As a mother of four, I really really don't get out much. And the chance of me going somewhere posh and putting on a pretty frock are normally zilch.
However, this year the RNA, ie my favourite writing group in the world, celebrated it's 50th anniversary. PLUS, I was on the longlist for the main award which was dead exciting. However, the awards ceremony was on a Tuesday, and the domestic commitments I have at present, meant I felt I couldn't commit to going unless, I miraculously made the shortlist (needless, to say, dear reader, I didn't). Having decided NOT to go, step up the hero of the hour in the shape of my lovely mother, who decided I needed a treat and was very happy to come and do the school run and cook tea on the day in question. Yay for lovely mother, particularly as she stayed for several days and did all sorts of helpful things round the house. It was like having my own personal fairy.
So my personal fairy having waved her magic wand, Cinderella could make it to the ball. I had with help from the youngest bought a posh dress (see here for a picture of me wearing it. If I was an organised blogger, I would have PICTURES. But I'm not, and I am a bit short of time, so am sending to you my friends' blogs instead, sorry about that. You can go here for a Proper Report and pics of the winners, and here for pics of the partygoers, and very glam they look too!). I had also at Christmas bought myself some luvverly sparkly shoes. The first rule of any RNA do is that you are going to have a good time. The girls (and some boys) of the RNA really really know how to partaaay!! The second rule is you HAVE TO HAVE lovely shoes. I am absolutely crap at describing clothes & shoes and wouldn't know my Jimmy Choos from - well any other kind of posh shoe maker (bit of a bugger that, when writing contemporary fiction, always have to get my editor to tell me where to look(-:) - but it is a RULE at RNA dos that the most important item of clothing you wear will be on your feet. So a pair of lovely sparkly shoes was an absolute must.
Alas, dear reader, two minutes before leaving I had a catastrophic shoe disaster. I put my glam shoes on and the elastic on the strap broke. It was irreparable, I was inconsolable, AND I had a train to catch. Amazingly for me, for once I had actually left myself enough time. So realising that not only did I have to wear a scrappy pair of sandals, but also the only tights I could find were THICK BLACK UGLY WINTER ones, I decided there was nothing for it, I was going to have to scour the streets of High Street Ken (dammit, why did we have to be in such a pricey part of town?) for a pair of new shoes and some lovely soft shiny tights to wear with them.
So I came out of the tube station and went straight into some serious shopping. My first foray into Clark's was a total waste of time. They only seemed to sell what the children would no doubt have referred to as "Old Lady" shoes. The next shop up the road, I walked into and straight out again when I saw a price tag of £100 on a pair of shoes that looked like they'd have been overpriced in New Look. I criss crossed up and down the road, with an increasing sense of desperation. Either the shops I went into didn't do sparkly party shoes, or they did at exorbitant prices.
Finally, I decided I had one last shot, and entered a really blingy shoe shop with shoes bearing such outrageous sparkles, it had to be designed for a potential RNA partygoer, and there on the first shelf I looked at, miraculously sat a pair of sparkly shoes very similar to the ones which had earlier let me down. My fairy godmother was certainly working overtime.
So it was that ten minutes later, having also purchased some suitable hosiery from Boots, I found myself tottering into the loos at the Kensington Garden Hotel and completely changing my footwear. Now suitably shod, I was ready, at last to enter the fray...
And what a fray it was. Within minutes of arrival I had encountered a fellow writer who lives in my home town, whom I've been promising to meet for months, several writing friends whom I haven't seen for a couple of years, a friendly agent, my lovely publishers, one of my fellow Avon authors, Miranda Dickinson and shortlistee (sadly she didn't win), who I've been tweeting with since the autumn and so on...
Thanks to my very very late purchase of a ticket I was on a table where I only knew a couple of people, but this being the RNA, it really really didn't matter, as I may or may not have mentioned another RNA rule is that a) everyone is incredibly friendly and b) most of them love to talk. So do I. Which is why I feel right at home.
Our wonderful Chair, Katie Fforde gave a lovely and funny speech, despite battling a hideous cold and then passed over to guest of honour, Barry Norman,who gave a warm and witty speech and endeared himself to every writer in the room by telling us, that while filmstars didn't make him starstruck, writers did, because he knows how hard it is. Fittingly, as the RNA is such a stalwart supporter of unpublished (or prepublished, as some of us prefer to think of them) writers, he made no distinction between those of us who've been lucky to secure a publishing deal and those who are still working on it, which is just as it should be.
There were six awards this year:
The RNA People's Choice was won by Louise Douglas for Missing You
The RNA Love Story of the year by Nell Dixon for Animal Instincts
The RNA Romantic Comedy of the year by Jane Costello for The Nearly-Weds
The Harry Bowling Prize (for a prepublished author) by Debbie Johnson
The Romantic Film of the Year was An Education and Lynn Barber accepted the award.
The Romantic Novel of the Year for Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon.
While I was naturally disappointed that Miranda didn't win, I was also really delighted for Lucy whose stories are lovely, and for her editor Isobel Akenhead who is another twitter friend.
Meanwhile two lifetime achievement awards were given to the awesomely talented Maeve Binchy and Joanna Trollope, both very worthy winners.
After the excitement of the awards, everyone got down to the serious business of partying and we all took ourselves over to the Goat pub across the road, where I was delighted to meet another couple of Twitter friends: Tamsyn Murray (get her fab book My So Called After Life now!! )and Brigid Coady, as well as meeting the wonderful Jill Mansell in the flesh after having been online friends for ooh, at least eight years. If you ever want a good heartwarming read, with dollops of real life, and brilliant humour, Jill's your woman. Rumour Has It saved my sanity last summer on holiday, and am already in the queue for her next one.
The only downside to RNA parties is that there are so many people you can't get to meet them all, so there were a few writing pals I waved at briefly and never spoke to, but I'm hoping to make up for that in the summer, when (sssh, don't tell Spouse) I hope to get to their summer conference.
All in all it was a fabulous, brilliant day (oops I was one of the last to leave the pub), and huge congrats go to the RNA Committee for putting on such a great bash. I had a great time. And would have, with or without the right pair of shoes...