Friday, 15 June 2007

Last weekend in Lincoln

Stress-level is a little more moderate today, thanks to wine-bath-and-Sicilian combo last night, so am now ready to post the full low-down on last weekend’s goings on in Lincoln at the celebrations for Kate Walker’s 50th book!

First of all, let me say that a year ago if anyone had told me that June 2007 would see me (and husband—aka Him) opening the door of a lovely hotel room and finding a note on the table from Kate Walker, Romance Icon, saying ‘so glad you could join us...’ I’d have thought they were sending me up . But here we are, on a gorgeous day, checking into a gorgeous hotel for a very special weekend of celebrations.

Lincoln is beautiful—like the very best bits of York and Chester, with half as many people to share them with. We wander around the shops in the sunshine, and return up Steep Hill to the hotel. Steep Hill does exactly what it says on the tin—i.e. is very steep. Stupidly I have a bet with Him that I can get to the top first, and proceed at a cracking Girl Guide pace which nearly kills me but secures a victory (such things are so important in a marriage, I find). Triumph is very shortlived as we arrive at the hotel, hot and horribly sticky with exertion and find Kate, her lovely husband (the Babe Magnet) and numerous other writers of whom I’m terrifyingly in awe gathered in the bar. Kate—as warm and wonderful as ever, does not hesitate to introduce us to everyone, and romance writers, being the nicest people in the world, all proffer the kindest, most welcoming hugs and kisses. Find myself fervently wishing we had taken Steep Hill at a more gentle pace (and am ceratin they wish we had too!)

Flee upstairs for much needed cool shower and to get changed for the evening, and go back down an hour later to find the gorgeous Orangery, where we are to enjoy pre-dinner drinks, filling up. Straight away spot Kate Hardy and rush over to say hello—it’s been as a lovely result of this celebration that we’ve got to know each other over top secret arrangements about presents, and although we’re now pretty familiar with each other’s musical tastes, families, writing habits, chocolate addictions and ideal men, until this moment we’ve never actually spoken! Stand there chatting happily to her and feeling like I’m in a romance version of the World Book Day event at the children’s school when everyone had to come as a famous author, as a succession of my writing heroines (including Susan Stephens, Michelle Reid and Jacqueline Baird) drift past on the way into dinner.

The tables have book names instead of numbers—we’re on Game Of Hazard, which instantly proves to be great fun as we all introduce ourselves and admire the couple in the throes of tormented passion on our book cover (indeed, we admire it so much that we decide it would be an excellent idea to re-create it for the disposable camera placed on our table. Can see that Kate may be in a position for a bit of very lucrative blackmail once the pictures are developed.) The party girl herself looks stunning, and when she comes over to our table to say hello I make Him take a photograph of her glorious shoes for Amanda Ashby, who shares Kate’s perfect taste in accessories and will, I know, be both impressed by and envious of these....

After an utterly delicious main course we are invited to move tables, and I reluctantly say goodbye to Game of Hazard and head over to The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife, where Abby Green, Julie Cohen, Anna Lucia and Kate Hardy are hanging out. Shortly after I arrive pudding does too, and I feel this is one of those spookily perfect moments—a happy combination of crème brulee, writing goddesses and waiters coming round with champagne. The speeches begin, and because of the shedloads of talent in the Walker camp, mainly take the form of poems, which I intend to beg her to reproduce on her website as they are fab. They summarise perfectly, in various ways, the tone of the evening, but definitely need appreciating again for their own sakes (please Kate!).

After this Kate herself gets up, and it’s entirely typical that everything she says is in praise of others. Then, although this is her night, she continues a tradition she began some years ago and gives out heart necklaces to those of her ‘virgins’ (writers who she has supported through the RNA new writers scheme) who’ve achieved publication. Trish Wylie, Natasha Oakley, Anna Lucia are all presented with beautiful be-ribboned bags, and are given a hug by Kate. And then she is walking towards me, and even though I was never a virgin (what??), she has a bag for me too, and I’m overwhelmed with disbelief and delight. It’s an unforgettable moment, and an extraordinarily lovely gesture. Open the delicate gold box to find a necklace of flame-orange Venetian glass, perfectly chosen and utterly beautiful.

(A hug and a heart for Trish Wylie....)

(.... And one for me too! )

Finally it’s our turn to show our appreciation to Kate. Kate Hardy has masterminded the purchase and presentation of our joint gift, and does a wonderful job of giving it to Kate and telling her how special she is. By this stage the batteries in our camera have long since conked out, but Susan Stephens has a ringside seat and captures the moment here! (you may have to scroll down..)
The rest of the evening passes in a happy blur, and takes on a slightly surreal aspect as the names on covers of favourite books suddenly come to life like the playing cards in Alice in Wonderland. I am so glad to have the chance to talk to Abby Green, who is my ‘big sister’ in the Presents family, having come in a couple of books ahead of me, and is every bit as lovely as her books. We move through to the bar and I sit with Kate Hardy and Michelle Styles and wish I had a notebook with me as they dispense wisdom and brilliant advice. But it’s getting late and I’m suddenly hugely tired...
(Kate Hardy, me, and some bloke we picked up.
Does it look a bit like we're fighting over him?)

After a gorgeous breakfast the next morning the multi-talented Trish Wylie is brave and patient enough to try to explain the rudiments of website construction to my husband. I know when I’m out of my depth and enjoy a lovely conversation with Julie Cohen’s gorgeous baby. Then it’s time to say goodbye... and THANK YOU to Kate and the BM for a wonderful, wonderful time.

He drives home and I doze. At some point as we speed through Derbyshire the sun breaks through and I reach up to touch my heart necklace. The glass is heavy and has absorbed the warmth of my skin. How appropriate, and how very typical of Kate-- a warm heart.


Danielle said...

Wow, sounds like...and looks had a great time.

Love the shoes! :o)

India said...

Yes, not only does Kate know her way around a shoe shop, it seems she's also a dab hand at throwing a party (not to mention writing 50 fab books...) No fair!!

It's great to catch up with you again Danielle as I checked this morning with my editor about US release dates, and it seems that for once in my life I was right(falls off chair in surprise) and the book will be out in October!

Amanda Ashby said...

Beyond envious of both the shoes and the whole party. Did I mention that I HATE missing out on things. Sniffle.

Kate Hardy said...

It was a fantastic evening, wasn't it?

And it was so lovely to meet you in person.

(Can I confess that I, um, knew Kate was planning to give you the heart? There she was, chatting away on the phone to me about her plans to give certain people a nice surprise, and I was thinking, "Yeah, you wait until you see what WE found for YOU...")

Well deserved. And I can't wait for your first book to be out.

Michelle Styles said...

It was lovely to see India.

I tend to wear my Kate Walker heart when I reach a difficult point in my wip -- to remind me to write from my heart.

I think she also choses hearts with the indivdual in mind...

Kate Walker said...

It was a fabulous weekend, India - and you and your handsome husband were a very special part of it - I was so glad that you were there.

Amanda I'm so glad that the shoes lived up to my reputation - how the heck did I ever get this shoe/accessory/clothes reputation? Probably because you guys only ever see the dressed up Kate. The one I am right now - scruffy tee shirt, tracky pants is not one that would enhance my style rating.
And we missed you too.

But believe me those shoes took some finding. (India - come and visit and I'll take you to the shop!) And there's a story behind those shoes . . . one I hope I'll be able to tell soon.
T'other Kate has an idea (Kate - we're still waiting for a reply)
And yes - you did surprise me - and how! I was so so touched by everyone's generosity and kindness

I'm so glad everyone enjoyed the weekend as much as I did - and I love giving out the hearts - it reminds me of how I felt all those centuries ago when I had my first book published.

Oh and Michelle, yes, you're right - the hearts are chosen with the individual in mind - which is why I had a very worrying moment when India first appeared looking beautiful in pink . . .luckily her dress at the dinner set off her heart perfectly.

And yes - we must do it again some time. Don't hold your breath for the next 50 books! - but then we don't need any excuse to have another 'mini conference' do we?:-)


Amanda Ashby said...

Kate, I'm afraid I might've started the whole reputation thing. It's just that I'm a very nosey sort of person and I tend to notice these things, so if you will galivant about looking all smart and glamourous then there is nothing else I can do but comment accordingly!!!!!! Oh, and of course I refuse to believe that look anything other than fabulous at any given time of the day!!!

Michelle, I'm soo going to start wearing my KW heart for tricky bits in my wip. It was seriously one of the one wonderful things I've ever been given and it makes me feel a little bit special everytime I put it on!

India said...

Right, Ms Hardy, I'm going to give you the official title 'Keeper of Secrets and Distributor of Lovely Surprises'-- it seems to me wherever there's magic afoot you're behind it somewhere (xx)!

Michelle and Amanda-- I was talking to another v lucky heart-holder on Saturday-- Julie Cohen-- who also said she wears hers whenever the writing hits a rough patch (which, having loved all her books I find so hard to imagine that it does!) It seems there is indeed something magical about these very special gifts.

Kate, don't tempt me about the shoes... Having spent so much of my life uninitiated into the joys of beautiful shoes I have some serious catching up to do (and having just visited Trish Wylie's blog I can see I need to get started soon!) I think it's just as well that I also have some serious catching up to do on my wip or else I might just be tempted to jump in the car and head back over to lovely Lincoln. It's another reason why we have to do it all again!