I’ve just returned home from Milford Writers’ Conference after a gruelling week of reading, critting, eating, talking, drinking and laughing. If that doesn’t sound like hard work, try it some time. Milford is an intense experience. The reading workload this year consisted of twenty seven pieces, close to 180,000 words to be not only read, but read again and critiqued thoroughly to a professional level. (Yes, of course we sent pieces out by email and made a start before the week began.) Crits have to be constructive. What we’re trying to do is make each piece we crit that little bit better, even the ones that are good enough to publish as is. There’s always some way to make a piece better.
Jim Anderson, Sue Thomason, Terry Jackman, Vaughan Stanger, Sue Oke, Jaine Fenn, Lix Williams, Bob Neilson, Jacey Bedford, Matt Colborn, Heather Lindsley, Mark Bilsborough, Deirdre Saoirse Moen, Cherith Baldry.
All fifteen writers attending have been previously published, though may be at different stages of their career as short story writers or multi-selling novellists. The standard is frighteningly high. Writers sometimes bring samples of what they think is their best work, or they may bring pieces they know they’re having trouble with.
I took a stand-alone short story and the beginning of my new novel, already under contract to DAW. The short story gained a few neat suggestions for improvement, but in general it had no terminal problems. My novel chapter, however, contained way too much backstory packed into the opening pages. I’d suspected this and it was the main reason I’d taken it. I needed to know what I could get away with cutting out. Most of the first seven pages, apparently. The crits I received were a tremendous help. I needed to write those seven pages to work my way back into writing about my characters because I finished the first book some time ago, but my readers won’t need to read them.
The joy of Milford is that you learn as much from critiquing as being critiqued, and there’s no one, however good, however experienced, who doesn’t come away from a week at Milford without learning something.
Our venue is Trigonos and they outdid themselves on the food this year. Breakfast lunch and dinner plus elevenses and fourses. Four p.m. is cake o’clock. Just what you need in the break during a long crit session.
Cake o’clock in the Trigonos dining room – Sue, Bob and Terry.
The social side of Milford is just as important as the work side. You make good friends, interact with others in the writing business, become more publisher-savvy, learn about markets. If it wasn’t for Milford I would not have my three book deal. It was a Milford friend who introduced me to the editor who offered to buy one book and then bought three.
Thank you Milford.