What Do You Need for a Writers’ Conference?

Fresh from another Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, I’m not sure I remember every single thing I gleaned from three hugely busy days. However, I’m perfectly placed for sharing my definitive list of all the things no conference-goer should be without.  It goes without saying you’ll need phone-charging equipment, and something to take photos. Here are a few items that you may have overlooked.

Hairdryer

Many conferences are in colleges and universities. Nowadays student accommodation often has en suite facilities (what a pampered lot today’s student body is) but hairdryers are rarely part of the deal, so bring your own if you want freshly coiffed hair day after day.

Comfortable shoes

By all means dress up to the nines with eight-inch heels for the gala dinner, but by day your toes may appreciate some wiggle-room. You may even want to venture out of the conference building for occasional fresh air.

Converse trainers

Yes, I’ve mentioned ‘fresh’ three times. Last weekend’s RNA conference was at Harper Adams University. There’s something very special about rural Shropshire, especially when they’re spreading pig manure. For those of you that think this smells like horse or cow manure, let me assure you it doesn’t. It’s roughly the difference between the nappy contents of a milk-fed baby and those of a baby who’s weaned onto solid foods.

Shorthand pad and pencils

Make sure you can jot down the pearls of wisdom gleaned from speakers, from colleagues, or just from propping up the bar. There may be a notebook in your conference pack. On the other hand, it may only contain books and chocolate hearts. 

Business cards

A must for everyone who’s got them, whether you’re a speaker or just attending the conference.

Cushioning for the bed

The condition of the mattress may leave something to be desired. Like sleep. I never regret bringing along an old duvet to use as a mattress pad.

Corkscrew

 Essential kit for the nightly kitchen parties, unless you stick to Prosecco. Consider supplies of tea and coffee too. Then again, I suppose there’s always Prosecco.

ibuprofen

Disposable glasses

All veteran attendees bring these – see above. Why is it ‘attendee’, anyway? Logic suggests it should be ‘attender’.

Earplugs

For when you’re a party-pooper and absolutely have to get in some zeds before dawn.

earplugs

A smile

A great conference always sends attendees home with a smile, but why not bring one on arrival? It makes all the difference when meeting people.

Over to you. What’s on your conference list? I’d love to hear.

 

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The Dreaded Christmas Newsletter

The Christmas cards are fluttering in through the letter box, and so are the round robin letters, lovingly composed to bring you up to date with all the people you no longer remember. This may be my favourite so far.

holly garland

Dear friends

 

 

 

My, doesn’t time fly! I supposed that’s what happens when you’re our age. 2015 has been a very special year for us although, as John likes to points out, it hasn’t quite ended yet.

Our exciting year kicked off with damp-proof treatment to our lounge. The builders got plaster dust literally everywhere, including in my beloved knitting basket. After the re-plastering, we re-decorated. We spent many an evening debating the relative merits of Magnolia versus Almond White. John got the Almond White he wanted. Well, he is the Man of the House.

Here is where I usually include some of the best photos of our year. Our 2014 Christmas letter featured an xray of my new hip, so this one, taken in our garden, is rather different.

tree

Not, alas, the much anticipated bumper crop of berries on our pyracanthus, because John had a bit of a go with the pruning shears right after his latest parking ticket.  At least this time he didn’t punch the traffic warden, which you will agree is a good thing if you recall our Christmas letter 2013.

Since John and I have long retired, the most interesting career developments are the children’s. I am excited to tell you that daughter Tabitha has finally decided what she wants to do, and is now a tattoo artist’s model.

FreeImages.com/Rokla

Our son Graham, who takes more after me, has found his knitting business has really taken off. To complement his range of egg-cosies, he now offers knitted ties, and he has sold three of them in just four months!

In March I had another bout of shingles, and John had an attack of gout. However this did not stop us from enjoying foreign travel. John and I went to Scotland in April. The weather was not as sunny as we had hoped, but we got to play a lot of gin rummy.

FreeImages.com/liensca

Six months ago, I joined a book club which seems quite fun. We do not yet have a Book of the Month. There are however a number of wine labels that are required reading.

The rest of our year was taken up with the replacement of my hip replacement. Here I must thank all our medical friends who got in touch just after receiving our 2014 Christmas letter and pointed out that the stem of the prosthesis was incorrectly positioned. 

FreeImages.com/Ali Taylor

Wishing you and yours all the blessings of the Christmas season, and a wonderful new year to come with peace and prosperity to all (with the exception of ISIL, as John wants me to point out).

Love from

Judy and John

 

 

 

holly garland

“Single Mother of Four Seeks Man with Pulse”

“I was going to specify GSOH and plump wallet. Among other things,” says Rose, her wine glass poised in the air as she gives a meaningful look. “But then I thought: you can’t be too picky.”

“You are so NOT going to compose a lonely hearts ad for me.” Karen crosses her arms for emphasis.

Karen is a newly single mother of four from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda. And Rose, as you can guess, is a well-meaning friend who’s sitting in her kitchen dispensing advice.

kitchen

“Well, how are you going to meet anyone?” asks Rose.

Good question. Certainly not at the Tupperware club. That’s what the local mums call the evenings they spend together moaning about the price of school blazers or discussing how to get grass stains out of their kids ’ gym kit. There is no Tupperware, but there is plenty to drink.

red wine

Not at her children’s school, either. As it is, the one male teacher has to fend off the attentions of every single mother, especially when he’s in PE shorts.

“I don’t suppose there was any talent at the tyre place last week?” Rose’s eyes light up briefly.

Karen shakes her head. “One spotty youth in a beanie, and that roly-poly one who can barely squeeze himself under a car.”

Since when has Karen’s world become so divided along gender lines?  Since the children, that’s when. It has got worse with every one of her four kids.  Now it is as if feminism never existed.

She tries to explain this, but Rose doesn’t get it at all. “You’re not going all Mary Portas on us now, are you? Not that there’s anything wrong with being a late-flowering lesbian, I suppose. Got any more Merlot?”

Karen is giving this search her best shot. She never leaves the house without lipstick, when she remembers.  Even for shopping she wears her best clothes, which are her latest finds from Oxfam and the Red Cross shop.

shopping trolley

From previous experience, she reckons Sainsbury’s is hardly a great place to pull, except maybe a shopping trolley. But you never know, do you?

Yesterday she made Mr Jellicoe’s heart beat a little faster in the supermarket carpark.  

old persons crossingThere he was, looking like the man in the Elderly People Crossing sign, with a humungous carrier bag that clanked as he shuffled along. He still had his Lambrini habit then. He recognized Karen and got so close she could see his dentures moving. So she said she had to run. Which she did, like the wind.

Rose drains her glass. “You know what?”

Karen says nothing. ‘You know what?’ usually presages a really, really bad idea.

“I’ve got my cousin coming to stay next month. He’s a widower, and he’s not short of a few bob either. I don’t know why I didn’t think of him before.”

“What does he look like?” asks Karen, mostly to show interest.

“Actually, he’s not bad. I think you’ll really like him.”

Karen refills her glass. Yes, another really, really bad idea. But what’s there to lose?