Tuesday 27 September 2016

Milford - And About the Two FREE PLACES for 2017!

So another Milford Writers' Conference is over and I'm back home. making some revisions to the short story and novel excerpt I submitted for comment now I've had some excellent feedback? It was my third Milford, and maybe my best yet, with a great mix of attendees and a lot of thoughtful critiquing.

What's Milford?
A residential week, currently held in Snowdonia, where fifteen writers who have made a respectable fiction sale spend most of their stay pulling each others' submitted stories or excerpts apart - with of course the object of making them better.

There is no 'teacher', this is a round-the-room gathering. Volunteer committee members simply remind us of the Milford rules - and the time. Oh, and five places are held open longer for new members to get in first, since otherwise some of us would rebook every year! Which would weaken the value to all of us since new minds avoid bad habits creeping in?

The Milford system means that we all critique say five pieces over each half day, comments going round the group, each person with about three minutes to have their say. After which the writer of each piece can reply and some general discussion may follow, before moving to the next crit. It's polite, friendly, but intended to be professional standard feedback. We want to be better writers!

As an extra incentive, the week will be at Trigonos - see more on the Milford website - where the setting is deliberately isolated from the 'rush', the scenery is idyllic, great for walkers, and the food - yes it's all-found - is usually an attraction in itself. Time permitting we try to make an outside visit as well, a castle, a local attraction etc. [This year some members hiked around Snowdon and one took the steam train, while others went to Caenarfon and a pub lunch.]

In 2017 there's an added incentive for some new members, a bursary which covers everything bar travel to and from the venue, serious money.
It's an anonymous donation, offered to anyone with a fiction sale who can describe themselves in some way as 'a person of colour' which the committee will take as pretty broad definition

Could this be you? If so, do check the website for more info, it's a great opportunity, worth about £600! and I'd hate it not to be taken up.
Or mention it to someone you know??

Thursday 8 September 2016

Why Didnt I Think of That?

Right now, I'm working my way through the first readings of all the submissions to this year's Milford Conference, which starts on Saturday.

I'll talk a bit more about that in another week or so, as there's a FREE week available for some lucky *** next year if they qualify [peers mournfully into wallet after paying up].

For now though, I'm just sliding by with a tiny trick - absolutely nothing to do with books or writing but great for people like me who actually eat BUTTER.

Hot weather means the butter has to stay in the fridge. Naturally when I want some I haven't planned ahead - does anyone? - so it's hang around for ages [well it feels like ages, yes?] or start carving shards off the bar, or dipping the knife in hot water...

OK, you get there, but it is a bind.

So when I saw this little tip I thought, 'of course.'

1 Fill a glass with hot water.
2 Remove butter from fridge.
3 Cut a chunk off, as needed.
4 Empty the glass.
5 Place the glass upside down over the chunk of butter.

6 About a minute later your butter is spreadable again!

It works
Nuff said [takes bow]

I'll be back after Milford to talk, among other things, about a bursary?

Monday 5 September 2016

Seeing Through the Eyes of an Alien.

A few days ago I took an eight year old to the theatre.

We saw 'Gansta Grannie' at the Lowry in Salford Quays - that's next door to the Manchester United Football Ground for any southerners reading this. It's probably my favourite theatre. While The West End venues have more history the Lowry is modern, spacious and very comfortable, with its own, shop, café, bar and restaurant, plus not one but two theatres, a studio space and an art gallery - what more could I want?

If you don't know the story from the David Walliams book it's about an eleven year old boy forced to visit Grannie every Friday night while his parents go ballroom dancing. He is forced to play Scrabble and eat cabbage and she calls him 'Little Benny'. He hates it. It's so boring!

Until he discovers Grannie is really a retired jewel thief. Suddenly he wants to visit, and finds his school lessons really helpful in planning how to help her steal the crown jewels.

At the end of the play Grannie dies, adding the message that no one lives for ever. I thought that might be a bit over sentimental for a child, but the script avoided that very nicely, while still making the point that grandparents are more interesting than they might seem and they won't be there for ever so make the most of them. I've seldom seen a moral message put across so succinctly, or entertainingly, so if you get the chance think about going to this? Especially if you are accompanied by a child.

OK, so I've told you the plot, and the production was as good as I expected so both adult and child enjoyed the outing. Is that it?

Well, not quite. Another aspect was seeing the whole thing from the point of view of someone not yet used to theatre. Someone, if you like, in an alien environment.

My eight year old, for instance, refused to read the programme when we were seated because I'd explained it talked about the play. He said he didn't want to know that, it would spoil it. He did however spend the time we waited for the curtain to rise on the wordsearch page which included words relevant to the play, and continued this during the interval. Some kids want ice cream, he wanted words. Hooray!

In this fast paced production all the cast bar the two leads played multiple roles. Ben's father was also a policeman, his mother was also the Queen, some played numerous cameos or walk-on parts. This I accepted as normal, and part of the fun. My guest however only saw lots of characters. When the considerably smaller cast took their final bows he asked, 'Where's Ben's mother?' When I said she was the Queen, still in the persona she'd just appeared as, it took me a while to convince him.

Later, when we were talking about the play, and the programme was now 'allowed', I pointed out the photograph of the actress who played Grannie. His mouth fell open; the dumpy, grey haired lady was really a dark haired forty-something? 'No way!'

It gave me a dual enjoyment of the visit, as if I was two people with two different points of view. A real life version of when I write and 'become' someone else for a while. And a reminder not to take what I find so much for granted that I don't also see the strangeness in familiar things.

 I guess that's why I like speculative fiction, seeing things with alien eyes?