Tuesday, 17 July 2018

RNA Conference 2018

As a writer, the annual conference is definitely the highlight of the year for me and, surprisingly, it seems to come around quickly each time. This year was no exception and, from counting down the months, then the weeks, then the days, suddenly I was packing and wondering which shoes would go with which dress!

Welcome with Nicola Cornick and Jan Jones

This year, the conference was in Leeds Trinity University, a campus just outside Headingly. Leeds is a lovely city but I didn't see anything of it beyond the train station. Horsforth, where the campus is located, was really nice though, and I enjoyed a short and pleasant walk from the train station to the campus with HMB author Rachael Thomas .

The conference sessions were useful and enjoyable and included a double presentation from Mills and Boon. This began with editors from the longer 'Trade' imprint giving a summary of the recent rebranding of the company, and concluded with the Series editors outlining the requirements of the different lines.

There was also a very illuminating session with Nicola Cornick in conversation with Barbara Erskine. I must have been the only one in the audience who'd never read Lady of Hay - something I intend to remedy immediately!

I also really enjoyed Liz Harris' session on pacing, which is something I always struggle with in my writing.  Her presentation was both useful and fun, as - in her own words - she'd gotten to grips with animation now and her analogy of pacing being like peeling an onion was an entertaining and invaluable one.

As always, the industry appointments were many and varied and making a choice was difficult. I got three in the end - reserve appointments with Mills and Boon longer series editor Anna Baggaley and independent editor, Laura Gerrard, and my first choice with Kate Bradley from Harper Fiction. All of them gave encouraging and helpful feedback on my timeslip chapter, which is an exciting new experiment for me, and I came away feeling encouraged but also with the realisation that I'll have to write the rest of it now!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Baby Birds

Abandoned robin's nest

Over the last couple of months, we've been very busy on the nature reserve where I work answering phone calls from people who have found a baby bird and don't know what to do with it.  And the answer we normally give, unless it is injured, is do nothing and leave it where you found it.  The often harsh-seeming law of nature is that a third of baby birds don't make it, and that's why songbirds lay somewhere between 5 and 12 eggs, depending on the species.  The bigger the bird the fewer the eggs, with birds of prey only laying 2-3, or even just one.

Mink taking off with a goose egg

The bird breeding season is balanced to perfection, with birds delaying the laying until the optimum time and then prioritizing the raising of their brood according to conditions. If food is plentiful and predators few, then most if not all the chicks will make it; if food is scarce and predators are many, then the adults will feed only the strongest and biggest chicks to make sure that some at least survive.

Robust baby swallows

 Our 'humanizing' of nature causes our emotional and compassionate reactions, but the best chance of survival for a fledgling that's left the nest early is to let it alone.  The parents are probably nearby and will continue to feed it on the ground.  Granted, a predator might get there first, but that is the law of nature. And the predator is doing what every living thing does, hunting to live and raise its own young.

A proud mother goose!

At the end of the day, by rescuing baby birds, we are robbing them of their best chance of survival, ie, learning to adapt to their surroundings and learn the techniques that only other birds can teach them.  It can be heartbreaking to see predated eggs or fledglings being carried off by magpies. So I always remind myself that magpies are living and sentient beings and are entitled to survive too!

Many thanks to the wardens of RSPB Ynys-Hir for their stunning photographs!

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