Last week our local chapter of the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) held a one-off special event. We normally meet once a month at a pub/hotel in Chelmsford for lunch. They're very informal affairs where we just get together, catch up and discuss our writing.
This time, we hired a conference room and held an all-day event. Each RNA local chapter had been offered some special funding to organise a 'writing retreat day'. We spent quite a bit of time deciding how to plan our day, and agreed that we wanted it to be of benefit to all of us, whether were published or not. We have a mixture of writers in our group - some very successful multi-published authors, some self-published, others aspiring writers and members of the RNA's New Writers Scheme - but we felt sure there were areas where we could all learn from each other.
What we eventually agreed on for the large part of the day was a 'Q&A' session, where questions were collected from all of us in advance, about any problems or queries we had with any aspect of writing whatsoever. These were then directed to whoever in the group was most likely to be able to help - and then discussed at more length around the table. Even the more experienced or more successful writers among us, of course, often need help or advice and it was really interesting to consider the different responses and ideas being expressed in response to the various questions.
As you can imagine, this stimulated a lot of lively discussion, which carried on through the fantastic buffet lunch we'd ordered. After lunch, we spent a little while discussing books we'd recently read - and then went on to take part in a 'flash fiction' game which was designed as a bit of fun and really made us have to think fast, as well as giving everyone a good laugh when we read out the results!
I'd contacted our local paper, the Essex Chronicle, before the event and they published a short feature about our day, and gave some welcome publicity to the RNA, as well as printing a picture of some of us, taken outside the meeting place waving copies of our books! You can see the feature on the Essex Chronicle On-line here .
The event took a bit of organisation, but I had a lot of help from a 'mini committee' of four of the other longstanding members of the group. The best bit about it was that everyone seemed to enjoy the day so much, and I think we all went home feeling that it was really worthwhile. In fact several of the members have said they'd love to do the same kind of thing again. Just one of the many benefits we get from belonging to the RNA!