Well, what a weekend. I went to the Get Writing conference in St Albans on Saturday, and boy, what a day it was.
I was so unbelievably nervous about going. I had only met Sue Moorcroft and Christina Courtenay properly before, everyone else, I was meeting for the first time. There were so many people from Twitter going, and a few from blogs I follow, too. I was worried I would not recognise anyone, and a few people looked different from their photo’s, but everyone was so friendly.
I arrived at 8:45, after being directed into the ‘bus only’ entrance. From what I heard, I was not the only one who’s sat nav decided to try this trick!
When I arrived I met up with my friend who also went, and we collected out name badges and grabbed a drink. I remember looking around the room thinking, ‘oh my god, so many people I want to speak to,’ but I was so nervous. I took a quick trip to the toilets where I met the lovely Jules Wake and Jude Roust. Some wonderful friendly faces I knew from Twitter and I immediately relaxed a little. The time passed and it was soon time to go inside for our welcome. On my way in I spotted Sue Moorcroft, and immediately made a beeline to say hi!
So, we had our welcome address from Ian Cundell and immedeately went into the first workshop, ‘How to impress us.’
This was a talk with John Jarrold (Literary agent, Fiction), Robert Dudley (Literary agent, Non-Fiction) and Matt Bates (Fiction buyer for WHSmith) John and Robert both spoke about their criteria for submitting work to them, covering letters and what not to write! Matt spoke about what he looks for when selecting the books to purchase for the store and what’s important as a buyer.
Then we had a refreshments break where I saw another Twitter friend, Liz Crump. We then made our way upstairs to our next workshop, ‘Making Heroes,’ with Sue Moorcroft and Pia Fenton (Christina Courtenay.) There were many different workshops to choose from for this slot, so all the delgates took off in different rooms at this stage.
Sue and Pia’s workshop was fantastic. They are both authors for ChocLit publishing and made the workshop very personal and fun. Speaking about what they look for in a hero, Sue’s being contemporary whilst Pia writes historical romance. They gave us lots of advice from researching your market and preferred publishers, to making sure your hero is irresistible. They also compiled a little writing exercise where we were to learn whether or not we were writing our hero for the correct audience, publishers and story we had in mind. An extremely informative and fun workshop.
Next was ‘Beyond the Revolution’, with Marlene Johnson (MD of Hachette UK) Simon Taylor (Editorial Director at Transworld) and Gillian Green (Editorial Director at Ebury Press.) An eye opening talk about where they thought the book industry was headed. E-books, P-books (which I found out was Print books) and how they had been affected by both.
Then it was lunch time. A variety of both hot and cold foods were available along with wine and soft drinks. After which, we were given the opportunity to purchase some books and have them signed. I purchased the VWC Anthology ‘The Archangel and the White Hart’ and ‘Kissing Mr Wrong’ by Sarah Duncan. Sarah very kindly signed my copy and was a pleasure to meet, as was Jean Fullerton and Rosy Thornton, who I am sad I only got to exchange a few words with as it was then time for the next workshop.
Before the first workshop of the afternoon, Sue Cook presented the Get Writing cup. Congratulations to the winner, and all the short-listed runner up’s. Sue then conducted her talk ‘From fact to fiction,’ where she gave a wonderful insight to how she has got to where she is now.
Another break, a chance for all those who had those crucial pitches to agents and editors to get ready, and then for all those who were not pitching, (no I didn’t pitch, not ready for that just yet!) a workshop with Sarah Duncan, ‘the hookers story.’
Contrary to what some of you may be thinking, the talk was not about the red light district, but about how to grab your reader and keep them hooked. Sarah had a unique way of grabbing our attention at the beginning of her talk, by not talking to us. She stood, facing her audience, staring back at us, in silence. After what felt like 5 minutes, but was only probably 2, she opened her talk by saying ‘are you waiting for me to talk?’ She had grabbed our attention from the word go. Brilliant.
She spoke about pacing, showing and not telling, letting the reader do the work, chapter endings, paragraph hops and caring about our characters. Another unique demonstration she did, was slamming her book on the table, out of the blue. Everyone leaped out of their skins, heart racing, wondering what on earth she was doing. She then did it again. Only some people jumped, others were not at edgy. A third and final time – no-one jumped. We had wised up and knew it was coming. She was demonstrating that if you put big things together, one after the other, they lose their impact. The same with scenes. If you put one big scene after another, they lose impact and are no longer the fantastic piece of writing it deserves to be.
An inspiring workshop with a unique, but genius way of teaching things.
More refreshments and then workshop number 5, ‘With the innovators,’ with Scott Pack (director of digital product development for HarperCollins), Raymond Tallis (Professor of Geriatric Medicine at University of Manchester until ’06, Poet, novelist and philosopher) and Ian Skillicorn (Founder of Short Story Radio, writer and translator) An interesting talk on various subjects. We learnt a little about each speaker and then they became open to Q & A.
After a final break we went into our last talk which was ‘Growing Together’ with Lyn Vernham (Marketing Director of ChocLit) Christina Courtenay and Sue Moorcroft (Authors at ChocLit) and Matt Bates (Buyer for WHSmith) As with before, we heard a little about each speaker. Lyn told us all about ChocLit, its submissions guidelines, its tasting panel and where they are headed for the future. ChocLit’s tasting panel, of which I am a reader of, is a panel of people, ranging in age from 18 – 35+ (not sure if there is a cut off age). When an MS is sent into ChocLit, it is sent out amongst these readers to read, and send in feedback about whether they liked it, whether the story hits the criteria required and whether the hero is, of course, irresistible. To become a reader for ChocLit, simply go to their website and email them requesting to be considered. It’s as easy as that. They do require that their readers read at least one MS a month, so please, only apply if you think you have the time to commit to this.
Sue and Pia (Christina Courtenay) both spoke about their journeys to publication and their future plans. Pia is doing a blog tour at the moment to promote The Scarlet Kimono and she is in fact here on my blog on the 28th!
We then had the closing address, and that was it, conference over.
I had an absolute fantastic time and met some wonderful people; friends from Twitter, Facebook, blogs and also some ROMNA friends like Henriette Wulff Gylanddand Jean Bull. My apologies if I have not mentioned you in this post. I met so many people that day, It is hard to remember. But thank you all for being so friendly and approachable, thanks to all the speakers who made for fantastic listening and thank you to Jenny Barden and her team who made it all possible.
I will definitely be trying my hardest to attend next year!