Friday, April 28, 2017

Festivals & Workshops: The Bath Festival

This month Elaine Roberts takes us on a trip to the wonderful Bath Festival. She chats to Head of Programming, Judith Robinson, about the event.

Welcome to the RNA blog, Judith. Can you tell us something about the festival, how it came about and how long its been running?
Bath Festivals has a long history, with the music festival starting as early as 1948, later joined by a
Ann Patchett - Photo credit Heidi Ross (Bath)
literature and a children’s literature festival. This year sees the launch of a new flagship festival for Bath  - The Bath Festival, a more visible arts festival building on Bath’s heritage of successful music and literature festivals. The festival will have an accessible and vibrant programme that embraces the wider performing arts.  Leading thinkers, writers and musicians will perform with the most gifted new talent emerging on the global stage. The festival will also provide a platform for the year round extensive learning & participation programme that Bath Festivals run for over 6,000 young people, many with few opportunities to engage with the arts

Bath Festivals will now present two large festivals, The Bath Festival in May and the Bath Children’s Literature Festival in the autumn. They will both offer an increased number of world-class events, feature rising talent and engage a broader range of people.

Who are your main speakers for 2017?
This year, we are welcoming a range of fascinating speakers and world-famous artists to Bath, from Sir Salman Rushdie to Ann Patchett, Mary Berry to MP Jess Phillips, acclaimed musician Madeleine Peyroux and the iconic Georgie Fame accompanied by the Guy Barker Big Band, as well as the Philharmonia with conductor Herbert Blomstedt. You can check out the full programme here

As our blog is for writers can you tell me how your festival would benefit our members?
We host a range of creative writing workshops as part of The Bath Festival’s programme which are aimed at aspiring writers, covering genres such as YA and performance poetry, as well as crime-writing. We are also hosting a masterclass on how to successfully submit a manuscript. There are lots of opportunities to hear inspirational writers talk about their work and their journey to becoming published authors.

How about staying over for the whole event. Where can people stay?
Bath is home to a range of beautiful hotels and B&Bs. A selection of them is listed in our brochure or you can check out available accommodation on

What does it cost to attend?
Ticket prices start at £5 – we also have special offers available for a range of events. All details can be found in our festival brochure.

Do workshops/talks fill up quickly?
Some events have already sold out since we went on general sale in February, so I would recommend booking sooner rather than later.

How much time does it take to organise the festival?
We don’t really take a break from programming so even when we are confirming artists for one year, we are already talking about the following year.

Dates for 2017 and possibly 2018.
The festival starts on 19 to 28 May, starting with Party in the City on 19th May, an almighty celebration of free entertainment. The streets, parks and venues in Bath will be filled with a multitude of arts from electro-swing, to cheerleading, to Chinese shadow puppetry.  There will be Samba dancing and drumming, DJ booths and a festival hub on Alfred Street for a family-friendly extravaganza.  Over 100 school children will bring the Abbey to life with song, stories and visual arts.  After dark, Queen Square will be alive with music, local food and drink.

Dates for 2018 will be announced later this year.


About Elaine Roberts:
Elaine is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and the SWWJ and is currently working on a family saga. She has sold short stories worldwide and enjoys attending RNA events such as the London chapter and our annual conference. Elaine is a great fan of writing retreats either week long by the sea with friends or one-day retreats with fellow writers in her hometown of Dartford. Elaine runs a writing blog along with writer, Francesca Capaldi Burgess called WriteMindWritePlace.

Thank you Elaine and Judith. 

Members, please tell us about your experiences of literary festivals. We love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Joan Hessayon Contenders 2017; Arabella Sheen

Today we welcome the second of the contenders for the Joan Hessayon award.

Welcome to the RNA blog, Arabella, and many congratulations on being one of the contenders for this year’s award.

How long have you been writing - Is this your first published work?
First came the reading and then, in my head and in my heart, I’ve been plotting and writing
contemporary romance since secondary school. The moment I realised I was compelled to read entire sections of romantic fiction in the school’s library, I knew I was hooked on the genre. From reading about heroine's and hero’s I wanted to write about them. It’s taken a long time to achieve that goal; travel, work and everyday life got in the way, but finally the words are being written.
Castell’s Passion is the first novel I’ve published with a traditional publisher, and it’s been an amazing experience. The feedback and professional comments my lovely editor, Pamela Tyner of Beachwalk Press hurled back at me, has, in my humble opinion, not only made Castell’s Passion shine, it has also had a constructive effect on the way I now plot and write.
With two other contemporary novels―Temporary Bride and Blinded by Desire―under my belt, I hope to keep on going and publish lots more in the not too distant future.      

How many years were you a member of the NWS and did you submit a manuscript each year?
I was a member of the RNA-New Writers’ Scheme for two years and submitted a novel in each of those years.
Castell’s Passion was my first submission to the NWS. And when the call came from the organiser for a completed manuscript, I eagerly printed off a hard copy, placed it into a bubble-squeak envelope and posted my inexperienced scribbles to the RNA for assessment. The wait was nail biting but it was worth it. The critique I received from the reader was encouraging and for me that was all I needed. Someone had confidence in my “newbie” writing and it gave me the boost I needed to continue.
After a couple of chapter tweaks and a subplot or two added here and there, Castell’s Passion was proofread and the long and challenging process of submitting to publishers began.
There were long delays before any replies to my manuscript queries arrived, but in the meantime I kept writing and preparing my second novel for the NWS annual submission.

What came first, agent or publisher?
Having written Marc and Kate’s story, I realised a publisher was needed but the idea of seeking agent representation for Castell’s Passion hadn’t yet enter my head. I was still under the impression that only “proper” authors and artists had agents.
Educated in the error of my ways, my latest manuscript is searching for a home and is being emailed to literary agents in the hope of finding representation. However, I’ve been forewarned―a contract with an agent is a rare and valued commodity…and it is seldom given.
One can always hope.

If you do have an agent who is it that represents you?
The answer to this question is―no agent, as yet.
That’s two things to include on my shopping list…the ever illusive publicity manager and the perfect literary agent. Or perhaps they are one and the same.

How did you find your publisher?
I have some supportive author friends on my Twitter and Facebook pages. We message one another quite regularly and when they discovered my manuscript had been completed and I was searching for a great publisher, a few publishing houses were suggested and Beachwalk Press was among them.
I’ve found Beachwalk Press to be a perfect fit for the sensual style of contemporary romance I write and with an ever growing list of readers, I’m happy.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?
Castell’s Passion is a standalone single title. However, my publisher handles sequels…so watch this space.

When was your book published?
After an amazing teamwork effort of editing, proofreading and cover image selection, the book went live in August, 2016.

Tell us something about your book 

When writing Castell’s Passion it was as if the book had a life of its own. It evolved, spilling onto the page as I wrote. Marc and Kate relationship deepened as they travelled together from London to Paris, and then on to Cannes. And after an explosive parting, they met again on the exotic Îles d'Hyères in the south of France and they realised their love and passion for one another was long lasting. It couldn’t be denied.
I love the way Marc respects Kate’s emotional needs above his own desires. And the HEA ending…well, even I got a bit teary-eyed.

What are you currently working on?
At the moment I’m working on a sensual contemporary romance and I’ve more or less reached the halfway mark. It’s a billionaire romance set in the UK. A power struggle is going on between the hero and heroine; and not wishing to reveal too much about their sophisticated lifestyle or their aspirations and inner conflicts, they both have goals and ambitions to achieve―but this could all change at the drop of a hat.
I’ve been known to cancel a wedding, kill off the mother-in-law and delete two chapters, just because the story unexpectedly headed off at a tangent.
So the WIP is just what it is…a work-in-progress.

What piece of advice would you give current members of the NWS?
Join a local RNA Chapter group. The support and writing tips that are aired and shared during these meetings are invaluable.
I love my BathWiltsRNA Chapter ladies (guy’s welcome), and it was through this group that I discovered the existence of the RNA-New Writers’ Scheme


Twitter: @ArabellaSheen

Thank you, Arabella. Congratulations again on graduating the New Writers’ Scheme and I hope you enjoy the Summer Party.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Joan Hessayon Award contenders 2017: Lynda Stacey

 We are thrilled to again be hosting the contenders for the 2017 Joan Hessayon Award. Leading up to the Summer Party and announcement of the award we will be getting to know all eleven authors.

Welcome to the RNS blog, Lynda, and congratulations on being one of the contenders for this year’s award. 
How long have you been writing? Is this your first published piece?
I’ve been writing all my life. When I was 14, my English teacher advised me to go into a writing
career, but after visiting the career’s advice officer he told me that I’d be better off trying to get a job in Boots on the makeup counter. And although I loved writing, I did just that. I left school and went to work in shops, I trained in nursing and eventually I ended up back in sales. Throughout all that time, I kept writing. I had one or two articles published in magazines, but then in 2015 I entered the Choc Lit search for a star competition, with this novel. I won the competition and my novel, House of Secrets was published in July 2016.

How many years were you a member of the NWS and did you submit a manuscript each year?
I was a member of the NWS for two years. And yes, I did submit House of Secrets to them.

What came first, agent or publisher?
To be honest, both. Almost at the same time Choc Lit offered to publish me and an agent offered to represent me. I made the decision at that time not to sign with an agent and to take the offer of a contract with Choc Lit.

How did you find your publisher?
I’d always known of Choc Lit and to be honest, I’d always aspired to be a part of their team after meeting the lovely, Lyn Vernham at the Festival of Romance. We were sat on the same table, she was lovely and I met her on a 1-1 the following year at the RNA conference.

Do you have a contract for one book or more?
I have contracts in place for two more books. Tell me no Secrets, which was released on 11th April 2017 and for Twisted Secrets which is due out early in 2018. I may also have the offer of a contract in principal for a sequel to House of Secrets. But, that is still unconfirmed.

When was your book published?
In July 2016.

Tell us something about your book
My book came to life for me after visiting Wrea Head Hall, a country house hotel in Scarborough. The history seeped out of the walls and I just knew it had a tale to tell. I got to know the owners, asked their permission to use it as a backdrop and House of Secrets was born. Of course, for research purposes I go back and stay the night whenever I get the opportunity. It’d be rude not to… wouldn’t it??

What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a sequel to House of Secrets. It’s been requested by readers so many times and although I’d not intended to write a sequel, I’m really enjoying doing it.

What piece of advice would you give current members of the NWS?
Keep writing, don’t stop and take the NWS advice. The authors who offer this service are amazing, they have a wealth of knowledge, so take it while you can. I loved being a part of this scheme and will always be grateful to the ladies who offered me advice.

Twitter: @Lyndastacey

Thank you, Lynda. Congratulations again on graduating the New Writers’ Scheme and I hop you enjoy the Summer Party.