Sunday, 3 June 2007

RNA Summer Party 2007


Back from my holiday, but more about that another time. I scooted up from Devon by train last week to attend the RNA’s Summer Party. I must say, I was very nervous about attending this year's party because, as last year's NWS award winner, I had to give a speech. Last year, I didn't think I had a hope of winning the award, so I just didn't get jittery at all. This year was a different kettle of fish, as they say.


The first part of the evening was spent saying ‘hi’ to lots of people, including cyber friends from eHarlequin, Julie, Anna, Biddy and Carol and Phillipa Ashley (pictured right with you-know-who). Phillipa told me when I was chatting with her that she didn't think she had a chance of winning but had come to enjoy the party. "You never know," I said. "That's exactly what I thought last year."

And wasn't I on the money with that prediction, as she took home the Joan Hessayan New Writers’ Award! I'm keeping stum on the fact that she actually attempted to bribe Dr Hessayan with a curry shortly before the award was presented. Unfortunately, he was not part of the judging panel. I think he appreciated the offer, though.

Then it was time for my speech. Gulp. Funnily enough, I didn't feel as nervous by that point (maybe the champagne had helped) and it seemed to go down okay. Jessica, who was also shortlisted for the award, but was unable to attend, asked if I could post my speech. I'll do my best but, as I only had prompts on my cards, it's not going to be a word for word transcription, especially as I abandoned my first card and decided to wing it in my congratulations to Phillipa. (Me? Wing it? I hope you're as shocked as I am!)

I started off by congratulating Phillipa and recounting how she had told me she wasn't expecting to win (I left out the bit about Dr Hessayan and the curry– aren't I good?) and how I had warned her that she never knew, it could be her walking away with the award.

I filled everybody in on what I did with the prize money:
I was in desperate need of a new printer – especially one that printed straight!
I warbled on about my iPAQ and how great it was.
I also mentioned that I had splurged on an airfare to America to go to the RWA conference and attended the RITAs award ceremony.

Another reason receiving the award meant a lot to me was that my journey to publication was unexpectedly speedy – I found myself on a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I joined the RNA in 2005 and sent my first finished manuscript off to the New Writers’ Scheme looking for some constructive criticism. (I think I may have mentioned at this point that my exact words to my husband were: "I just want someone to say that my writing doesn't stink too badly".) Before I knew it, my manuscript had been sent on to Mills & Boon and within two months I had sold my first book.

It's the kind of first sale that every new writer dreams of but, once the euphoria had worn off, I started to panic. I had to do it all over again! I had to write a second book. People say that everyone has a book in them and it was at this point that my runaway imagination galloped off into the hills. What if one book was all I had? What if it had been a fluke? I was in the deep end of a new writing career and it was time to decide whether I was going to sink or swim.

Receiving the New Writers' Award was a bit like being thrown at lifebelt. It gave the something solid to hang onto and a huge confidence boost so that, when the writing was going badly, and I was really tempted to throw my laptop out of the window, I could look at the trophy sitting on my desk and say "I can do this". As time went on, I realised that these ups and downs – days when the words fly from the fingertips and days when, let's face it, they just don't – are normal, part of the rollercoaster life of a writer.

I then thanked the RNA for putting a smile on my face for an entire year and wished Phillipa good luck, hoping she had a great year on the rollercoaster. I warned her that if she was as neurotic as I am she may have times when she was clinging on for dear life with her eyes shut, but I hoped that, more often than not, she was going to let go, open her eyes and enjoy the ride.

6 comments:

Nell Dixon said...

Oh, I wish I could have been there!

Phillipa said...

Fiona - do you know i was so busy talking to you that I almost didn't join the line-up.It's true. I did offer to bribe Dr H with a curry. I hope he will forgive me.

Now that it's happened - as unexpectedly as getting published i the first place - it's more thrilling and encouraging than I could ever have imagined.

Your speech was funny and inspiring and I am already quaking. I have a lot to live up to. Enjoy Dallas!

Jessica Raymond said...

Yay -- thanks for posting your speech, Fiona (and more pics)! I was sorry not to be there but you wouldn't have been able to fit as many people in the library with my big fat baby stomach in the way :)

Jess x

liz fenwick said...

Oh how I wished I could have been there. great speach :-)

Anonymous said...

Great speech Fiona, I'd never be able to do something like that! And well done again, you looked gorgeous!
x Daisy - Abby Green

Marcy said...

Sounds like a great speech, Fiona.
Congrats to Phillipa and all the nominees.

I'm almost finished Her Parenthood Assignment, the book that I won in one of your contests. I LOVE IT!!!

Thanks,
Marcy