Saturday, 22 April 2006


To the Savoy Hotel, for the awarding of the Fostergrant Reading Glasses Romantic Novel of the Year 2006. This is one of the high points of the romantic novelists' year, and tends to involve more seriously heavy drinking than either the RNA Summer or Winter Parties (but not as much as the Annual Conference, but then that lasts for several days).

Published authors usually have their publishers buy them tickets, and they sit surrounded by their editors and other key players from the company. Those of us who pay for our own tickets can express a preference for whom we sit with, but in the end we are in the hands of the RNA committee, and in particular those of the indefatigable organiser of the event, RNA vice-Chairman Catherine Jones.

My luck was in. I actually ended up on Catherine's table, together with, among others, former short-listed author Linda Taylor, and two very pleasant people from Darley Anderson Literary Agency, Elizabeth Wright and Lucie Whitehouse.

The food was good. Asparagus with a cured lemon sauce (we did wonder what had been wrong with the lemon before it had been cured), loin of lamb (not quite as tender as the new season lamb from Stourhead that I cooked last Sunday but still yummy in a herb crust), and a dessert featuring thyme sorbet, which I loved, but others found a little too unusual.

The main business of the event was the awarding of the Fostergrant prize, complete with a cheque for £10,000. Five of the seven nominees were there at the savoy, the exceptions being Ashleigh Bingham, who lives in Australia (I believe that she is a little frail, and probably could not face the journey) and Nicholas Sparks. The winner was Erica James, for Gardens of Delight. She has been on the shortlist four times before. I was rooting for The Ship of Brides, by Jojo Moyes, not least because she has been known to read this blog. Jojo was sitting at the table next to mine, and was incredibly gracious about Erica James winning when I commiserated with her.

The Fostergrant isn't the only prize awarded at the Savoy. The RNA also awards a (smaller) prize for the best category romance of the year, and this went to Contracted: Corporate Wife, by Jessica Hart. I was hoping that it would win. I have to confess to having not actually read it (nor any of the other shortlisted books, I'm afraid), but what I liked about Contracted: Corporate Wife was the colon in the title. As regular readers may have noticed, I am all in favour of punctuation in book titles (apostrophes don't count), and titles with colons are thin on the ground (I note that the French takeover of Time Warner Book Group has been good for punctuation, as they have been renamed Little, Brown).

There were speeches as well as prizes. The chairman of the judges, Dr Susan Horsewood-Lee, did go on a bit, and to be honest was not a patch on last year's chairman, Danuta Keane (who wrote a rather depressing piece for Mslexia, which was reproduced in edited form in a recent edition of the Independent). Stanley Johnson, father of the more famous Boris, gave a rambling talk about not very much. Luckily there was still plenty of wine on the table so this did not eat into critical drinking time.

Then it was all over, and we made our way to the Coal Hole for the proper business of the day.

8 comments:

Jan Jones said...

Speak for yourself, Stephen. I drink seriously at ALL the RNA events. And certain bloggers I know still haven't bought a ticket for this year's Summer Party yet...

Moncrief Speaks said...

Nice post.

Liz Fielding said...

I rather wish you hadn't admitted to not reading any of the RNA Prize shortlist, Stephen. I suggests that you, along with most of the media, don't take short romance seriously. Considering the financial take of the Harlequin/Mills & Boon empire, and that yet another publisher is presently trying to emulate its success, I find that puzzling.

Stephen said...

I think that's a little harsh, Liz.

I have a full-time office job, I have just written a novel to (I hope) publishable standard within a year. I have a family. There is only so much time left in my life for reading, and I cannot read everything.

It is a bit of a leap to suggest that because I do not read much in a particular genre I "don't take it seriously".

The fact that I detailed the winner of the Romance Prize in my post, complete with a link to Jessica's home page, should surely be taken as an indication that I do take short romance seriously, even if I don't read much of it myself.

The Guardian, the Independent and the BBC all reported on Erica James' win without mentioning the Romance prize at all. Have you complained to them?

Liz Fielding said...

No point, Stephen. In fact, it's probably a blessing; we get enough of a media bashing without inviting it.

But you're a member of the RNA and a romance writer yourself, which is why your remark surprised me.

I don't expect you to read everything -- no one can. I wouldn't, however, have made a point of publicly announcing that I hadn't read any of the titles in such a public forum.

As for time, well I was once a working mother of teenagers with a full-time job as well as the cooking, ironing, homework helping, and the supportive wife of senior executive stuff -- boy, I wish I had a wife -- and managed to write four books before I was published could give up the day-job. Oh, and in the last year we were building our own house, too.

Alex Bordessa said...

Stephen, thanks for the awards write-up! I had a friend on the short romance category - unfortunately not the winner, but she's resolved to try again next year.

I haven't read most of the titles on the awards list either :-)

Jojo said...

Just wanted to add that it was a lovely lunch and good to see old friends (and meet some more). I do wonder at some of these speakers though - I was very disappointed by Stanley Johnson, and I had been looking forward to his speech. When he expressed his surprise at the "professionalism" of his audience, I wanted to do something to him which could certainly not be described as romantic...

Danuta Kean said...

Hi Stephen
Love te blog, and thanks for being nice about my speech last year. I must admit that Diane's summing up at the end was fab and I wish she had spoken instead of the chair of judges, who was both pompous and rude to the authors - which is unforgivable. It is sad that romance takes such a bashing. We need it more than ever - what else do the papers give us otherwise? John Prescott and his secretary? Please no!
Cheers
Danuta