You know when you just have those ‘argh’ times?
You’re up to your eyeballs in ‘stuff’.
Not work stuff, just ‘stuff’.
Yup. That’s been me for the last couple of weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had work stuff too, but the ‘stuff’ stuff has had an impact.
The best of it, though, was Bloody Scotland.
Oh. My. Goodness.
It was magnificent.
I started my weekend on Friday 21st September with the Crime Writing Masterclass.
This was a full day of writerly stuff. First there was a talk by Graeme MacRae Burnet (Sunday Herald Culture Awards Author of the Year 2017). It was wonderful to sit in a room listening to a real writer (I’m a writer, but until I’ve written a novel I’ll never consider myself one) and he was SO interesting. He actually set a theme that ran throughout the whole weekend – that old chestnut: to plan or not to plan. He lets the characters lead him organically through the story, which is what I tend to do, but there was a difference of opinion on this all through the festival.
Next we had AK Benedict and her section on bringing your prose to life. This was a revelation. Not because I actually got to put pen to paper for the first time in eons, but because she writes the way I do! She uses smell, sound and touch to tune into her writing. We worked through exercises that mirrored the way I work when I’m writing, and it was great to actually see others do this. I listen to music my characters (or customers) listen to, or surround myself with sounds that would surround them. I use smells, sounds and touch to connect. I’m not weird after all – hurrah!
After a lovely lunch at the Golden Lion Hotel in Stirling we sat down to an Alison Belsham and Lorna Hill synopsis and pitch masterclass. I also scared myself witless when I decided to volunteer to read my pitch to the room – after a fair number of very eloquent writers did the same. Let’s just say I’m not going to be going on stage any time soon! (B- must do better).
Finally we attended an industry panel consisting of an agent, and representatives of a small publisher and a large publisher. It was interesting to hear how they look for submissions that show commitment to writing, including having manuscripts edited and critiqued before publishers are approached.
Take note writers – it’s official, editors aren’t just there for self-pubbers!
It was also explained how it’s still hard to get your book accepted by publishers if it’s already been self-published, so writers really do have to think carefully about whether traditional or self-publishing is for them.
And that was the end of the Masterclass.
What a brilliant set up for the rest of Bloody Scotland!
I won’t go into detail about the weekend but here are a few of my personal highlights, in no particular order:
I was initially worried that I’d be an imposter among all the real writers but my mind was soon put to rest. I met the lovely Mysti Berry on a few occasions (in fact she was one of the first people I spoke to at the masterclass). She came all the way from San Francisco … buy her book, it’s for a great cause.
I also met Fiona Sussman up at the Church of the Holy Rude, just before the gin and Liam McIlvanney won the McIlvanney prize. She’s lovely and came all the way from New Zealand for the festival. She’s also the 2017 winner of New Zealand’s highest crime honour, the Ngaio Marsh Award. I’ll be buying her books too!
Best of all, I managed to spend a day and a half with my editor buddy Eleanor Abraham. It was brilliant to see her again and catch up. She’s my kind of human and she put up with all my inane rambling along the way. Eleanor, next time there will be more gin drunk!
So, despite a few weeks lately of ‘urgh’ stuff, there has been some brilliant stuff. I’m glad I took time off for Bloody Scotland. I hope it never again clashes with the SfEP conference, or I may have to alternate between the two – this cannot be the last Stirling weekend I go to. I have found my writing tribe.
I’ve found that crime writers are one huge family. They are friendly, supportive and love to laugh.
It was excellent to be among folks who didn’t bat an eyelid when talking about things polite society thinks odd.
What did I get from Bloody Scotland?
Friendship, great memories, new writing knowledge, a deep wish that I could clone myself and attend all the talks … and a bloody huge pile of books added to my teetering to-be-read pile.
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