Sunday 5 April 2015

My Day at The Writing Conference - Part 2...

Happy Easter to you all.

It's been a very busy week, which is why this post wasn't done on Thursday when it should have been.

It's hard to believe that a week has gone by since I attended the Conference.

So to part 2, the very interesting sessions after lunch...

I went along to The Nuts and Bolts of Earning a Living as a Writer. This was an intense session. It was chaired by Anne Caldwell who is the Deputy Director of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE), and alongside her was Maureen Duffy, Tim Leech and Emteaz Hussain.

They all shared their experiences- both good and bad of making a living as a writer, and very few of the audience were surprised at the statement that it was more difficult nowadays.

A couple phrases that really struck home were Ann Caldwell's "cast-iron railings around writing time", and Tim Leech who said you need to " structure life around writing, not writing around life." That latter phrase definitely struck home for me.

There was a brief section on the value of organisations like ALCS, the Society of Authors and The Writers Guild- the latter had a representative there who spoke for a few minutes on what they do.

Making a living as a writer can't be done half-heartedly, the writer needs to be pro-active...

After that 45 minutes the next session- in the same room - was The Publishing Process: Why is Having an Agent Important?

This was another well-attended session, with a brilliant panel. Most writers will have heard of Carole Blake of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency (she was wearing purple shoes which looked very comfortable).

 Younger literary agent, Ben Clark from Lucas Alexander Whitely, who was actually looking to take on writers in science-fiction, fantasy, and as he described it, "anything geeky". I'm sure he would probably have received manuscripts this past week!

They were joined by Editor Jane Commane of Nine Arches Press, and the Chair was the very amusing and engaging author, Alison McQueen.

Carol Blake suggested that the writer should choose their agent with the same care they'd use in choosing a partner, which is a good suggestion as hopefully, the writer and agent will be together a long time. As she mentioned one book is no use, you need a career future...

There was advice for what to do: research the agent, look at their profiles, websites, social media, what they're acquiring; the do not's were the standard: sending something they don't deal with, hand written manuscripts, or use social media to ask about sending submissions and so on.

A well set out, good synopsis (not a blurb) was important- including the ending. She explained that her process was reading the chapters first and if they didn't make an impact she didn't read the synopsis. There was no point having a brilliant synopsis if the chapters weren't good. But other agents might do something different.

As the session progressed with the other members of the panel,  it became clear that the writer should not be afraid to ask questions of a potential agent, and if the writer had a choice of agents, then there was nothing wrong in comparing what they were offering, and accepting the best one for them, but obviously mentioning that other agents were being seen...

Approaching younger agents seemed to be a good route. Many will have broken away from an agency after many years, and will actively be looking to take on clients - there are more opportunities available than an agent who has been in the business for many years, and already has a lot of clients.

Someone asked about agents not being AAA listed (Association of Authors' Agents) and it was explained that newer agents couldn't join until they had been carrying out the job for a couple of years, so the fact an agent wasn't a member of the AAA wouldn't necessarily be an issue, but it was a good thing to have because they had a code of practice to abide by as a member.

The session would have gone on longer if it wasn't that the final part of the conference was due. I think everyone went away from the session much enlightened.

There was a fun ending to the day when poet in residence, Joel Stickley read the poem he'd created from the comments attendees had pinned to a board, 'things you shouldn't say', and a few other starting points; while cartoonist 'Brick' produced a caricature of what writers looked like- a woman at the keyboard with a dream bubble above her head showing her as a success.

There were lots of photos taken during the day and you can see a few of the panel speakers on the Writing East Midlands, Twitter account, here.

It was reassuring that I already knew quite a few of the things that were mentioned during the day, but there were items I'd not thought about before, or something that made me think in another way.

Between sessions and during breaks there was the constant bubble of conversation, and amidst that there would be others sat reading, engrossed in a book and oblivious to the noise around them.

In the sessions the conversations continued until the sessions started and the noise level quickly dropped to murmurs and then respectful silence.

No one wanted to miss a single word, and it was worth it...


liz young said...

I wonder how useful it would be to carry a recording device so that you could replay these intense sessions? Surely you can only take in so much?

Carolb said...

It would be difficult to get the permission of everyone involved to record the sessions, and taking notes was much easier, Lizy.

Each session was only 45 minutes long, and each person on the panel had about 10 minutes each, with time for questions at the end.

I think you go into sponge mode at events like this, absorbing a lot, which is why you feel so tired later on. Or at least that's what seems to be normal for me. :D

Rosemary Gemmell said...

It sounds wonderful, Carol, and must have filled your head (and paper) with so much information!

Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful, Carol- thanks for sharing your notes. :)


Carolb said...

So much info in such a short time too, Rosemary.

Carolb said...

You're welcome, Seaview.

I know I'm pleased to find out even snippets from days such as this, in other parts of the country, as I know there will be writers/readers who can't attend such events for various reasons.