I was about to post my latest (and probably final) information about Douglas Gordon Bruce, for my Mystery Challenge,
when I was suddenly whisked back to the end of June last year, at the Winchester Writers Conference, where the indomitable Director of the Conference, Barbara Large, MBE, kindly invited me to attend the plenary address on the Saturday morning, and say a few words about Novel Press and Paper Lanterns.
I was looking on the Conference website to see if the details of this year’s event had been published there yet, and I was reminded of an interview I’d given in the previous year. Some of the university students had been allocated the task of interviewing delegates from that year’s event.
I had walked out after Sir Terry Pratchett’s address to the conference into the blazing sunshine and was immediately accosted by a small group of young people wielding photographic instruments: Would I be willing to answer a few questions about why I was there, and what advice might I give to other aspiring writers?
When it comes to an opportunity for me to talk about writing in general (and mine in particular!) I’m not likely to turn it down, so I rattled on for several minutes, until I came to a natural ending. The interviewers were university students, and it was their project to make a record of the weekend for the university archives, with special reference to Terry Pratchett.
After that, I forgot all about it, so when I saw the yellow boxes on the left of the screen, I clicked on the one that was labelled ‘Delegates reactions to the 2010 WW Conference’. I started watching with interest, but without really expecting to see myself there.
I have to admit, that I did cringe a bit at the sight of me, jabbering away, seemingly non-stop. But on the other hand, I had to give myself some credit for being able talk off the cuff like that. Watching and listening a couple of times, I was slightly reassured to find that the words I’d spoken then were more or less what I’d say now, nearly a year later, (especially my final comment in the second section, on advice to other writers).
Although I’ve seen myself in action on a screen a few times, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the weird sensation of seeing myself in action, and what I must look like to others. Fortunately, I don’t give that a moment’s thought in everyday life! I was impressed by the clarity and calmness of the other five speakers – I wonder if any of them have had similar feelings.
I was pleased to see a pleasant man I’d had a conversation with, the evening before. He’d told me a little about his published book and it sounded very entertaining, but I’d forgotten all about him and his writing till I saw him on the video, so I was pleased to hear the title of his book, ‘Vet in Prospect’ and was able to find it on Amazon. I was delighted to hear that he’d landed a three-book deal as a result of attending the conference.
As you can see from the start of the video, he is not the only writer who has owed his success to this Conference over the last 30 years. I would heartily recommend this event to anyone who is serious about their own writing. There’s always a wealth of useful and encouraging information. Above all, it’s great fun!
Before I launch into my brief visit to the Winchester Writers Conference last weekend,
I have to tell you about my excitement when I opened my email just now, to find that Google Alert had spotted an enthusiastic review of my first published novel, The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society.
As you can see here it’s the responses of ‘my’ readers that helps to keep me going when the going gets tough.
Any opportunity for mixing with other writers gives me a boost, whether I’m leading a workshop for aspiring writers, or joining in as a participant myself, or listening to talks and readings from other authors, I always find some new understanding to add to my store of knowledge and skills. One of the most stimulating of these events in the UK has to be the annual Winchester Writers Festival that takes place at the end of June.
I’d heard about it several years earlier, and was thinking of signing up for the 2005 Conference, when I received that phone call from Transita, saying that they wanted to publish my novel. I’d reached my goal of publication, and foolishly imagined that I’d learned everything I needed about writing a book and getting it published. How could I have foreseen the sad demise of Transita, and my return to square one in a search for a publisher for my next novel, Paper Lanterns? I won’t go into details now, but you can read about some of the resulting difficulties here.
Eventually, I realised that although I’d learned a huge amount about marketing and the difficulties of getting published, I still had more to learn, so I signed up for the 2008 Winchester Writers Conference. That turned out to be an extremely useful decision. No, I didn’t find an agent or publisher to take me on, though, as usual, there were plenty of them milling around the University campus, giving pre-booked one-to-one advice, or delivering lectures. However, I did learn more about how to bring what I’d thought was a finished product to a properly publishable state. (I’ll write more about this in future posts).
When I’d implemented all the necessary chopping and changing, I sent it out again. And again. And again…until I came to the dead-end of every possible path. I knew that Paper Lanterns would be appreciated by many of my previous readers, and many new ones too, and if it was ever going to appear in print, I would have to do it myself. And here’s how I did it.
I was so delighted with the Novel Press’s first product that I sent a copy to Barbara Large, MBE, the amazingly energetic, enthusiastic, supportive and perceptive Director of the conference, and she very kindly invited me to attend the plenary address on the Saturday morning, and say a few words about Novel Press and Paper Lanterns.
If I hadn’t already committed myself to a family event at my mother’s house in Sussex, I’d have signed up for the whole weekend.
It was lovely to be back there, even for a short while, meeting up with writing friends, Adrienne Dines, and Crysse Morrison, as well as talking to strangers. (Though when a writer gets talking to other writers at such an event, they don’t remain strangers for more than a minute or two).
The plenary address was delivered by the indomitable Sir Terry Pratchett – what a fantastic(al) story he tells about his own experience of getting published. No one would imagine in their wildest dreams (that is, no one who knows anything of the current state of publishing) of being taken on so casually by agent with their first book, and some time later receiving a publisher’s cheque and a commission for a second book. ‘Oh, so that’s how it happens,’ thought the young Terry P, ‘You send off your manuscript, and back comes a cheque.’ He spent it on a greenhouse!’
Among the numerous amusing anecdotes and fascinating insights into his own writing practice, was what he described as ‘The valley of clouds’. Once he’d unravelled the analogy, I was delighted to find that his approach to plotting a novel accords with mine. As he explained, he can see the distant peak across the valley, and knows where/what he’s heading for, but the details of how the story will unfold is shrouded in the mist. He discovers these as he writes.
But there the similarity with this hugely talented and successful author ends. According to Wikipedia, as of December 2007 he had sold more than 55 million books worldwide, while I was happy with my sales of (nearly) 3,000 copies of the Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society.
ENTRANTS IN MY VIRTUAL TREASURE HUNT, WILL FIND THE FIFTH AND FINAL QUESTION IN MY NEXT POST.