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Author Life - The RNA Conference 2022 & The Joan Hessayon Award

I spent last weekend at the incredible RNA conference at Harper Adams University in Shropshire. After 2 years apart, it was fantastic to finally be able to meet up with all my writing friends, as well as meet so many lovely new people.

It had been a bit touch and go as to whether I would make it to the conference this year. I've been battling with pneumonia since April, and this was my first outing (besides hospital appointments) in two and a half months.

I lacked my usual conference energy, so wasn't able to attend as many sessions as I had hoped, but nevertheless it was a fantastic weekend and I am so glad that I went. It was even worth the 5 hour journey from Bournemouth. Though I have to say, I am hugely grateful for fellow Joan Hessayon Award runner up, Laura R Leeson for giving me a ride back towards home, and saving me the hassle of catching yet more trains.

This was my first conference attending as a published author. One of the main highlights for me in the past were the industry feedback sessions, where you can book 1 to 1 session with publishers, agents and editors, and gain invaluable input on your novel. These sessions are like gold to an unpublished author. Given the number of submissions agents and publishers receive, being able to gain individual feedback from an industry professional is a rare opportunity for a new writer.

Instead, one of this years highlight for me was sitting in the sunshine having a long catch up with my own editor, Emily Ruston from Boldwood Books. It was only the second time that we have met in person, so it was an incredible opportunity to express my gratitude for her faith in me and my writing. 

Emily found my novel, The Perfect Daughter, in her slush pile (one of the many many unsolicited submissions that she receives on a daily basis). It's thanks to Emily's belief and commitment to this little book that I achieved my dream of being a published author. Thanks to Emily's vision, and the very talented team at Boldwood Books, The Perfect Daughter has already become a bestseller. The amazing response to this novel has been overwhelming, and I know it is down to my talented editor, the stunning cover design and incredible marketing team. Thank you all! 

Emily was presenting one of the workshops, and very kindly decided to stay on longer so she could attend the Joan Hessayon Awards on Saturday evening, where The Perfect Daughter was a contender. Sadly, my little book didn't win. But to be honest, even just to have been a contender was more than I had ever imagined possible and I count myself very lucky to have been in the company of such talented writers. 

Huge congratulations to the winner, Suzie Hull, who gave a lovely heartfelt acceptance speech. Truly a deserving winner.

The other highlight of the weekend, was being able to catch up with Katie Fforde. I was a recipient of the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2019, thanks to this incredibly generous and supportive author. Winning the bursary was the encouragement that I needed to take my writing more seriously, and unbeknown to Katie, it inspired me to do something I had only ever dreamed of; I took a career break, relocated to Bournemouth, and focused on my writing.

At the time I had only expected it to be a short-term plan. However, three years later and I'm now a published author based in Bournemouth. Thank you, Katie. You literally changed my life.

Thank you to all the conference organisers and the Joan Hessayon Award organisers, as well as the generous support of Dr Hessayon, who makes this award possible. It was an incredible conference thanks to all your dedication, time and hard work.


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