London Metropolitan University
Litcamp happened yesterday – if you weren’t there you missed a very good day. If you were – wasn’t it great?
The day started frustratingly – I was meant to meet up with Sara Crowley from Fiction Workhouse at Hayward’s Heath station. I couldn’t find the car park, found one within sight of the train, which waits for at least five minutes at this stop…ran (I don’t DO running) got me ticket then rushed onto the platform as they locked the train doors, and had to watch the train pull out on its way to London. Hmph.
Nemmind. I was only 10 mins behind Sara and we met at the venue, near Holloway Tube station. Perfect. Easy.
The first session on self-publishing was under way, and had kicked off in the main hall, where the tea and coffee was on… so a growing band of us met in the corridor outside. Sara, Alison Woodhouse and Julia Bohanna also from Fiction Workhouse. Kelly who had flown down for the day from her home town of Edinburgh (and didn’t know my writing colleague Douglas…) Saw the other Kelly, who blogs at a window in Stokie, once we got into the hall, and fell on the coffee and croissants. I was not sorry to miss self-publishing. I am still old fashioned enough to think if your stuff is good it will get out there.
The first session I attended was a very interesting one indeed. Including disinformation from on high...
Getting inside the editor’s head
Rosalind Porter, senior editor with Granta Magazine, Laura Barber of Portobello Books, Tom Chalmers of Legend Press and agent Hannah Westland of Rogers Coleridge and White. A hugely informative session lasting an hour and a half - led by questions from a very interested audience…insights into every possible nook and cranny of the business. One sentence rang in my head all day:
“It’s the writing we love. If the writing is great, you can forgive glitches in structure…” (or words to that effect.) The message was that structure can be redone, edited. Great prose is great prose and no editor can do that only a writer.
Then. WOW!!! Someone in the audience asked about the short story, and the lady from Granta said there was “nowhere in the UK to publish short stories apart from her magazine and Prospect.” VERBATIM.
What a fib. What a disservice to writers, editors, publishers alike. Luckily there was a slight softening of the message when someone prompted a mention of… guess who - SALT PUBLISHING!!! I was still fuming, but felt I couldn’t say anything as I had my own session in the afternoon. BUT I scribbled a memo to self to let the writers know about London Magazine, Riptide, Transmission, Brand, Cadenza, Comma Press, Elastic press, Salt, Bluechrome, Honno… the list is endless. There's The Yellow Room, Random Acts of Writing, Stinging Fly Southword in Ireland... and those are just the ones I know about instantly, off the top of my head. And yea, some of them pay. And/or royalties.
There was then a buffet lunch
After lunch I went to a fab session that had been suggested by a writer … the very thing that makes Licamp so good. It explored in detail the possibilities for writers arising from the digital age. One brilliant panellist, Val Stephenson of nthposition. Seemed to me to be the sort of lady you want to listen to all day… funny, rude, ascerbic, clever. All that.
There was the usual blather about no £££ on the web, and when I chipped in about the net being a great stepping stone, a place to be read in some picky venues… then said the next step was a book… this bloke hopped up and down and said ‘SEE!! I said it was all about money!”. So I took great pleasure in saying I have made not a single bean out of my book. NOTHING. That shut him up.
Then I did my session, to a nicely full room, talking about my strategy for learning and moving on up the ladder. And I hope I got the message over that there is plenty you can do with short fiction. Told them to look at The Short Review to see how many collections are being published. The mags, online and print. About getting OUT of writing groups or courses if they were wrong for you. About NOT having to work f ace to face with writers who didn’t give you the right feedback. About sticking with hard work, recognising where you were getting good teaching from, choosing writers to teach you, either in reality or in your reading. Being bloody minded and stubborn. And not giving up without a fight. Competitions, publications, networking. Going to everything you can. Not being fooled into thinking it is not on to share, talk, broaden.
Lovely to meet so many people afterwards who wanted to natter, share and talk!!! Including one I am hoping to blog about next, but I’m waiting for her permission.
Lovely to meet Nick Hogg whose novel Show Me The Sky is out there, and go to his talk on the process, of getting the novel out, and how he works. He shared this platform with Farahad Zama, whose own novel is out very soon, based on a marriage bureau in India.
Saw the guys and gals from Willesden, including the indomitable Steve Moran, whose hair now looks like a halo – who read all short story submissions left for him during the day, giving careful and very straight feedback on every single piece of work. And Bilal Ghafoor, guiding light of the group and with whom I am threatening to have dinner v soon.
Bridget Whelan (also from our neck of the woods… another member of new Writing South)was doing a talk on making ££ as you write. Maggue Dutt (we had a natter in the loo) talked on how young poets can create a platform for their work.
And the day ended with an open mike session, poetry, story, memoir. Short snips, well choreographed by Katie. I read Wei Chi from Smokelong. Because I love that character.
I sold a few books, but that wasn’t the point… the point was to celebrate being a writer, and to meet other writers, learn, expand. (lunch helped, and so did the wine and crisps later…)
I have never BEEN so tired. And I had done very little. Lane Ashfeldt, the guru, muct be totally knackered.
WELL DONE LANE. FAB DAY.