This was my first RNA Conference, and I was really looking forward to it. It was held at Harper Adams University, a former agricultural college near Telford. Although not as near as I had thought – turned out it wasn’t a short walk from the station, but a ten mile taxi ride. And I wasn’t even sure when I got there that I was in the right place. This was the first sign I saw after I had collected my room key! Then I found out I was looking at my map the wrong way up, and my room was in a much nicer part of campus.
I heard that this was the biggest RNA conference ever – 250 people were booked to attend, but not all were residential. The food was fabulous, probably due to the fact we were staying somewhere specialising in agriculture. And Harper Adams even had a couple of rooms large enough for anyone, although they were incredibly hot. The largest lecture theatre was the only place with working air conditioning, although I was determined that I shouldn’t choose talks based on their location alone. And there was a huge programme of concurrent talks and workshops – I frequently had to choose between two, if not three, things which I wanted to hear. Fortunately other people offered to swap notes and some of the speakers had books or websites to learn more.
The conference was opened by Christina Courtenay, RNA Chair, and Jan Jones – I had heard both speak before, at the first Festival of Romance and the RNA Regency study day in 2011, and they are both very interesting. Then it was on to a weekend of talks. Impossible to mention everything, but I was fascinated by Catherine Roach’s talk on the Romance Novel and the interdisciplinary study of it; there’s a big website to explore here – http://popularromanceproject.org/. Nikki Logan, the President of the Romantic Novelists of Australia, gave a talk about arousing your reader through various chemical activities that can be triggered in the brain. She has an e-book out on ‘The Chemistry of Reading’ which I must pick up. And Jean Fullerton delivered a masterly analysis of plotting through a deconstruction of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ – yet another reason to consider it the perfect novel.
I had a wonderful time – met lots of lovely people, ate great food and staggered home with a laden goodie bag. Roll on next year!
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