Never stop learning : inspiring working authors

RNA conference reception with goody bags, coffee, bookstall

Goody bags for delegates, tea, coffee, bookstall
Just what arriving delegates need (possibly + wine later?)

Last week, the Libertà hive was buzzing round the annual conference of the
Romantic Novelists’ Association at
Leeds Trinity University. 

In Yorkshire.

God’s Own Country, I’m told.

And here was I thinking it was Scotland 😉

open courtyard for RNA conference delegates to relax in

Leeds Trinity’s courtyard where RNA delegates relaxed

It was a fantastic few days — as it always is — with dozens of inspiring workshops to choose from, old and new friends to meet, [many, many] glasses of wine to drink…

red rose in pool of blood -- destructive rather than inspiring

NOT what romantic novelists do at all

And all in a buzzy, friendly and hugely supportive atmosphere.

Don’t believe the canard I heard repeated by crime writer Martina Cole on Desert Island Discs the other week. As I remember it, she said something like: Crime novelists are very supportive of each other. If you want a genre where they stab each other in the back, try the romantic novelists.

Not true, Ms Cole.
And — sorry — not even original, either.

Old ideas, new slants — inspiring authors

The RNA conference was — above all — inspiring. And it reminded me, as it does every year, that a writer is always learning and should always be open to new experiences. Not just because new experiences colour our writing, though they do. But also because we can learn new ways of working, smarter and better ways, and new slants on old ways of working, too.

New slants on newsletters

two women share a bright and inspiring ideaA fantastic session by multi-published authors Elizabeth Bailey and Rhoda Baxter gave us new slants on running our Libertà newsletter. There was lots of practical advice about what to do and what not to do. Some of it amplified topics we already vaguely knew; some gave us those light-bulb moments when you think “why didn’t I think of that before?”

One thing surprised and — I have to admit — dismayed me a bit. The received wisdom, we were told, is that an author should communicate with subscribers to her newsletter every two weeks. And even more often when she has a book launch under way.

Every two weeks? So, in addition to our weekly blogs, our subscribers would be getting at least 25 newsletters a year?

Can’t see that working for Libertà. It’s obviously fine for authors whose subscribers expect that. But we tell our subscribers that Libertà newsletters are occasional. You can see that for yourself at the top of the sidebar on this blog page.Inspiring a successful writer at laptop who punches the air

So yes, we will tell subscribers about new book launches but no, we won’t send them lots and lots of emails. Probably once every month or two. And the gaps may be longer.

But we can change if subscribers want us to. If you’d like to hear from us more often, please feel free to tell us so.

New ideas, new approaches, new friends — inspiring authors

Perhaps the most surprising session we attended was Andrew Cornick’s presentation on emotional resilience for writers. (Yes, the name may be familiar. Andrew is married to RNA Chair, Nicola Cornick, and he proclaims it proudly, too. But Andrew isn’t a writer; he’s an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist.)

And his talk was certainly inspiring.

New Idea : Emotional Resilience and those pesky NATs

NATs stands for Negative Automatic Thoughts, those preoccupying and often negative ideas that can go round and round in writers’ heads as we sit alone in our metaphorical garret. How often do we writers take a fact — a rejection, say — and turn it into a forecast of doom?

NATs plague us like, well, gnats.dead fly on plastic fly swatter

Andrew gave us lots of examples. Here are just a few. His audience recognised them. Do you?

  • I haven’t heard from my editor; they must hate it
  • I should be more successful
  • This scene isn’t working; this book is a disaster
  • I feel devastated my book has been rejected; I must be a failure

It’s so very easy to jump to negative conclusions. Or to blow things out of proportion. Or to overgeneralise. And the consensus at Andrew’s session was that writers do it a lot.

Swatting the NATs — a new approach

Andrew’s overarching remedy made us laugh:

Don’t believe everything you think!

In other words, we need to challenge our NATs in order to be able to swat them away. Here are some of Andrew’s suggestions for approaches to NAT-destroying:

  1. Notice your thinking style
  2. Ask yourself, why now?
  3. Look at the facts, weigh the evidence. What supports the view; what challenges it?
  4. Ask yourself: “what would I say to a friend who said this?”
  5. Formulate a more helpful thought to say to yourself
  6. Write it down.

Sounds like good advice, doesn’t it?

Andrew also talked about dealing with disappointment and failure which all writers experience from time to time. I was surprised to learn that his first piece of advice was to allow ourselves to really feel the pain. Telling ourselves to “brace up” should not be our first reaction; we need time to recover. Story inspiration Eaj QuartetEventually, we’ll be ready to get back in the saddle again. We might even be ready to listen to our own helpful pep-talks by then, too.

I found Andrew’s advice enlightening and inspiring. It was comforting, too, to know that it’s OK to feel the hurt.
At least for a while.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about Andrew’s presentation, you can contact him via his website.

New (if somewhat unlikely) friend, inspiring this author?

As regular visitors to this blog will know, my writer’s pet is a troll called Olaf, who adopted me in Norway. Whatever some sceptics may say about trolls, he is not a myth.

White and pink unicorn toy with Olaf the TrollNeither are unicorns.

Olaf and I now have a new friend, a cuddly white (and pink) honest-to-goodness, virgin-bothering unicorn who adopted me at the RNA Conference. (And before you ask, the answer is No. I have children so I can’t be. Obvs.)

If you don’t believe in unicorns, I have this picture to prove the new inhabitant of Olaf’s dark corner is really, really real.

Our unicorn doesn’t have a name yet. So how about a few inspiring — and inspired — suggestions?

Joanna Maitland, author


23 thoughts on “Never stop learning : inspiring working authors

  1. Christina Hollis

    Great coverage of a brilliant conference. Andrew Cornick’s lecture was one of several that were worth the fee alone, if that makes sense! As for a unicorn name, how about Azola? It means “One who wants success” and if you break it down, he turns into A Zola 😀 x

    1. Joanna Post author

      Morning, Christina. Glad you liked the blog. Interesting choice of name for our virgin-botherer. Hadn’t heard of that before. Shall wait to see what others suggest before deciding…

  2. Elizabeth Bailey

    Glad you enjoyed the newsletter talk. Though it is a choice how often you contact subscribers! I write to my author subscribers much more infrequently.
    Your round up of the conference is inspiring in itself. Glad you saw that unicorn before I did. I would not have been able to resist and haven’t got room! He’s delightful. No name suggestions as I’d likely call him Uni or Corny! Not going to say the obvious one….

    1. Joanna Post author

      You reassure me, Liz, re newsletter frequency.

      I quite like Corny. Better than “Horny” which was the first thing that occurred to me 😉

  3. Natalie Kleinman (@NatKleinman)

    Another fabulous post. Thank you.
    I raced to Andrew Cornick’s lecture from a one2one and though I hated interrupting I know it’s acceptable under the circumstances. And gosh, was I glad I did. Fortunately I only missed the first ten minutes or so. I just hope I’m not one of the Nat’s anyone is looking to swat!

  4. lesley2cats

    Oh, I wish I’d gone, now! Everything I’ve heard about it so far sounds wonderful – mind you, they always are. Interesting about communicating with subscribers/readers. Now I’ve got a “reader group” they get communicated with almost every day, one way and another, but the blog/newsletter goes out every two or three weeks – the most regular it has ever been. And Andrew’s presentation sounds brilliant. I think it applies to most so-called “Creatives”, as I know my musician children feel the same way.

    I’ll stop now – I’m waffling. Just keep communicating. I love the Liberta blog – and the Hive members, of course.

  5. lesley2cats

    PS My favourite Unicorn is The Little White Horse, so I might call her Maria. And I would have have grabbed her, too. Like I came home from a certain Oast House in Kent and promptly bought two bronze dragons…

    1. Joanna Post author

      Interesting that you’ve decided my unicorn is female. I deliberately didn’t mention any gender in the blog. We’ll see what others think

  6. sophiewestonauthor

    I’ve always been wary of unicorns – like the one that Pratchett’s wondrous Jason Ogg has to shoe with silver. Implication – unicorns are dangerous and a bit mad.

    I remember Findhorn from Alan Garner’s unsettling Elidor – and I hated his fate and didn’t read any more Garner for years, as a result.

    Perhaps the sweetest is Snowy from Mary Brown’s lovely story about a company of misfits,The Unlikely Ones. But no, I can’t really call any self-respecting stuffed toy Snowy.

    Need to ponder this one…

    1. Joanna Post author

      Shall wait to see what you come up with, Sophie. And, meanwhile, I shall just admire your amazing ability to remember the details of books you’ve read. For me, very few books stay in the memory after I finish them. Anno domini??

  7. janegordoncumming

    Wish I could have heard Andrew’s talk. So many resonances. …And of course I am the only writer who feels like this, while everyone else is off being successful.

  8. Sue McCormick

    When my mother gave me my first doll she named her Una — would work for your first unicorn also.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Another interesting suggestion. Thank you Sue. I notice that you, too, think my unicorn is female. I have asked it about its gender preferences but, so far, it ain’t saying nuffink.

  9. janelovering

    Add my voice as words of praise for Andrew Cornick’s talk – and thanks for jogging my memory about setting up a mailing list (I really must take more notes at Conference). It’s such a great experience to meet up with so many wonderful and inspiring writers!

    As for the unicorn – I think he looks like a Nigel.

  10. lesley2cats

    I know I’m a week late on this, but re: Unicorn’s gender. I only suggested Maria because of The Little White Horse. (Surely someone else has read it?) Actually, I think he’s male. Nigel.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I still haven’t named the unicorn, Lesley. But that’s 2 votes for Nigel. Am coming round to that, maybe…

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