Well, that was a hell of a day.
Saturday was the day of the VWC’s “Get Writing” conference, now in its fourth year of existence. This time it was held at the University of Hertfordshire, just up the road from me and a place that will always have a special affection in the writing side of my heart (and if you want to know why, check out the Fiction page). Must admit, I’ve always been amazed at the way this thing has grown, year on year, and it’s an object lesson in what can happen if you dare to think big. (Which, incidentally, is why I’m extremely pleased to have Kate Nash as my agent – “Get Writing” was her idea, and in fact she was the guest of honour this year.)
So … what happened, then? Well, we had several talks from various agents, publishers and authors, giving a broad view of the publishing industry for wannabes from almost every possible angle. The most practical advice probably came from the agents and publishers (John Jarrold, Anna Power, Simon Taylor, Marlene johnson and Philip Patterson), although the writers themselves probably just shaded them for entertainment value. Mark Billingham in particular was hilariously indiscreet, using the skills acquired in his previous career as a stand-up comedian. I’ve heard both Adèle Geras and Imran Ahmad before at VWC-only events and they’re both excellent value. It’s worth mentioning Imran Ahmad in particular, as his autobiographical book “Unimagined” is in my opinion one of the most important books I’ve read in the last couple of years. It’s a quietly subversive masterpiece of militant moderation, and everyone should read it.
And that wasn’t all. Out of all the excellent workshops on offer, I picked Vanessa Gebbie’s one on “The Short Road to Success” and it was of course superb. It was lovely to meet Vanessa again, and I picked up several excellent nuggets of advice which I’ll use on the off chance that I ever find time to write any short stories again (only kidding – that’s one thing I’ll never be able to give up).
Last but not least, I had the opportunity to give a three-minute pitch to Simon Taylor of Transworld. This was, of course, deeply scary , although it was at least made more bearable by the fact that something clearly went wrong with the way time was operating in the room, resulting in the pitch actually lasting only thirty seconds. However, I think I managed to get my point across, and he seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. He could of course just have been polite.
It was also nice to meet some old friends and some new ones, including Helen Beal, who I’d previously only known on Twitter and Lindsey Mountford who I didn’t know at all before and who I also now know on Twitter.