Going to the York Festival of Writing on Friday was an oddly exhilarating experience, rather like emerging into the light from a narrow, grimly-lit tunnel.
But on the Friday, I left my rural retreat and drove through York - a lively, crowded city with many attractions - and on to the university campus, where the Festival of Writing was taking place.
I met so many industry people, it's hard to explain just how enormously useful this particular festival has become for writers.
I was a speaker - talking about my other incarnation as a romance editor at Embrace Books - and also took some pitches from writers. So I met plenty of interesting people that way, and hopefully gave my best pointers on writing romance in my talk.
But it was in the informal interactions - at meal or break-times, or in the long glamorous evenings at the bar - that the Festival really came into its own. We all had name badges, and soon knew most of each other's names, despite there being several hundred people there.
Which was a good thing, as it's embarrassing to be forever peering at your neighbour's breasts.
Those who made a big impact on me are too numerous to mention, but a good starting list would include Philippa Pride, who is Stephen King's editor and also a renowned Book Doctor; Lorella Belli, a London agent and incredibly glamorous, besides being a great conversationalist; Donna Condon, commissioning editor at Piatkus; Patrick Janson-Smith, formerly MD at Transworld, now at HarperCollins with the Blue Door imprint; Ashley Pharoah, the utterly gorgeous creator of cult TV series like Life on Mars, and an extremely funny man; Carole Blake, brilliant literary agent; and writers Jean Fullerton, Debi Alper, Kate Allan, Jane Lovering, Tim Murgatroyd, Louise Allen, Toby Frost, Julie Cohen, and many, many other wonderful authors, agents and editors who wandered in and out of my conversations all weekend, handed me manuscripts at meal-times, in the ladies' toilets or during seminars, and even stood me numerous drinks at the bar when I was looking thirsty.
Such a hard life, being an editor ...
I would heartily recommend the York Festival of Writing to anyone thinking of getting into writing, or improving their lot there, for such a stellar cast would be hard to better.