I'd been warned, as a first-timer, to expect the devastating noise level, stunning frocks and extraordinary shoes. They were nearly all women, of course, but I talked with all kinds of people, from a bestselling novelist whose books you can find in supermarkets to a newcomer, partway through her first novel and just testing the waters.
My own novel isn't a romance, strictly speaking, but as long as your story features relationships in some form, which includes just about everything except hardcore science fiction, the RNA offers support, critique, networking and a huge body of experience to draw on. There were seventeen people this year in line for the Joan Hessayon prize for first novel to be published, and their work included everything from fantasy to comedy, from historical to mystery to - of course - good old-fashioned romance. Maybe I'll be standing in that line next year; who knows? Fingers crossed...
A literary micro-festival in Salem chapel at East Budleigh this weekend, with a real cross-section of writing on offer. I went on Sunday, and listened to talks from best-seller Graham Hurley, Carnegie medal winner Mal Peet, and readings from the work of local romance writer Rosemary Ann Smith and poet John Payne. But the stars of the show were the goth twins, Cat Lynx Raven, reading from their novel 'Bleeding Empire' which was longlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Why did they have such an impact? They made us laugh, they are gorgeous to look at, and they know how to perform for an audience. At the end of the day, they sold quite a few books, too. Something to ponder for all of us; doing the rounds of the festivals seems to be the way to go these days. It's a bit late to acquire an identical twin, but
This is the beach at Exmouth, photographed by Cathie Hartigan. We walked here with Margaret James before going to see the National Theatre live streamed production of 'King Lear'. Pathetic fallacy in action - though Exmouth just got a cold shower, not an apocalyptic thunderstorm, and no-one threw themselves off the cliff as far as I know.
The play was exhausting, compelling, and utterly bleak, apart from the brief reunion of Lear and Cordelia near the end. A little too much shouting in the first half, perhaps; the second part had more light and shade. This production seemed less about filial love (or lack of it), and more about the dilemmas of aging, the erosion of mental faculties and physical vitality, and how the younger generation copes with it. A story for our times