Last week I attended the Books Go Social writer’s conference in the Irish Writers’ Centre. Back in the day when I had less grey hair and went drinking mid-week (yes it was GREAT craic) I attended a few courses there and have a great affinity with the place.
It’s an old Georgian building with stone grey steps with black railings, huge high ceilings filled with plaster roses, and single pane window frames with white wooden shutters. It’s a worn, stripped back building and is very accessible; it has a warm feeling about it and I was delighted to be back, sitting among writers, scribbling notes and feeling very much at home.
I decided last minute to attend the conference, but it was clear that many people had put arrangements in place from long ago as most of the delegates were not Irish born. There were writers who had travelled from the UK, writers who spoke with strong American accents and one lady who had turned in from Australia that very day. (She left for a nap halfway through, but sure, that’s ok).
The conference ran over three days, with a welcome and networking evening on Friday, two seminars to choose from on the Saturday and one on the Sunday morning. I attended the Saturday only. Here are the top five reasons why you should definitely attend a writer’s conference at least once in your life.
- You may meet an erotica writer
EL James has a lot to answer for. There were erotica writers everywhere. Or should I say: “Blond lithe writers settled in their seats, thick squat pens in their hands, writing furiously, blotting here and there, feeling the paper brush their skin. At times they touched the pens to their lips, taking its body into their mouths, sucking it gently, before releasing it to write some more.” Good, yes? I befriended Liz Hurst, an erotica writer who had travelled from Stratford-upon-Avon for the weekend and she was lovely. The erotica writers all seemed to know each other and whispered secretly to each other. I heard mentions of dirty publishing houses and ‘meet the author’ signings. If I ever become an erotica writer, I’ll definitely check them out. All I need to do is replace the word ‘penis’ with ‘member’ right? Easy. Now give me my ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
- There may be a Pride happening right outside
Luckily for us, Pride Dublin kicked off right outside our window. By kick off, I mean ten ton of megawatt speakers blasting Madonna, Kylie Minogue and all sorts of cheesy disco pop, right through our single pane glass windows and into our Georgian room where our lecturer was struggling to shout about prose and tension and suspense in fiction. It was quite funny, but nobody could begrudge our gay sisters and brothers outside who were just warming up for the party of all parties. Celebration was in the air and at lunch time, we did what only good writers can do and join in, so that we could say we were there and later write about it.
- You will learn interesting stuff
Ok, so you need to have at least a slightest interest in writing as a hobby to find a conference like this interesting, but if you do, you will be in your element. I attended Jessica Page Morrell The Sizzle: Tension & Suspense in Fiction who used example after example to remind us of the fundamentals of writing and used film to highlight what she had just explained. Some quotes I liked were:
- Happy readers don’t turn pages, nervous ones do
- Give your characters secrets and things they dare not say
- Give all the main characters an agenda
- Make secondary characters recognisable through their traits and physicality
- Story telling is based on a series of reversals of fortune or fates that twist their way into the climax
I went to Catherine Ryan Howard’s seminar in the afternoon about self-publishing and while beforehand, I felt that this is not a road I wanted to go down, after spending two hours with this self-publishing pro, I completely changed my mind. When my novel is ready to go, and if I don’t get a traditional publishing house on board, then I will self-publish. Simples.
- You will feel like a writer, even if you haven’t actually written anything
I consider myself a blogger, but not a writer. I don’t think I will feel like a writer till I hit publish on that e-book (thanks Catherine) or sign the very first novel with my name on it. When I arrived at the conference I realised conversations began with: “So how many books have your written,” rather than, “So em… where did you travel from today?” (My reliable conversation starter). By the end of the day, I was confident in my ‘I’m writing historical fiction’ statement and I felt like I was among peers rather than lofty individuals who have achieved what I can only dream off. There was a good camaraderie too, although I did steer away from writers who only wanted to speak about themselves and produced self-published books with 1980s Amsted font covers. Clearly, we had nothing in common.
- You will be inspired
I’ve been at a bit of a crossroads with the book of late. I read online that all writers reach a block around 30,000 words and taking this as a signpost to a cul-de-sac, I printed off the work I had done and read it over. Big mistake! I realised I’m a long way off from what could legally be called ‘a buke’ and I’ve pretty much had to go back to the start and rewrite what is there. Spending the day with writers, writing experts, and a whole network of interesting and polite people left me feeling inspired, buoyed up and ready to go again, with now a vision and a step-by-step guide to how I will actually get the work out there. Oh and by the way, in the words of Catherine Ryan Howard explaining about the importance of marketing; “Nobody cares that you wrote a book, they just don’t.” And she’s right. But it matters to me. It matters to me a whole lot.