people go the whole hog into brackets, asterisks and the wild excesses of the exclamation mark. It all fascinates me.
Most people, of course, ignore it. Well, readers pick up the writers’ signals, I hope. But they don’t actually play around with the stuff. Why should they?
For some people, though, punctuation is a real headache, indissolubly tied to (horrors!) grammar. It’s a terrible shame.
That was the reason that, several years ago, Elizabeth Hawksley and I wrote a simple guide. Its working title was Punctuation for the Petrified, which the publisher vetoed for excellent reasons. It reflected our feelings, though. We wanted people to learn a few principles, have a source book to check things that worried them and, above all, relax and have fun. Continue reading →
This week I had a great treat. I visited Buckingham Palace Gardens. For the first time they are open for members of the public to explore on a so-called “self-guided tour”.
The idea has been so successful that demand for tickets outstripped supply. So there are now additional ticket for dates throughout July to September.
Indeed, it looks as if even the newly released tickets have already sold out. But they urge you to check back for possible cancellations. Given the uncertainty of British Weather – that great Cleopatra, as Charles Lamb called it – I should think there may be plenty
The week before last I spent a blissful holiday in Dorset as a birdwatcher’s companion. We went on long walks in sea air and generally marvelled at the countryside. It was in full fig and glorious.
The Birdwatcher saw a couple of birds he didn’t expect, as well as one genuine rarity. And I spent a couple of hours communing with a Little Owl. It sat so still I worried that it was a stuffed toy. The Amiable Birdwatcher agreed that it might be a decoy to attract owls to that quarry as a des res, so took us back to check. And then, Sleepy Sam came out of his stupor to pursue a fly up one level on the rock face. So after that, I stayed and watched him doze.
Punctuation – the Reckless Volunteer
The peace and quiet was very necessary. This last week I have been wrestling with new and exciting challenges. For I am to deliver an online course on punctuation next month and I have never done such a thing before. The online course, I mean.