Out and About (at last!)

Since I last wrote, I’ve been a busy little bee. I have been OUT to places and met actual people, in real life. Hurrah.

I was invited to – but had to miss out on – the swish Harper Collins Summer Party on 29th June (at the V&A in London, no less), which was disappointing! BUT I did go to local author Sophie Flynn’s book launch for her second novel ‘Keep Them Close‘ on 7th July in Moreton-in-Marsh, just down the road from where I live (who needs to go to London, for swankiness and hob-nobbing, eh?).

Sophie Flynn’s book launch

I used to be with agent Kate Nash, who is, by chance, Sophie’s agent, so it was really nice to be able to meet Kate, finally (and Sophie, of course, who I’ve only ever ‘met’ on Twitter up until now) and thank her for the opportunity she gave me through the agency’s ‘book camp’ scheme back in 2020.

The launch was really well-attended and good fun and those cupcakes (with the edible little book covers!) were delicious. (*Note to self: if I ever have a book launch, have cupcakes too!*)

Romantic Nevelists’ Association Conference

Last Saturday I made a mad dash to Harper Adams University in Newport, Shropshire, where the RNA’s Annual Conference was being held. I’d have loved to have gone for the whole weekend but I had other things on – not least, a holiday in Norfolk which had been booked before the date of the Joan Hessayon Award presentation had been announced. So, I could only go for the Gala Dinner and presentation of the award (more of that anon). I stayed overnight in the student accommodation (very narrow bed!) so I was able to have a few drinks and relax for the first time in ages.

It was the first conference to be held for three years on account of You-Know-What, so everyone was in high spirits and there was a real party mood.

I met lots of people. Some that I already knew – like Katie Carr, who won the Elizabeth Goudge prize that evening for her fabulous short story and others, like Kath McGurl, who set up the womagwriter blog many years ago and who now writes timeslip novels, very successfully and who I feel as though I know but had actually, until Saturday evening, only ever ‘met’ on-line.

So, to the Joan Hessayon Award… the 9 contenders had been instructed to meet at the ‘Queen Mother Hall’ – where the Gala Dinner would take place that evening – at 5.15pm. Now, given that I only arrived on campus at 4pm and then got lost, once I’d picked up the key to my room, trying to find my accommodation and therefore only had about 30 minutes to shower and get ready, I think I did pretty well to get there on time.

And breathe…

For about an hour, we had photos taken (here we are, all lined up holding our books and with our posh frocks on, looking like something from a bizarre ‘70s beauty pageant!).

The contenders + books. I am standing next to eventual winner, Suzie Hull

There were individual photos taken too and videos and then at 6.15pm we filed into the hall, grabbed a (much needed!) drink and all sat at a large round table near the stage, to await our fate. It was all rather surreal and nerve-wracking, although Melissa Oliver, the organiser of the awards (ably assisted by Melanie Griffiths and possibly others that I’ve forgotten), did a great job of keeping us calm and smiling.

The books (and HUGE photos of each author) appeared on a big screen as the judges’ comments about each novel were read out. And I must admit, as soon as they read my comments (I was last, because it was done alphabetically), I knew that I hadn’t won because they were very gushing about some of the books.. and not very gushing about mine!

But never mind. To be honest, I hadn’t expected to win and as literary agent Jo Unwinn tweeted the other day, “Sometimes bad/sad/disappointing things make you feel better. More purposeful and determined.” And I firmly believe that’s true.

The debut novel that won the award, – ‘In Some Foreign Land’ a sweeping romantic WW1 saga, by the very lovely Northern Irish writer Suzie Hull – was the one I’d have put my money on, even though I hadn’t read any of the contenders, because it had a great title and cover and from the blurb, it sounded like a good read. (In fact, I am reading it now and I can tell you that it is).

Congratulations to Suzie (I have already congratulated her of course, in person, on Facebook and on Twitter but I shall do it again here!)


Having a paddle at Brancaster beach

So now I am chilling (ha!) in Norfolk in the hottest temperatures the UK’s ever known.

It was my husband’s ‘big birthday’ on Monday, so we’ve been celebrating with family and it’s been lovely (if a trifle too warm! I’m sure it’s been the same for you too).

Today is a little cooler but we have been getting up every day at 6am to walk Bonnie on the beach before it gets too hot.

Beach baby, Bonnie

Novel Writing

And on the writing front, my second novel is now with the copyeditor, which means I have delivered my 2 books and I am now out of contract! So, I’ve been having a chat about next steps with my agent and will do the same with my editor shortly. There’s no rest for the wicked, as they say.

And because it’s been a real struggle, timewise, to write book 2, I’ve had to resign from the Steering Group of the Evesham Festival of Words and will stop doing their Twitter very soon too. And other stuff may have to go .. but not the blog!

Book 2 now has a title and a cover, none of which I’m at liberty to reveal… yet!

But here’s a clue to the subject matter. (and yes, it’s WW2 again).

This entry was posted in Books, Competitions, Cotswolds, Kate Nash Agency and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Out and About (at last!)

  1. AMANDA BARTON says:

    Love reading your updates. Very well done on being shortlisted for the award, and on completing your second novel. What a successful time you’ve been having!

    • Thanks, Amanda. To be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve been having a successful time. It’s been a hard slog! But perhaps I’ll look back and think differently when I’ve unwound a little!

  2. Eirin Thompson says:

    ‘A Wartime Secret’ is a winner with me, Helen – a really enjoyable read with lots of intrigue, engaging characters and vivid period detail. I look forward to your next book. My second thriller is also currently with copyeditor, and, like you, that’s my two-book contract fulfilled. I am crossing all fingers and toes that I will get a further contract, as I am two-thirds through writing another in same genre.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Eirin and well done to you for also completing book 2. Phew, it’s such a relief when you get to this stage, isn’t it? Well done for cracking on with book 3! I am still at the ‘getting ideas’ stage! It’s definitely a good idea to try to get ahead of deadlines. It makes life much less stressful and hopefully I will be doing that in future!

  3. Fran says:

    To be perfectly honest, if I see on someone’s profile ‘shortlisted for’ or even ‘longlisted for’, I treat it in the same way I do if they actually won – with great respect and impressfulness (not a word). So, well done!

    • Thanks, Fran, that’s very kind. Actually, all 9 contenders were ‘winners’ because the prize really is being published and we’d all achieved that, so I’m sure none of us was too disappointed not to be the Joan Hessayon winner.

  4. Helen, this is all such fabulous news, well done for the shortlist and the new novel, so impressive!! I am so enjoying watching you on your journey, what a long way you’ve come since the early days of this blog – I hope you sometimes look back over it and pat yourself very hard on the back! P.x
    PS. I’ve recently arrived on Twitter and have just followd you – if you wonder about The Womb Department – that’s me!

  5. Sharon boothroyd says:

    Well done on your success, Helen. It sounds like an awful lot of hard work! I hope you are offered a contract for book 3.

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