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Sunday, 4 March 2018

Writing East Midland's Writers’ Conference Nottingham 2018 :)

Yesterday was Writing East Midland's 5th Writers' Conference, held in the Newton and Arkwright building of Nottingham Trent University.

I've been to four of these events now and there's always something novel to learn, someone new to meet and fresh inspiration to be found. The shiny new venue made a difference too, and very pleasant it was.

This year, however, my writing buddy Cat Roberts-Young was unable to make it through the waves of snow. Perhaps the WEM team might be persuaded to push the event closer to summer next year :) 

But it was still good.
Writer, Richard House (Bruiser / Uninvited / The Kills) replaced snowed-in keynote speaker, Pat Barker, with a talk on his latest works MURMUR and CITIZEN. 

Richard's modus operandi is to engage with the world by "looking into something that I don't really get"...  in order to better understand / explore topics. He utilises written words, film and imagery.  

Quick, always embarrassing, selfie before the lecture theatre fills :)

The first session I attended was called Demystifying the Publishing Process, by The Society of Authors. 

Martin Reed from the Society of Authors talks to local author and SoA member Jonathan Emmett and the publisher Crystal Mahey-Morgan of the storytelling lifestyle brand OWN IT! about the modern publishing process and landscape, and about the relationships between the author, their books, and their ‘brand’.   

This was an interesting talk with lots of insights into publishing. I'll summarise (my) points of interest. Nowadays there are more (readily accessible) avenues open to writers, (think digital, self-publishing, small publishers, etc.) but consequently, more competition.

The market is therefore saturated. It's easy to get into print but harder to make a living, especially in children's writing, apparently. The quality of writing also suffers, nowadays, with high levels of self-publishing. Crystal (rightly) pointed out: "Just because you're able, doesn't mean you should." Everyone is keen to maintain quality in literature.

Indie publishers are on the rise. Crystal is a thinking-out-the-box publisher who seeks diversification (in its fullest sense.) It seems Indie publishers have acquired a (good) reputation for being flexible, risk-taking, more likely and able to promote their authors than bigger publishers.

"Don't assume that bigger is better" says architect-turned-prolific-children's writer Jonathan Emmett.    

Trying to look enquiring selfie :)

The panel also discussed how important it's become for writers to create solid digital platforms. The Industry demands we do but, whilst big publishers often shirk publicising duties, Indies are more supportive and likely to promote their authors.

A good piece of advice was therefore: writers need a sympathetic publisher to help promote their work. So do your homework, if you're on the look-out, and find the right one!

Speaking of diversification, and using different mediums to express yourself, something - I think Crystal said - helped me limp closer to modernity: Writers must view their books as the stories they simply are, and any method we employ to share them widely will serve us well. (i.e. think film, imagery and skype, alongside traditional/digital book forms). Be inventive, be innovative.

The second talk I heard was on Novellas, from author Nicola Monaghan: finding a fit in the shifting landscape of publishing.

Apparently, novellas are making a comeback because digitisation (e-formats, Kindle singles, etc.) removes production and pricing issues associated with paper books. I also think appetites for shorter reads, in these hectic times, gives aggrieved novellas a leg-up:)

In her session, Nicola set us an exercise (to the sound of writers falling off their chairs in shock.) We devised, and interrogated, a new character, before writing a short scene about them. This threw up some useful background ideas, interesting settings, and helped some of us with our works-in-progress too, lol. :)

Lunch :)

Pudding :)

The third slot was a Synopsis Surgery, where WEM's Alex Davis replaced A.M. Heath Literary Agent Oliver Munson. This talk covered the thing all sane writers despise. The surprising thing I learned here is that agents don't always bother reading the detested documents we've killed ourselves over. The reason for this, though irritating, is somewhat logical. They consider sample chapters more important, so will read these plus the query letter first. If they like what they read they'll turn to the nuts and bolts of the story.

Oliver Munson likens synopsis-writing to the first gym trip after Christmas, which sounds about right to me.

We also heard that, despite the torture of creating them, synopses can help writers reach the core of their books. Distilling the story crystallises ideas; and the hateful result can then be used for pitching and selling work. Yippee.

Summary: Synopses show the shape of the novel - like the Taj Mahal viewed from a distance.

The final slot was Literary Question Time. The panel consisted of Award Winning, Young Adult Fiction author Kim Slater,  crime writer Stephen Booth, WEM co-coordinator and Big White Shed publisher Anne Holloway, WEM's Alex Davis, the highly regarded literary agent Kate Barker and WEM's Henderson Mullin (as chair).   

This was an enjoyable session, so I failed to make any notes! But I did ask a question I've been harbouring for a while. Writers are constantly advised, when seeking a Literary Agent, to find one that is right for them. But how in hell do we novices know who is right for us?

It would appear the answer is pretty much what I expected. Go on gut instinct, to an extent. You need to like the person, (for it could be a long relationship.) Personally, I'd want my agent to be warm and human and supportive; to know their job whilst having my best interests at heart. Does such a person exist, lol?

There is only so far you can research this sort of thing. Personability might be (partially) gleaned from a first meet; but I suppose the chunky remainder will be down to luck... 

The lovely Kirsty Fox of NWS manning the stall all by her lonesome

Performance poet, Georgina Wilding, reciting a brilliantly inventive poem about writers rising up and taking full control of their careers. 

Finally, gorgeous, British-Caribbean poet, keynote speaker Malika Booker inspired us with her, sometimes difficult, writing journey. She focussed on how vital peer support is, as you develop your craft. She spoke of community, and how many millions of courses she attended whilst gaining confidence to rise to the top of her game. 

A swift, toilet-cubicle selfie. Well, it was a plainer background. Don't judge me ;)

I'm mainly writing this for the snow-scathed absentees. A fair few writers, speakers and panellists were gutted to miss this year's conference due to weather conditions. :(

Thanks to the friendly people I met yesterday. Cali Bird for supportive chatter, the lovely Eve Makis for sharing a panicked, lost, ten minutes whilst trying to find the venue, first thing in the morning :)

Now. Shit, I suppose I better start writing again...


  1. It looks like this was an interesting and informative event. You are a talented hardworking sweetheart and I have no doubt that you will succeed.

    1. Thanks, Darling! That's such a nice comment :) I really appreciate you reading something that'll be dull as donkey-shit to a non-writer. Thanks for your un-ending support. xxx

  2. I ditto Zeems supportive comments cos she's better with words Glad you met interesting folk & hope that will be some help to your incredible stamina to publish Because uou most certainly have the ideas & talent LUVX

    1. Thanks soooooo much. Really appreciate you putting that on a comment. Yes, if I got paid/noticed for my resilience, persistence, determination, stamina and doggedness; and all the other words that mean the same thing, I would be filthy stinking rich by now :) xxx