It might seem odd that someone who normally writes first drafts of novellas would choose to go to a conference predominantly aimed at bloggers.
Or at least that’s what you might think if you didn’t know that Britmums is home to a large group of writers who are writing and publishing their own works both with traditional agents and publishers and via self-publishing. The conference has adapted to this group and carved out a large proportion of its timetable to dedicate to these people (including me and the writing group.)
That’s enough posho pre-amble. Onto the meat of the matter: How was Britmumslive for a serial-first-drafter?
We all know you had your apprehensions, so how did you deal with that?
There was the small matter of a ticket kerfuffle and me getting rather agitated about it (myBritmums Live badge got lost, security were quite rude about it, I cried like a baby, etc etc) but my friend Karen from Tales of a Twin Mum forced me to go through the door.
The Britmums Butterflies were ready to grab people like myself and luckily, they happened to be my writing chums Sarah and Sarah. There were more tears and I made a complete arse of myself. Moving on…
Monika took over. Outgoing and bubbly, she quickly sweetened my bitterness and it was hard not to want to get involved with Monika spreading her infectious energy. If you get a chance, go and see her blog.
What if you needed to have a drink? You’ll have needed tea. You live on the stuff.
Tea, coffee and wine were free-flowing the entire time; perfect for topping up our addictions. A writer needs to keep him or herself alert on order to pick up on any potential ammunition.
Was the keynote aimed at bloggers or novelists?
The first hour or so was heavy on the blogging side, with a keynote from Emma Freud. She talked about having a voice and the way blogging can make change. This is an excellent message for writers. We should be pushing ourselves to get more involved. Don’t be afraid to be opinionated or say something contentious, which she did.
Ooh, what did she say?
Emma played on her femininity by stating she had slept her way to the top. This has split the internet and made her the subject of some interesting posts. A clever move!
Good or bad thing?
I’ll tell you later.
So then what happened? Love a bit of gossip!
The feminist theme was followed up by a conversation about the female voice in the media. I was personally quite stunned by how many people left the hall for this chat; feminism and its knock on effects are an important concept for women publishing their own work. This is a blog post for another day.
But I like feminism..talk to me more about the feminists.
Later. Let’s move on.
How does all this relate to writing so far?
The Internet is constantly opening up opportunties for us. It’s there, and it’s OUT THERE. It’s given us a chance to get ourselves known. It can be a great tool and it can be dangerous. This is more advantageous for a blogger but with competition fierce in the self-publishing market, we need to push and push and if that means getting to know how blogging and bloggers work, then do it.
Did you see any real life proper published writer people?
Book signings were going on throughout the day, so we had an opportunity to chat to some of our favourite people.
The writer-type sessions began with a wonderful talk about the creative process from Amanda Jennings, author of Sworn Secret and The Judas Scar; Hannah Beckerman, author of The Dead Wife’s Handbook and Rowan Coleman who has written 24 books in her career. If these three ladies didn’t make you want to have success in your writing, no one would.
Did they help?
Of course! Writers love to help other writers, right? There was a great vibe in the room as they have us tips right through from getting started to finding time, to finishing and editing. They’ve done it all. They’ve had the rejection and the heartache. Each one has got her own style, which only serves to re-inforce the mantra that you have to do what is right for you and your book – but make sure you do it A LOT.
What about the next step?
One of the things that Britmums Live offers, since so many of its participants have expressed an interest in writing longer works, is a chance to Speed Date an agent. 10 minutes to pitch a idea to an agent from LBA, a literary agency. Unfortuntely, by the time I was ushered up there by Susan, the spots had gone. Still, Luigi came down to chat to us and answer our questions.
You saw a real life agent too? Was he all mystical and shiz?
Nope. He was quite normal. Actually quite nice. He gave us very thorough guidelines about how to make the most of our submissions and what he expects from the first page of a novel. You’ll have to wait for the post about that!
(It’s probably not going to be wise to submit to him right now because I should imagine he will be inundated with submissions. Let it chill, dude. There’s no rush.)
Wait, someone must have won something?
Yep. lots of bloggers took home awards and fuzzy feelings (not wine-inflicted).
What followed afterwards was a celebration of all that is good in the blogging world, with wine, music and cheering.
Were you all inspired after the first day?
Hells yeah, but far too tired to do anything about it. I was tucked up in bed by nine, notepad on my lap and ready to embark on a voyage of imagination, although very little came out before sleep took hold.
What happened on day two? I mean, you’ve done all the good stuff, yes?
Some good stuff. We spent the morning networking. This was a mixture of trying new things and talking to brands about products and our blogs. It’s a strange feeling and an excellent confidence booster. I got to tell people I am a novelist and mean it. Initially, I was drawn in by the lure of free things, but actually left with confidence and inspiration, which is much more valuable. I got to have a good chat with mummygadgetgeek too, so it was definitely worthwhile.
Anything good for us novelists?
A Livescribe pen. Check them out. The Memory box app is pretty special, too. Carnival cruises, (who doesn’t need to get away?), delicious cherries, books from Parragon and if lose your keys a lot, the Keyfetch people offer a very neat solution. You would have loved it.
Dammit! Did you hear the keynote?
Sadly not. Ben Brooks-Dutton, whose book title is enough to bring tears to the eyes of any parent, is a wonderullly brave man who took his courage after tragedy and changed the way we talk about grief. We could all learn some lessons from him about using a life experience to affect the lives of others and provoke deep emotions via writing.
Wow. You should have gone to that!
Yep, but I caught up with Ben Brooks-Dutton later and had a converstion which consisted of me making stupid sad faces and trying not to cry over the title of his book. He probably hadn’t forgiven me for missing the keynote though.
Back to my book. I’m writing a memoir. Can that get me in trouble?
Well, sort of. Check out UK defamation law (if you’re in the UK, otherwise, it’s off to Google you go.) We had a talk about this too, with a guide to what you should do when someone is less than savoury on your blog. You need to watch what you and others say in an open forum and quell any concerns asap.
Otherwise you’ll be in trouble?
You can be, yes. You would need to check out the law and if in doubt, consult a lawyer before letting your darlings out in public.
Ok, so I’ve released the book. I get to keep all the money?
No. As Georgi from Starfish Accounting says, you have to pay tax. In fact, she broke down what you pay and why you pay it into simple chunks that were easy to digest and didn’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth.
You’ve mentioned getting OUT THERE. How?
Thankfully, The Fairy Blogmother was there to get us started. I picked her beginner’s blogging guide because I felt like I could do with a bit of guidance on my blogging. She inspired me to really think about which direction I should be taking.
I can has self-pub?
Now, now. Self-publishing is legit. Despite its (sadly) poor reputation, it’s also highly beneficial for the author. Emma Clark Lam talked to us about the success of her self-published novel A Sister for Margot. Her session was highly informative and even went into detail about uploading via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
Sounds like a hectic day! How did you calm down? I’d have been high for weeks!
Pippa from Story of Mum ran a me-time session where we focused on us and our creativity. Breathing, writing and making (with stickers!) was the order of the session, topped off by a beautiful poem by MushroomsMum.
You met a lot of people? Anyone else?
Maggie from Red Ted Art and Eliza Do Lots. Both lovely ladies. Maggie and I chatted about crafting with kids (she let me into her secret) and I’ve been meaning to meet Eliza for years so I was chuffed when we eventually found each other. I also met Michelle briefly in a writer session. Unfortunately, she was only there for the evening and I would have liked more of a chance to chat to her.
So how was it for a novelist over all?
I didn’t stay til the end as I had to get home to children and bedtime drama, but I would say it was definitely a worthwhile experience. I feel rejuvenated and my inspiration is flowing.
Disclaimer: The people mentioned in this blog post have not paid me to mention them. The brands gave me stuff to try and talked to me about their products. This does not affect my opinion of their awesomeness.