The WoMentoring Project

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Today is the launch day of an incredibly exciting new initiative set up by Kerry Hudson, offering free mentoring from authors, editors and agents to up and coming female writers. The buzz about it on twitter has been building and today it’s officially launched and here at Romaniac HQ, we’re tucking into cake and already checking out the website. All the information about the initiative is below and the all-important website address is:

http://www.womentoringproject.co.uk

You can follow WoMentoring on twitter - @WoMentoringP

About the WoMentoring Project
The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

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bespoke illustration by Sally Jane Thompson

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors. 

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project. 



Why do we need it?
Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given. 

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications
In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time. 

Why our mentors are getting involved

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project.
Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.
Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.
Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too.
Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers 

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out.  The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it.
Francesca Main, Editorial Director, Picador
 
I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard.
Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency 

Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

I’m interested in being mentored because although I think you have to make mistakes to learn, having someone who’s been there help you work out the ones with no value can be really useful. Most of all I’d like to have someone to push and challenge me on what makes me and my writing tick.

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner.
Clare Archibald 

 
I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process.
Suzy Norman 

Roving Romaniac: Laura Visits Sandworld

Roving Romanic: Laura Visits Sandworld.

 

Weymouth Seafront

Weymouth Sea front

Ever since I can remember, Weymouth’s had a sand sculptor producing beautiful works of art on the beach, and for the last four years, Sandworld has developed an off-beach site too, where it can create and keep the sculptures in a secure and welcoming environment for the summer season.

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On Saturday 5th April 2014, authors with connections to Weymouth, Kathy Sharp, Kate Kelly, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry and I, gathered for the Grand Opening of Sandworld’s theme for the 2014 season, Literally in Sand. We spent a wonderful day in an area we affectionately called Author’s Corner, enjoying the hospitality of our lovely hosts, and the chatter with those who came to view the incredible sand sculptures and take a look at our books.

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

Laura E James, Carol Hunt, Kit Berry, Kate Kelly and Kathy Sharp

I gave my first-ever reading – an extract from Truth or Dare?, and aware there would be children at the venue, I opted for a family-friendly section. It was quite a challenge finding a passage that wasn’t dark, gritty, or containing too much dialogue, which I figured would be more difficult to follow as a listener. I chose a scene near the beginning of the novel, and including my introduction, spoke for ten minutes.

As someone who has been known to take the stage for a song, it was great to be performing once more.

It was an excellent event, and we hope to return in the summer and do it all again.

Here are a few teaser photos to illustrate the sheer brilliance of the international band of sand sculptors who’ve worked on Literally in Sand.

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Can you name the books?

I recommend a trip to Weymouth to see these, and more, in all their glory.

Thank you Sandworld for the fab day, beautiful art, and friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

I will see you soon.

Laura x

 

 

 

Alison Morton and Perfiditas

We are delighted to welcome back to Romaniac HQ, Alison Morton, who last visited in May, chatting about her first novel in the series, Inceptio. (here.Today, Alison is telling us about the second book, Perfiditas. Take it away, Alison.

Alison Morton 2

Thank you, Laura and Romaniacs, for inviting me back on a very exciting day – publication of my second book PERFIDITAS.

When you start writing, you are often learning about not just the techniques behind producing our novels like structure, goal-motivation-conflict, characterisation and narrative thrust, but about publishing, book promotion and networking. When somebody asks, “How’s the book coming along?” there is only one book. You might have planned, even drafted the next one, but at this stage you’re focusing on the book – your heart’s darling.

Your website reflects the glory of that book, your blog concentrates on its progress, you seek professional advice, polish more, put it through the NWS, polish it more, decide on your publishing route and set off on that path.

On publication and launch days, you glory in the excitement of success, your friends, family and writing colleagues celebrate with you. You go off on a blog and or real tour and your book is in the market. You’re an author.

Then out of the shadows comes that whisper, “So, next book?” It could be from your publisher, friends, fans or yourself but you know you have to disconnect from the first one and concentrate your energy on creating or refining the draft of the second book. But as you settle down to it, you receive a request for a talk or piece about your first one, or it was submitted for an award and it’s been shortlisted. So you switch back with a smile to talk about the first book, your brain a little fuzzy as the details of the story are, unbelievingly, fading. If you’re writing a series, you have to remember not to blurt out what happens in the second that could spoil your article on the first one. Ditto if you give a talk or sell your first book at an event.

This is something I didn’t think about when I launched INCEPTIO. I’ve had to do some rapid running around to make sure my petticoat wasn’t showing when bringing PERFIDITAS to market.

But on the plus side, I’ve learnt that I can write a nearly 100,000 word story and not to collapse internally when I realised I needed to rewrite the last third with a completely different ending to the original (rather stupid) one. I’ve learnt about how to take and use criticism, some technical tricks when editing and a little about the publication path.

But the best thing about the second book is that you are starting from a base you established for the first one. You have gathered some lovely friends and supporters around you who have seen what you can do and who become your champions. That’s almost as good for its own sake as the buzz of getting that first book out.

And now? Fans have kindly asked, “When’s the next one out?” Well, here it is…

Alison Morton Perfiditas Cover

PERFIDITAS, the second in the Roma Nova thriller series comes out today, featuring heroine Carina and her adventures, not least her complex relationship with the enigmatic Conrad.  Rebellion is in the air, but even Carina can’t foresee the ultimate betrayal…

More about PERFIDITAS here: http://alison-morton.com/blog/perfiditas/

Oh, and there’s an exciting trailer: http://alison-morton.com/blog/perfiditas-book-trailer/

Laura says: From what I’ve heard, if it’s anything like the first in series, INCEPTIO, it’ll be a great read. Alison tells me that historic authors Simon Scarrow and Jean Fullerton, and writer and broadcaster Sue Cook have endorsed it, so I think I’ll take a look! 

You can buy PERFIDITAS through your local bookshop (paperback) or here via Amazon http://viewbook.at/PERFIDITAS as an ebook or paperback.

Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/PERFIDITAS-Roma-Nova-Alison-Morton-ebook/dp/B00FXY4GEE

The PERFIDITAS Kindle version will be on 50% special publication offer price £1.49, until 23rd October. 

You can read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and writing on her blog: http://alison-morton.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlisonMortonAuthor

Twitter: @alison_mortonAlison Morton Logo

Wannabe a Writer? Jane Wenham-Jones tells us how we can get there.

Wannabe A Writer TV Show Title Card

So you’ve written that novel that has been consuming your brain for years. Finally written it down and typed those magical words, The End. What now?

Or maybe you have written novel number 15, but still don’t have the courage to send it out to anyone for feedback.

Or even, you’ve written numerous novels, had other people read them and give you feedback, but still don’t know what to do with it.

If any of these scenarios describe you, then Jane Wenham-Jones is the perfect person to help you.

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

The very lovely, Jane Wenham-Jones

Jane has piloted a TV series called, ‘Wannabe a Writer.’ As part of this series, Jane takes an unpublished writer and introduces them to a top literary agent who reads their first three chapters and gives feedback. What an amazing opportunity! In the first episode, Delphine (the unpublished writer) is introduced to Carole Blake, of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, and Carole offers some extremely important advice about Delphine’s manuscript. She highlights key points in Delphine’s story that are not working and tells her where it is going wrong. There is no sugar coating with Carole, but I loved that. As an unpublished writer myself, I don’t want to be blinded by happy smiles and ‘well done’s’ (although those are nice to have, too!) but I want to know how it really works. I want to be prepared for when I meet agents and be told just how blunt they may be. As Carole says in the film, she gets in excess of 20 manuscripts a day, so they don’t have time to think about how to say to someone that A,B and C needs changing in a nice way that wont hurt their feelings. That’s just the nature of the industry and that’s why every published author will say that you need to have the stomach for writing. So when I watched this first episode, I felt refreshed that it was putting forward an honest account of the writing/publishing industry.

Saying this, Jane does a very good job of making sure the writer feels supported afterwards. She is very encouraging and arranges a meeting with a bestselling author – I wont disclose who in case you haven’t seen the video.

Meeting the bestselling author was enjoyable to watch. She gave advice and tips to Delphine about her novel and answered all of her questions with expertise. I particularly liked the fact that Jane also got involved with giving advice and would throw in snippets as and when. So essentially you are getting two for the price of one! Fabulous!

Jane and Delphine

Jane and Delphine

The episode ends with Delphine returning to literary agent Carole Blake, with a revised opening chapter. Carole then gives her feedback on the new piece and is quite encouraging – showing that even though she was hard on Delphine at the start, it was all so Delphine could improve an already promising story.

Jane presents the programme extremely well. She is a very friendly person and this comes across on screen brilliantly. She is encouraging the whole way through the programme and makes the whole process relaxed and positive.

I do find sometimes, with things similar to this, that advice is sort of pushed upon you. You have asked for advice so here it is and you must listen. But with this programme, this is not the case. Advice and tips are offered constantly throughout but never at any time is it forced upon you. The bestselling author even says at one point about you having to use your judgement with the advice you’re getting and basically pick what is best for you and your work.

I absolutely love the whole idea of this TV series and I think it will do really well. There are so many people out there, like myself, who desperately want to break the barrier into being published and I think programmes like this are both informative and real and are exactly what we, as writers, need to help prepare ourselves better.

I asked Jane for a few words about her new venture and he is what she had to say…

It’s here! The fluffed lines, fits of the giggles and the marvellous moment where a certain best-selling author’s cat strolled into the scene, mewing, have been safely consigned to the cutting room floor and Wannabe a Writer – the TV Show is available on a youtube channel near you. This is a ground-breaking new concept I have been loosely billing as Come Dine With Me, meets Through the Keyhole with a dash of Britain’s Got Talent  – except designed to appeal to anyone who’s ever thought they might have a book in them, rather than those who want to sing or show off their carrot stroganoff  and  pecan pavlova.

We’re going to be pitching this to the TV channels this autumn, so we’d love you to watch, love you to comment, and love you to apply to come on a future programme (please also tell your friends).

This baby is the brainchild of me and my mate Steve – an ex- ITN TV producer– who I first met when he obligingly spilled the beans about how much tape Barbara Cartland used to hold her face up when she was being interviewed, for my book Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? (One way, for those interested, is to make news crews wait 24 hours while you bathe the room in pink light, get the florists on standby and use the aforementioned tape to hitch back your forehead.) Not that I am without sympathy, having seen myself in the opening shots, looking as if I have a particularly nasty hangover!

“I hope you’re bleaching out my wrinkles,” I’d squawk at Steve at regular intervals throughout filming. He appeared to ignore me  but was clearly listening. Hear that jaunty piece of music that plays as would-be author Delphine, and I board the train to London? It’s called “Botox Babe”…

To apply to be on the show, visit : www.wannabeawritertvshow.com

Thank you, Jane, we wish you lots of luck with it.

And here is the all important link to this fabulous show – enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kJWTbsjbR4 - Part One

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ycfeR3Zze0 - Part Two

Lucie xx

Sophie Duffy and the Exeter Novel prize

Sophie Duffy

Sophie Duffy

My journey to becoming a published novelist was a long one. In fact I have yet to meet a novelist who became an overnight success. I have yet to meet a published novelist without at least two novels secreted away like old love letters. Those first two novels are the practice ground where we learn about the craft of writing, a craft we writers continue to learn for the rest of our lives.

Sophie Duffy 3

But there may well be some novels out there that deserve to see the light of day. Do you have one of those? Or do you have the beginnings of one? If the answer is yes, I do, then dust it down, rework the opening with the helpfulness of hindsight and fresh eyes and enter it into the Exeter Novel Prize.

Sophie Duffy 2

Sophie, Cathie and Margaret

What is the Exeter Novel Prize? It’s a new prize for novelists, set up and launched this week by the trio that make up CreativeWritingMatters: Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James and myself.

Sophie Duffy GenerationWhy did we decide to do this? Because we believe in the importance of writing competitions. Cathie has won short story competitions,  Margaret has administered and judged writing competitions and my novel The Generation Game won both the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Luke Bitmead Bursary. There are many short story and poetry competitions but only a few novel prizes. And the Exeter Novel Prize is, to our knowledge, the only novel competition open to both unpublished and published writers. As long as you are unagented and not currently under contract, you can enter the ENP with your first 10,000 words and a synopsis by October 31st.

Go to http://www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for details.

We launched the prize on Thursday. It was a soggy evening so we were pleased to fill the room with writers who asked great questions. The atmosphere was positive and encouraging and we are looking forward to finding a shining star. The winner will be chosen from a shortlist by agent Broo Doherty. And who knows what will follow. You’ll never know unless you enter. Nothing ventured…

Sophie Duffy ENP Audience

Sophie  Duffy lives in Teignmouth with her family and other animals. She has two novels published by Legend Press. The Generation Game and This Holey Life.

Thank you, Sophie, for taking the time to write this post. This is a great competition and I wish you, Cathie, Margaret and all the entrants the very best of luck.
Laura x

Maid of Oaklands Manor – Terri Nixon

Today the Romaniacs are featuring debut novelist Terri Nixon who was one of the winners of the Piatkus Entice competition at last November’s Festival of Romance. Her ebook will be launched on July 4th and is definitely going to be worth downloading – here’s an idea of what’s in store. Congratulations, Terri!

Maid of Oaklands Manor 2

1912: A chance meeting between scullery maid Lizzy Parker and heiress Evie Creswell leads to more than an enduring friendship, and a new job for Lizzy; it draws her into a world of privilege and intrigue, and delivers her into the loving arms of a killer.

When Lizzy meets Jack Carlisle, a charismatic friend of the Creswell family, she finds herself drawn to him despite the rumour that he had been involved in the death of Evie’s father. She senses her feelings are reciprocated, but as she finds herself pulled deeper into the dangerous life Jack leads she must decide if he can be trusted with the life of a friend and, ultimately, if he is worth the risk to her own.”

Terri was born in the ancient naval city of Plymouth, England in 1965. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She also discovered apple-scrumping, and how to jump out of a hayloft without breaking any bones, but no-one’s ever offered to pay her for doing those.

Since publishing in paperback for the first time in 2002, Terri has appeared in both print and online fiction collections, and is proud to have contributed to the Shirley Jackson award-nominated hardback collection: Bound for Evil, by Dead Letter Press. She now lives in Plymouth with her youngest son, and works in the Faculty of Arts at Plymouth University where she is constantly amazed by the number of students who don’t possess pens.

You can follow Terri on Facebook here.

Maid of Oaklands Manor is available at Amazon here.

Tuesday Chit Chat with… CONTRACTED AUTHOR, OUR VERY OWN LAURA JAMES

Sorry for shouting. It wasn’t the aggressive shouty type. More of a town cryer style because Hear ye, Hear ye we have some fantastic news for you today. And without further ado, we’ll get on with asking the lady herself…

Author Pic Brighter

We’ve noticed at Romaniac HQ that Laura hasn’t been eating her cake of late. We know this means something is on her mind. So, tell us Laura, what’s occurring?

You know me, stomach’s always the first to give when anything major happens in my life.

Don’t leave us guessing, Laura! You are being interviewed by a lady who is heavily pregnant with twins. I’m not in a position to be left in the lurch. What is the MAJOR thing that has happened in your life?

Sorry, Catherine. Hang in there.

I should warn you, I’m liable to spontaneously combust at any moment, and that’s something even I can’t plan for, so it might be best if you take cover somewhere.

I am exceedingly happy…no…make that ecstatic…to tell you the lovely people at Choc Lit , under their new Choc Lit Lite imprint, have said yes to my first novel, ‘Truth or Dare?’ *dowses self with cold water* And I’m going to have a cover! *Reaches for the jet-wash*

Jan, Jan! Where is the honk-o-meter? We need to offer up our biggest congratulations to Laura.

Jan: Yeeeeeee Ha!! To all of it! HONKS of gargantuan, major league, A1, epic, fantabulously titanic proportions!

I knew Jan would sum up how the rest of us Romaniacs feel. Knowing how much hard work you’ve put in, Congratulations didn’t quite cover it.RNA Summer Party Romaniacs Name Badges

Fantastic honking, Jan :-) Thank you, my wonderful Romaniac chums. What would I do without you? You have been and continue to be my pillars of strength. If pillars were built from laughs, you’d be that, too.

Right, time to calm you down for a moment and ask what is ‘Truth Or Dare?’ about?

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

Chesil. Portland. Dorset.

In a nutshell, which, as you know, is quite a difficult state for me to achieve, ‘Truth or Dare?’, as it currently stands, is a gritty, twenty-one year story, (is that split-era?) revolving around the influence of past events on the present and future. There is a romance at its heart, a family I’d love to visit for holidays, and a shed load of moral dilemmas, as the title suggests. And for the most part, it is set in Dorset, a county I adore.

Did you know there is a law against taking the pebbles from Chesil Beach?

We can’t wait for the moment it’s available, but we know you have lots of hard work in the meantime. But for now it’s time to celebrate so what have you got planned?

Eating properly. Maybe getting a little sleep. All the things I’ve failed to do over the last few weeks. And, since it’s a special occasion, I might even hug a few people.

In my head, I’m dancing with wild abandon. In my kitchen, I’m singing Paloma songs. With gusto. And you know it.

Love you :-) xx

When I was young...

When I was young…

We love you too, Laura ;-) ‘Tis quite worrying, I’ve never known you to be this gushy and huggable. And we’ve got through this announcement without my waters breaking or you fainting. Just, if the other Romaniacs don’t mind, maybe we should ease off on the group hug so Laura and I can collapse on the sofa. And as it’s Romaniac HQ, I’d like to raise my glass (of lemonade, the rest of you have something more fancy) & HONK a toast to Laura and her much deserved success.

Roving Romaniacs – An Earthless Melting Pot anthology launch

I was very happy to spend a lovely, sunny, writerly couple of days in London at the end of May, traveling up on the Friday for author drinks arranged by super-agent Juliet Mushens. In a busy bar in Soho, around twenty of Juliet’s authors gathered to drink and chat. It was lovely to spend time with an eclectic group of writers at all different stages of the journey to publication: Those, like myself, at the nail-biting editing/submitting stage, those who have the longed for book deal who are now awaiting publication, and the published ones – the writers on the Richard & Judy list, the bestsellers, the debut writers and the ones sweating over their second. All lovely, all inspiring – I’m already looking forward to the next Team Mushens outing!

bookDay 2 saw me back in Soho, this time in The Gallery at Foyles bookshop, for a private party to celebrate the launch of the Words with JAM short story anthology. My partner in crime for this do was fellow Romaniac Sue Fortin. The anthology is a collection of the prize-winning stories from the annual Words with JAM short story competition and I was thrilled to have one of my flash fiction pieces, Winter’s Kiss, included – my first story to appear in book form!

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

June Kearns, Sue Fortin and Lizzie Lamb

We weren’t expecting to see any familiar faces, so Sue and I were very happy to spot fellow RNAers Cathie Hartigan, Margaret James, Lizzie Lamb, June Kearns and Rosemary Gemmell amongst the guests. Cathie was another prize winner with her gorgeous story Scent of Lemons.

Me and Cathie Hartigan

Me and Cathie Hartigan

The anthology itself, An Earthless Melting Pot, was beautifully designed and produced and I still haven’t got over the thrill of seeing my name in a book…

photo[2]As well as the anthology launch, the event was to toast Triskele Books first birthday and the launch of four books by Catriona Troth, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer and JJ Marsh. Each of the authors spent a few minutes talking about their books and we were also treated to readings of the prize-winning stories by Ruby Cowling and Ken Elkes.

Add to this an amazing buffet and lots and lots of sparkly drinks and the evening was just about perfect…

Vanessa x

Liam Livings and The Value of Attending Writing Events

Liam LivingsWe thank and welcome today’s guest, gay fiction author, Liam Livings to Romaniac HQ. Liam discusses the value of attending writing events. We’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

Take it away, Liam…

6 reasons why attending writing events is so useful for a new writer (and all writers)

I attended my first writing event in September 2012, the UK Meet in Brighton. It was the suggestion of my friend Clare London and I think, one of the most useful things I’ve done on my journey to becoming a published author. And these are the reasons why…

1. You don’t know what you don’t know.

I learned a great deal of things about writing, promotion, the publishing industry, which I had absolutely no idea about before. Yes, you could get some information on the internet, but when you’re starting out, it’s like the new thing you’re grappling with has no edges, no shape, no names, no words for you to google even (shock horror!). When you’re entering a new ‘industry’ as I was, taking your first tentative steps, there’s a whole new language, set of abbreviations, tools and techniques you need to learn. And there’s something very human and satisfying about learning new things with like-minded people, being able to ask in the breaks or over lunch, ‘What’s a trope?’ or ‘What does HEA stand for?’ And because you’re in like, friendly company your answer is met with a friendly helpful response. I didn’t even know what a blog tour was, never mind being able to think, that would be a useful way to promote my book. I’d never heard of Nanowrimo, and over dinner Anna Martin explained it to me. I didn’t do it in November, but ended up doing Janowrimo instead. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and there’s a whole new world of new ideas and concepts to know. Once you start to know what you didn’t know, that leads onto more knowledge, and then you can begin to have opinions about these new concepts: is a HEA always good; should I do Nano this year? As I drove through Brighton on my way home, that Saturday night, my head was buzzing with ideas and new phrases, like these, and I doubt very much if I’d have got that buzz from a few hours diligently googling.

2. It can lead to lots of other things, which wouldn’t happen (probably) if you’d not met the people face to face.

Meeting people at writing events can lead to many other opportunities, which may have happened, had you met them online, but are much more likely having met the real people and really ‘connected’ with them in physical real time. There’s something about having a meal with a group of new people, chatting over tea (I don’t drink coffee) between sessions, asking them how they’ve got on, that cements relationships in a way online can’t. After the UK Meet I was asked by Charlie Cochrane to guest on her blog, which I loved. I was asked by Clare London to take part in the next big thing blog tour, and because I’d met some other authors, I actually had people to tag. I’ve been on Becky Black’s blog. And somehow, using my marketing skills from my day job, I’ve ended up being part of the planning group for the 2013 UK Meet: I said yes to all of them. All things which I doubt would have happened, had I not met these people at the UK Meet 2012.

3. Writing can be quite a lonely experience and these events brings us together.

Although my friends have taken an interest in my writing to varying degrees, ranging from begging me to read the manuscript and commenting profusely, to not knowing what to say, I’ve found the actual process of writing can be quite lonely: it’s me, my laptop, a cup of tea, and sometimes one of my cats on my lap. I tend to write when I’m alone in the house, finding it helps my productivity. This is contrary to my extrovert personality (I’ve done Myers Briggs, and reading the summary was like they’d got inside my head had a poke around and written the report, rather than me ticking some boxes on a form) where I love interactions with people, hearing their stories, meeting my friends and family. But with the exception of one friend, I had no one I could talk proper geeky writing with – technique, planning, word count, you know the nitty gritty. Not one. I have ‘car friends’ with whom I can indulge my geeky car interests. So going to the UK Meet allowed my inner writing geek loose: to plan or not to plan; how many words can you write in a day; where do you get your ideas from; grammar errors which should result in capital punishment…All topics you can talk about until your little writing heart’s content at writing events. At UK Meet 2012 I realised I’d finally found my people, I’d found my ‘writing friends’ which is so healthy and normal as a person, to share interests with others. Yes, you can have these discussions online, and I think that’s great (and do still do that). However, in a world when online seems to be the way all things are going, there’s something very comfortingly old-fashioned about meeting people face to face, having a ‘I do that too’ moment, or a ‘are you mad, you’re wrong’ moment, face to face. These moments are the seeds of friendships and before you know it you have a range of ‘writing friends’ all around you. That’s something writing events can deliver in spades if you roll your sleeves up and get involved.
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4. Knowing who to contact for different questions and to ask for help.

Yes, you can do this online. Yes, I have done this online (I contacted Laura online, having never met her to ask if I could be on this blog). However, I wouldn’t have known anything about the Romaniacs blog, as I wouldn’t have known what to google, or what a guest blog post was (see point 1) if I’d not been to the UK Meet. Also it was Charlie Cochrane, who I met at UK Meet (thanks v much) who introduced me to Laura. Now, I’m sure Laura’s very kind and generous and would have welcomed me on the blog with virtual open arms, but I felt a had a better chance, a better hope of a warm welcome, having been introduced from Charlie. It’s a bit like in the mafia where they introduce new members as ‘a friend of mine’ which means they’re safe and not the police. (I have the full box set of The Sopranos and Donnie Brasco for that reference btw!)

5. Talking to others who’ve been through the same thing you’re going through.

When you’re an unpublished author, as I am at the moment, getting published can seem like a mythical world, far far away. A bit like Narnia maybe… mmm James McAvoy playing a fawn, concentrate Liam… So talking to other authors who’ve been through that process, and come out the other side, a published author was one of the most valuable things I took from the UK Meet. The session on getting published, where Becky Black explained there was no magic handshake, no special codes, it was about making the work the best you can, targeting the right publishers, and persevering, was like a halleluiah moment in my head. Talking to other authors during the weekend in Brighton showed me many other similar stories about other authors, juggling writing with family/work/pets/life, and still getting published. Hearing these stories from the mouths of other writers was so much more powerful than reading about it on the internet, and it has really spurred me onto getting published.

6. Practical tips for things you’d never have believed you could do.

Me, making a website! Never. When I went to UK Meet, all I had was a domain name www.liamlivings.com (which against the better belief of The Boyfriend, and all my friends who know I have no web skills whatsoever, I’d somehow managed to organise). Having spoken to other writers, who’d all made their own websites/blogs/whatevers who were all about the writing and not so much about the HTML, I had the confidence to make my website and blog. I left the UK Meet 2012, with a list of build your own website (for dummies) sites. One afternoon, two weeks after the UK Meet, I made it happen. Whatever your particular sticking point as a writer, I’m sure a chat with someone who’s been there before who could show you how easy it is, would free your sticking point. I would not have had this confidence, to just go ahead and do it, had I not spoken to so many others who’d done the same.

So, the next time you’re umming and ahhing about whether to stump up the air/rail/fuel and hotel to attend a writing event, just remember how valuable it is to really connect (old fashioned face to face connect) with like minded people, and how many more wonderful opportunities can come from a conversation with another writer.

***** Five Star People

Lovely cousins and Dad

Lovely cousins and Dad

I’m experimenting with a new-style, shorter length post today as we Romaniacs think we’ve been getting a touch verbose lately. (‘No, no!’ I hear you cry, ‘How can that be? How can there be too much Romaniac burbling? It’s almost like saying cake is bad for you.’ But, dear reader, stick with it, and feel free to comment at the end, which I promise you is not nearly as far away as usual.)

So, on the theme of less is more, I want to talk about Five Star People – the ones who become involved in your life for a very good reason, affecting the way you write and also the way that you see the world. Sometimes they pop in and go again quite quickly, more often they hang around for some time and occasionally they are with you for the duration. Whichever ones you’re thinking of right now, they all have something in common – they make your life better. They are life enhancers extrordinaire. And what’s more, they help you to develop as a writer.

Hoping you like the small selection from my personal gallery of five star award winners, naturally including the Romaniac gang. We have experienced some tough times between us since we met and have had to accept that we can’t always write or even be in touch as much or as often as we’d like to, but the support is always there and without them, my life would be much less sparkly. It would be great to hear about some of your own stars now, and also to have your views on the merits of short/longer posts. I’m off to make a cake now with all that waffling time I’ve saved.

So much missed.

So much missed.

Five star buddies Kay and Mum-in-Law

Five star buddies Kay and Mum-in-Law

Cherished offspring

Cherished offspring

Romaniacs on parade

Romaniacs on parade