Last week, the Libertà hive was buzzing round the annual conference of the
Romantic Novelists’ Association at
Leeds Trinity University.
God’s Own Country, I’m told.
And here was I thinking it was Scotland 😉
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…
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
A 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.
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?
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!
- Notice your thinking style
- Ask yourself, why now?
- Look at the facts, weigh the evidence. What supports the view; what challenges it?
- Ask yourself: “what would I say to a friend who said this?”
- Formulate a more helpful thought to say to yourself
- 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. Eventually, 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.
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?