1. Identify key outfits to dress-to-impress NB: special attention to shoes!
2. Print out copies of ms for any *sends up a prayer* chance meetings with agents or publishers
3 Practise nonchalant reaction for chance meetings with idolised authors...
... Well, I guess two out of three wasn’t bad.
As a New Writers’ Scheme Member attending my first conference, I suppose I should be reporting back on all the interesting tips I gathered throughout the weekend and my understanding on where the publishing industry is heading in the next five years. And don’t get me wrong; the sessions were invaluable. But the highlight for me, as an unpublished yet determined writer, has to be the opportunity such an event offers for fledgling writers to interact and learn from successful, inspirational authors. And believe me, there were lots of them!
When I was eight I wrote (see I was subconsciously learning my craft even then) to Jim’ll Fix It and asked him if he would fix it for me to take afternoon tea with Princess Diana. Funnily enough I never heard back and as my aspirations to become a Princess waned I developed new role-models, mainly in the form of authors. By eighteen I’d discovered Jill Mansell. Her novels started off as a distraction from A-level revision and by the time I had my eldest son, five years later, I found myself reading her entire back catalogue to keep me awake on the breastfeeding nightshift. In fact, Jill is really the main reason that I put pen to paper in the first place. Well, that and an interfering mother-in-law culminating in a search to find a channel to vent my frustrations...
So you can imagine my utter delight and inner-child-fright when, on arrival at conference, I turned around in reception having collected my keys – and I’m sorry if you’ve already heard this; I did tend to dine out on this story ALL weekend – to come face to face with my writing inspiration only to find she’s recognising me (praise be for Twitter) and introducing herself. Gah!!! And yes, I did flap my hands, raise my voice by an octave and get excited as my thirteen year old self would have been at meeting Mark Owen. Nonchalance? *makes note to look up in dictionary*
At this point I should say a big thank you to Jill, who remained effortlessly calm – like this sort of thing happens to her all the time – and didn’t ask the security guard, stood to my left, to take me away.
So my message to you, if you didn’t make it to conference this year and are looking for some writing inspiration, would be to definitely come next year. Where else are you likely to see Katie Fforde two places in front of you in the dinner queue? Ask Julie Cohen (my writing guru) tactical plot questions at the bar? Spot Judy Astley in the row in front of you in a conference session? And the best thing - and I don’t care if this sounds clichéd – is that every single one of them was lovely and down-to-earth, and you never know, just the sort of supportive, published writer you might be yourself one day.