The one where I reflect on my lovely trip to London

I’ve been on a little road-trip (or train-trip to be precise) this weekend, down to London. As Joey from Friends would say: London baby!

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IMG_5952Sporting my brand new hair colour – time to go a bit lighter again in an effort to reduce the impact of that pesky white badger streak that insists on appearing after a few weeks – I caught the train down on Friday morning and returned on Sunday afternoon, feeling somewhat shattered, having had a very busy and very lovely weekend.

The purpose of the trip was to attend an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) meeting on Saturday afternoon. I don’t normally go to the London-based events because it’s so expensive to get down to London from oop north, even when booked well in advance, but I had an added incentive this time. Sara-Jade Virtue, Special Sales Director and Brand Director at Simon & Schuster was the guest speaker and I was really keen to meet her.

IMG_5954You see, each year, on 15th July, S&S run an un-agented submissions day: #OneDay. Last year, I decided to submit but, because the MS had to be finished, I couldn’t submit my work-in-progress, Wish I Could Tell You Goodbye. They were happy to accept previously-released works providing the author owned the rights, so I submitted the first chapter and synopsis of Bear With Me. I was thrilled, two weeks later, to be asked to submit the full MS. Woohoo! Bear With Me ended up being a pass but I had some amazing feedback about my writing and was encouraged to submit any other manuscripts outside of #OneDay so I submitted Wish… in December with fingers crossed and a little prayer.

I knew that the trip would be expensive, particularly when adding in hotel costs and meals, but I decided to go to the meeting to hear what Sara-Jade had to say and hopefully speak with her in person. I figured that, whilst meeting someone in person isn’t going to make them like my manuscript any more, it’s always great to have that personal contact. Even if Wish… is also a pass, I’d have more of a relationship than I would via email only.

dragon-253539_640The thing is, I’m not very good at networking. And by not very good, I mean terrible. I don’t have a problem talking to strangers. In my day job in HR, I’m a recruiter and trainer so I’m used to engaging strangers in conversation all the time but the big difference is that I’m the one they’re there to see so they need to talk back to me! When I’m not the “person in charge”, I have a huge problem in being the one to approach a stranger to to start a conversation. All sorts of worries and doubts fill me: Why would they even want to speak to me? What if I start talking and they walk off? What if they start yawning or looking at their watch? What if I turn into a jibbering mess, especially when I want to impress them? What if they turn into a dragon and start breathing fire on me? Okay, that last one might have been an exaggeration but the others are very real. Lots of people I know are terrified of public speaking and that’s how I feel about networking. Scary stuff. Even though I’d made the journey, I had a feeling I’d bottle it.

fear-2019930_640Sara-Jade gave us a fascinating insight into the world of publishing. I had no idea how many people and how many steps there in the process from reading a manuscript to getting (and keeping) a book out there. I was hanging on every single word and also to her responses to the many questions the group asked. I was quite proud of myself because I asked a question and got a detailed answer so, if I did bottle introducing myself, at least I’d drawn myself to Sara-Jade’s attention in some small way.

The good news is that I was brave and introduced myself afterwards. She didn’t ignore me, walk off or yawn and I didn’t make a mess of it. She was absolutely lovely, knew who I was, and said she’d be in touch in a few weeks’ time. She even followed this up with an email afterwards which absolutely made my day. A moment’s courage and all that …

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Before the meeting, I had a chance to meet two of my Write Romantic writing friends, Jo Bartlett and Jackie Ladbury. We met at Victoria and had the most amazing lunch in the Market Hall there. It’s like a food hall but with independent stalls rather than chain ones (or at least, if they were chains, I certainly wasn’t familiar with them) and it had a really relaxed atmosphere.

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Jo was unable to join us for the RNA meeting so Jackie and I caught the tube back to Tower Hill for the RNA meeting and met another Write Romantic, Helen Rolfe, for a drink first. The three of us then went out for a meal and drinks afterwards. We went to All Bar One and had the most amazing sharing platter and nachos although we were all starving and dived in so I didn’t get a picture of those!

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I have to say that it was a wonderful day from start to finish. One of the most valuable things I can ever do as a writer is to meet with other writers and talk about all things writing. It’s motivating, inspiring and incredibly helpful.

I’d decided to stay over on the Friday as well, giving me a chance to catch up with a university friend who lives in London so I had a chance to reminisce about our uni days and catch up on the latest news with him too. And I got to have a brief explore around a part of London I’ve never visited. I now want to visit The Tower of London for a proper explore and I’d like to walk across Tower Bridge too.

Wishing you a great week

Jessica xx

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10 thoughts on “The one where I reflect on my lovely trip to London

  1. Jessica, I feel the same way you do about Networking, and I am not a writer or any big time celeb. I am absolutely horrible when it comes to meeting someone face to face and try to sell my self or an idea, whatever the case, I just freeze up. So I know how you feel. I am so happy to read that things worked out so well for you on your trip to London baby, lol! Happy writing 😉
    Jody

    • So glad I’m not alone, Jody, but also sorry to hear you’re a fellow-sufferer. I remember going to so many meetings/events/conferences in my HR job years ago and going to lunch. I’d look for a table that wasn’t too full, ask if it was ok to join them, then try to start a conversation, hoping they couldn’t see me shaking as I cut up my food. And so many times I got blanked or given the shortest of answers with no questions in return. After trying repeatedly, I’d sit there in silence wondering why it always happened to me when, all around me, everyone seemed to be chatting and laughing. It got to the point where I’d rather hide in my car or the toilet than put myself through it! Good luck to you next time you’re in a situation like that! xx

  2. It’s so funny to read this because I have been convinced for years that you were super confident and always bubbly – it’s amazing how people can hide what their truly feeling – who ever is the real you – love you and fingers crossed with WISH I COULD… it’s fab like you, I’m sure xxx

    • Ha ha ha, Celia. It would appear I’m a good actor too, then! I remember when I first came to the Challengers selection weekend, I was terrified. I worried nobody would speak to me or, if they did, they wouldn’t like me. So I went into bubbly overload!!! Thankfully it worked and I met some wonderful people, like you xx

  3. When I’m not the “person in charge”… hahaha. I totally get that. I can lecture in front of a room full of students but hate having to chat with random strangers or talk about myself in any other setting!
    I lived in London for 4 years and never got around to a Tower tour. I’ve promised myself whenever next I visit…

    • Ha ha. Glad you appreciated that! You are exactly like me, then. I’ve spoken to a room of over a thousand and wasn’t fazed by it at all. Walk into a room of 8 where I don’t know anyone and I’m not the meeting leader and I am a wreck!
      I think that, when you live somewhere, you become really guilty of not doing the things on your doorstep. I lived in Reading for 2.5 years and had all these plans to go into London and do things. Never bothered! xx

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