East Midlands Writer’s Conference: Rosie’s review

Bleugh, I’,m dying of a cold. Not a ‘take a couple of paracetamol and get on with it cold’ either. I hate having a screwed up immune system, and would like a new one. Anyway, I’ll get on with the post.

Last Saturday I dragged my diseased self out of bed at a disgustingly early hour to catch a train to Lincoln and then from their to Nottingham. After navigating the Nottingham tram system – it’s really easy if you aren’t having a panic attack, you don’t have to interact with other people to buy tickets or anything – I managed, just in time to get to the conference. I got my goody bag, which included the usual confrency type things – schedules and advertising from the sponsor – and a free book. Yes, someone gave me a free book. This happens quite regularly but I still get excited every time. It’s a children’s book set in the First World War, I might give it to my nephew or niece.

I managed to make it to three out of the four talks I’d planned to go to. The first was about creative writing PhDs. I wasn’t too impressed with a couple of the speakers. One was up himself and the other didn’t answer questions properly. The third was quite interesting though. I came away certain that a PhD was beyond me, because of the critical element. Not having a background in formal literary criticism – I only studied English Literature up to AS Level – I felt like I’d be unable to complete the critical essay portion of the PhD.

I’ve been thinking about it though. I have thought about what I’d like to do for my PhD more seriously since then. I’m thinking about writing a novel intertwining the experiences of Queen Edith, Gytha of Wessex and Edith Swanneck in the weeks around the Battle of Hastings and in the months and years that followed. The critical component would be comparing how these women specifically, and Anglo-Saxon women in general were represented in contemporary literature (from the sixth century to the eleventh) with how they are represented in modern historical fiction focusing on the era.

My initial hypothesis is that women had greater representation in the contemporary literature – in the form of hagiography and ecclesiastical works, for example – than they do in modern historical fiction. To be blunt, you’re more likely to find books about St Dunstan than St Hilda, or Alfred rather than Aethelflaed.

What do people think? Is this a viable area of research?

The second talk I attended was about what happens after a book deal has been signed. There were three published authors on the panel. One wrote YA, another literary fiction. I can’t remember what the women running the panel wrote. It was basically ‘things I wish I’d known before getting a publishing deal’, including that you have to organise your own book launch and it’s a good idea to have it in a book shop because the sales will bump your place on the charts. And provide alcohol, because alcohol makes people friendly and spend money. There were other useful bits of information, about getting cover quotes and balancing doing the post-publication stuff with writing the next book and your day job. It was interesting.

The lunch wasn’t too bad, could have done with more chocolate and cold water. I didn’t manage to network, because I’m no good at that sort of thing. What the hell would I have to say to someone who clearly has more experience in writing and the writing world than me? There was one bloke that I noticed couldn’t stop talking about himself, to anyone and everyone, in a loud and clear voice. He was a stand up who’d just got back from a trip to India. I managed to avoid any long conversations with him by the simple expedient of being me and barely responding to his comments, and of course, looking half dead. Really put me off interacting with other people though, even if I’d wanted to.

The third session was a workshop on narrative drive with Rod Duncan, who writes steampunk novels. It was a large group so he talked and we listened. There was a tree drawing and some graphs. It makes sense in context. No, really it does. It’s a tie between this and the second talk for my favourite/most useful of the day.

By 3 p.m. I felt so awful I thought I would faint, vomit, or both. I left at half three and got an early train home. By half six I was tucked up in bed with my Lemsip Blackcurrant cold and flu, and an ice lolly.

I get dehydrated when I have a serious cold, and ice lollies help with that. It works for me, stop laughing. Taking of, it’s time to retire to my pit with an ice lolly. I’m supposed to be at sewing and craft club tonight but I’m not up to it.

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