Are conferences good for you?

With critique writing partner Denise Barnes (Photo: Anna Belfrage)

Spring and summer are the conference seasons and can sometimes create quite a hectic schedule; I’m on and off planes all the time with a few days in between.  And then you squeeze a holiday in somewhere. The airports seem to blur together after a while…

But I was delighted to return to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) conference earlier this month near Leeds where I was giving a talk with my critique writing partner Denise Barnes on, er, critique writing partners.

We’ve been in a critiquing partnership for nearly ten years and have distilled it down to ‘brutal love’. But along with the invaluable rewards of friendship and writing taken to the next level, there are dangers for the unwary…

(Download the handout!)


Sam Missingham


Some of my favourite sessions were on discoverability/marketing from Sam Missingham who drew heavily on the acumen and flexibility of the indie sector to demonstrate marketing techniques, very detailed exposé on how to put put mystery into history from Nicola Cornick and Andrea Penrose and clever stuff about working with images from Janet Gover

Even when you think you know how to do these things, you still always learn something, get a new insight or are reminded about something you know have have since forgotten!

One of my pleasures and privileges was hosting a ‘kitchen party’ for the Independent Members who not only write but publish and market their own work.


Standing L to R: RNA Chair Nicola Cornick, Anne Marie Doust, Anna Belfrage, Helen Hollick Cass Grafton, Clare Flynn, me, Freda Lightfoot. Sitting L to R: Anne Harvey, Lynda Dunwell, Carol Cooper

The RNA was the first writers’ organisation that accepted me; their New Writers’ Scheme was my springboard. Yes, the Roma Nova books are thrillers, but they’d be poor honeys without the epic romances of Carina & Conrad or Aurelia & Miklós.

But what do you get out of these massive gatherings?

Information – about publishing, opportunities, writing life, marketing tips, writing craft
Inspiration – from those who are successful in critical or monetary terms, fulfilled or just having fun
Ideas – about new stories, new approaches, new collaborations

With Charlotte Betts and Liz Harris

With Anita Chapman










I’d add a very important fourth – comradeship/friendship (delete as applicable, or not). You share experiences, meet fellow sufferers, celebrate with colleagues, discuss writing and publishing with people whose eyes don’t glaze over when you mention the ‘W’ word. And in our solitary creative life, that’s immensely valuable.

A few tips on speaking at conferences – the truth

How to get the best out of attending a conference


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. NEXUS, an Aurelia Mitela novella, will be out on 12 September 2019.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines… Download ‘Welcome to Roma Nova’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email newsletter. You’ll also be first to know about Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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