Monday, 1 October 2012

Review of the UK Meet 2012

Review of the UK Meet 2012


So, to Brighton! It was wonderful to catch up with the people I normally only get to chat to online, and a real treat to meet new acquaintances, too. I arrived with Lavinia Lewis, where we met reader Amanda, and writers Anna Martin and Tia Fielding. We joined in the informal meet in the hotel bar Friday evening, where there was lots of fun chat, then onto dinner. We chose The Lion & Lobster pub, just around the corner.
Back in the hotel bar, it was another fab chance to chat to those who fancied a late night drink, and it was a pleasure to chat with everyone. I only wish we'd had longer! Lavinia and I went back to our hotel, which was just around the corner. This hotel has what I called the Austin Powers bathroom. Bet you're jealous!

(Note: no, I'm not actually sitting on the loo, as one of my --male-- friends asked. *rolls eyes*  )


An early start – and lots of coffee! – saw us all registering our names, then piling into the main room, a grand meeting hall in the hotel. We arranged ourselves around white clothed tables, which almost had me in mind of a wedding, all eyes to the front as the charismatic Charlie Cochrane took the reins, and welcomed us to the Meet. I have to say, the entire atmosphere felt very warm, accepting, and fun. A little banter in between the important messages was also very sweet, and smiles were never far from people's faces.

We started off with 'Novel Openings', a panel of writers sharing the first couple of paragraphs of a story. It was interesting to see how different people expressed their writing differently. A cool little snapshot of how writers start off, and draw readers in. Reviewer Jen also gave us her insight on what would interest her, as a reader. Great start to the Meet.

After a break for coffee and tea – and a sneaky biscuit for me – it was onto the next panels, and time to choose which ones to go to. This, for me, was a total surprise, as I hadn't realised there would be two separate rooms to visit, with dual panels going on simultaneously. I had a Crystal Maze style panic about which to choose, as I always want to absorb as much information as I can when the opportunity is there. Alas, I had to pick a panel, as walking out during a talk was frowned upon, and rightly so.

For me, I had to miss the 'Fanfiction' talk in favour of the 'Where do you get your ideas?' panel, mostly because I knew my writer chum Blaine D'Arden was on it, and I wanted to hear her speak. Listening to the panel was a lot of fun, and no one was doing any condescending lecturing; each writer was simply explaining how they got the idea for a specific story, which was like a 'behind the scenes' look. Doubly interesting if you knew the writer, and the story they had chosen, like Blaine D'Arden's The Fifth Son, which for me is one of my favourites, so it was a treat to hear more about it. (Incidentally, I was chuffed to bits to get my print copy of this book on the day, signed as well!)

Now, join me in damning my crap memory, and me for not taking notes as it happened, because when I try to think about each panel right now, I've kind of forgotten who was on which one... Suffice to say I was terribly excited – like a kid at Disneyland! – at seeing so many friendly faces/exciting new faces, and it didn't help my memory whatsoever. I will say that I did enjoy each panel enormously, and everyone who spoke had something interesting to say. I'm only sorry that I can't for the life of me write feedback or review individual speakers. Next time, I'm making notes! Live and learn.

The next panel was another choice; I could have gone back upstairs to the main room for a panel on LBTQ themes, but I chose to stay downstairs for 'Taking the plunge, the new author's guide to getting published', mostly because another writer chum, Becky Black, was on this panel, and I wanted to listen to her. The panel was great, a very good idea, and one I hope will continue to make an appearance at the Meet in various forms. Anne Brooke also gave some great advice, and people in the audience also had tips to share, and it was lovely to see the support offered and taken from all sides.

Break for lunch! Incredibly important, and I must say the hotel's buffet was fantastic. I love finger food anyway – vegetarian – and was pleased to see a lot on offer. Nice, relaxing lunch; I sat at a sunny table with Anna Martin, Tia Fielding, and Tia's sister.

After lunch, downstairs was the panel 'Tropes, keeping the genre honeymoon fresh', but I was due upstairs in the 'Online marketing' panel, as I'd offered to help give tips on how to use the dreaded Facebook and Twitter. Lucy Felthouse and Jordan Castillo Price led the panel, and did a fantastic job of introducing the concept of social media; important points like blogs, newsletters, and just generally keeping in touch with your readers in an easy, accessible way, without being pushy.

The underlying message was exactly the same as my own points for using Twitter or Facebook, and that is not to push your 'buy my book' slogan on everyone you meet without even saying hello, because a rude message won't reach readers. Manners and common sense are the only tools you need to get ahead online, the rest you can pick up. For those who are interested, I'll be posting my guide to using social media – Facebook, Twitter – in my next post.

Next, it was time to choose which panel to attend. I was sad to miss lovely Clare London speaking on 'The two edged sword: pitfalls of getting published', downstairs. I wanted to stay upstairs for the talk on 'Publishing, the way forward', as Ariel Tachna from Dreamspinner Press was leading the panel. Being published with Dreamspinner myself, meeting the DSP team and listening to what they had to say was important for me.

Really interesting points from Ariel, and the rest of the panel – DSP editor Anne Regan, and DSP writer Sue Brown – on e-publishing in general, and some of the different ways people are predicting the market will grow. I liked the optimistic approach to e-publishing, and the good points raised.

Then we had the bubbly and sharp Cameron Lawton (my new best friend!) who herself said she was on the panel to offer a different point of view, which was: be wary about rushing into self publishing. Cameron went on to give examples of her own self publishing steps – very generous of her to share this – and what she perhaps would have done differently if she'd known a bit more about the industry at the time, or hadn't been impatient. At least, that's the message which came across to me. All very good tips for budding authors, too.

This panel was very interesting, and I did enjoy it, especially Cameron's talk. I think, personally, this panel could have benefited from another angle to add to the self publishing topic; i.e. self publishing can be good, too. As ever, with panels, when people in the audience ask questions, the topic can stray a little, like any normal conversation, and go off in different directions. Mostly the chat galloped toward e-book publishing in general, and of course everyone was asking Ariel and Anne their views on the market and how DSP has developed since its start. (For me, I didn't realise DSP had launched a YA line recently. Now I know!)

Perhaps, in future, because the topic of self publishing is so vast – there were many self published authors in attendance, too – 'self publishing' could benefit from its own focussed panel, to give everyone more time to discuss this very important topic. Because self publishing is growing along with ebooks, and it would be great to see the whole topic represented; self publishing certainly isn't for everyone, but there's no harm in everyone knowing all the facts, is there?
That's my two cents!

So, tea break!

After tea, there were some one to ones for budding authors downstairs. A nice idea, I thought; possibly something to expand on in the future? Or even as an aside event? Upstairs was 'Buffet or Banter', which I didn't really understand, I must admit, but was basically different themed tables where you could join in the different discussions. By the time I'd worked out that each individual table was supposed to discuss one topic only, I'd already spotted Becky Black and Stevie Carroll, and wanted to chat with them. Also on the table, I'm pleased to have met Elin Gregory at last. As a table, we pretty much just chatted about what we fancied, which I really enjoyed. So, thank you everyone, for a good chat!

After the banter finished, key note speaker Jordan Castillo Price took the floor, and gave a wonderful talk on how she started out writing; her first forays into e-book publishing, sharing so many amazing stories and insights. Lots of food for thought, really enjoyable, and a very optimistic outlook.

Actually, all in all, there was optimism firing from all the panels and talks I saw, which I'm so happy about. It was a really good, buzzing atmosphere throughout the day, largely in part to the moving around and mixing things up. Really enjoyable. And the writers who were so willing to offer advice -- Jordan Castillo Price, Aleks Voinov from Riptide, and many more -- was very generous.

Meet captain Charlie took the helm again, and wrapped things up, highlighting the key points raised. Especially when discussing how the UK Meet had grown in only three short years, from a small meeting in a local library, to around sixty-ish people last year – my first Meet – to over a hundred this year, in a swanky hotel, with sponsors and prizes galore.

Almost a little scary, when you think about it, but a lot exciting.

A well deserved round of applause for the Meet organisers: Charlie Cochrane, Jamie Merrow, Clare London, Josephine Myles, Alex Beecroft; beautifully organised, jolly well done. Also everyone who spoke on panels, you all did such fabulous jobs, and I loved listening to what I heard. The people who donated to the swag bag, and raffle prizes. Dreamspinner Press, who offered and shared so much, which was a wonderful experience for me and the other Dreamspinner authors, I'm sure.

Another highlight for me, and I feel they deserve a special mention, was meeting the Polish writer duo, K.A. Merrikan, and Agnes Merrikan, who both looked super cool in their matching skull print dresses. Writers to watch, for sure.

All in all, I had the chance to speak with amazing and interesting people, you were all wonderful. I had an utterly brilliant time, and could have happily listened on and nattered with you all for the entire following week! Those that I didn't have a chance to chat with, or even chat longer with, I'm gutted about that, and really hope we can catch up next time, or at another event.

So there we have it, my thoughts on the UK Meet 2012.

Questions for you:

If you attended the UK Meet this year, what was your favourite panel? And how do you think it differed from last year?

Even if you didn't attend, have you been to writer meetings or conventions before? What do you like and/or dislike about them? Have you never been to one, but really want to go? If so, what puts you off going?


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