I hope you are all well and that you've managed to battle this terrible weather we've been getting over the past week. I was worried that I wouldn't make the WEM Writers' Conference at Nottingham Trent University because of the snow, but luckily my route wasn't affected on the day.
Where to begin? Well as some of you will know from my previous post, this was the first writers conference I have ever attended, and I must say I was certainly not disappointed in the slightest. I would definitely recommend the WEM Writers' Conference, whether you're just interested in writing, write as a hobby, like to network, or would like to further your career in writing, as the entire day was filled with inspiring and informative talks/workshops throughout.
Upon our arrival, myself and fellow writer Ashley Redican were welcomed with a bag of goodies (picture below, without the bottle of water and biscuits of which we consumed on the day), a lanyard with our names and the schedule printed inside (as these are recycled for future events we did not get to keep them), as well as tea and coffee, all of which were included within the ticket price.
The event began with a welcome talk, followed by an interesting speech from author Richard House, who is also a lecturer, artist, and film maker. Richard talked about his book The Kills, and how he used short films to get his idea across to the publisher. He then went on to discuss his new books to be released - Monkey Williams and Murmur. You can find more information about Richard House here: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/richard-house.
The first talk I chose spoke about the publishing process, with a panel consisting of Martin Reed - of The Society of Authors, Crystal Mahey-Morgan - founder of OWN IT! (who also allows unsolicited manuscripts), and children's author Jonathan Emmett - Scribble Street. This discussion was extremely informative as the panel spoke about virtual talks/school visits on Skype, the positives of independent publishers, the importance of an online presence, diversifying book launches to include more than just a book reading, having a proactive approach, planning promotions and marketing, and the importance of royalties. As well as all of this, I found out about things I had never previously heard of, such as: having to re-type set your book when changing publishers because of copyright, special sales where books are sold at wholesale price resulting in an extremely small royalty, and the Public Lending Right where authors earn every time their book is borrowed from libraries. You can find out more information about PLR here: https://www.bl.uk/plr.
The second talk I chose was an inspiring lecture about novellas. Being a fan of novellas because they are a nice easy read between bigger books, and loving novellas such as the Darkly Fae series by Tera Lynn Childs, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I was instantly drawn to this talk by author Nicola Monaghan, and I was not disappointed. Nicola told the audience a bit about herself and her books, mentioning the estimated length of a novella ranging between 7,500 and 40,000 words, with the traditional length being between 20-30,000 words. Nicola then went on to discuss how e-books have been beneficial for the novella, before providing examples of successful novellas. The audience then learned how novella's can be a great way for authors beginning their writing journey, as they have lots of advantages including: the connection of stories, working as prequels, and practical benefits such as lower editing costs. Nicola then mentioned Kindle Singles, and how you can submit your work for publication, or have the Kindle Singles name added to a novella that you have already published, and be marketed by Kindle. This little piece of information was a highlight for me, as even though I publish through Kindle myself, I had never come across Kindle Singles before. We were then given a writing exercise to complete (which was a lot of fun), consisting of the following list of questions:
Short description of character
Why it's set here?
How did the character end up here?
What does the character want?
What's stopping the character from getting what they want?
Then we were all given 5-10 minutes to write the opening of the story, or a key scene from our story. We were then given the option to read out parts of our stories, before Nicola brought the talk to a close by mentioning the importance of character questionnaires for her books, discussing the importance of overlooked points when creating a character, such as: parentage, background, and what makes the character unique. Overall this talk was probably my favorite, as it was super informative, inspirational, it got me thinking about how to utilize novellas in my own writing, and it gave me the chance to create something new. You can find more information about Nicola Monaghan here: https://nicolamonaghan.com/.
The third talk I chose was a panel discussion on writing for children and young adults. The panel consisted of Sian Tower - of Writing East Midlands, children's authors Jonathan Emmett and Jackie Marchant, and young adult author Kim Slater. At the beginning of the talk, the audience was given the fun task of turning to the person sitting next to them and telling them which book set us off reading as a child. There were a few, but I would say the main one for me was It Came from Beneath the Sink by R.L.Stine. The panelists' chosen books were: Mandy by Julie Andrews (I had no idea she even wrote books!), Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, and Stig of the Dump by Clive King. There was definitely a lot to be learned from the panel, with advice being given on young adult readers reading up in age, children's book sales being up by 16%, making children's characters memorable rather than cute, making sure rhyming stories work by writing the rhyme first, then converting it into a story to find any flaws, pitching your book like it's the best you've ever read within three sentences, concentrating on the writing - especially the first few paragraphs and pages, and the value of ask the agent on twitter. Kim also mentioned Bookouture - Kim's digital publisher, who are well worth looking up. Overall this discussion was a source of valuable information and I really enjoyed it.
The forth talk I chose had been altered slightly, with the first half discussing agents, and the second half consisting of a Q & A session. The panel consisted of literary agent Kate Barker, Alex Davis of Writing East Midlands, independent publisher Anne Holloway, crime author Stephen Booth, and young adult author Kim Slater. Most of the information in this discussion I was already aware of, however, there were some useful tips given. The main advice I noted was the importance of knowing the genre your book fits into, looking on websites such as https://www.agenthunter.co.uk/ to find out which agents are currently looking for clients, discovering agents by reading the acknowledgments section in books, and the fact that a big advance from a publisher means a big marketing budget for your book.
The conference then came to a close with a brilliant poem by Nottingham's Young Poet Laureate Georgina Wilding, a fantastic talk about giving yourself permission to write by international writer Malika Booker, and a closing talk from Writing East Midlands.
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post, and hopefully have learned something new and valuable from it. Feel free to leave me a comment or share this post :-)
Just before I go, I'd like to mention that all of my books are currently free to download on Smashwords, as part of Read An Ebook Week. You can get your free copies here:
Arabella (historical romance)
Thirteen: The Horror Collection (13 short horror stories)
Silver City (sci-fi, robots, virus)
Poems for all Occasions (collection of poetry)
Mina Harker: The Curse of the Vampire (horror novella)
Thanks for reading,