Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Sunscreen and Scary Stuff

Insecure Writer's Support GroupToday is August’s instalment of Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which sees hundreds of writers and bloggers worldwide post about their insecurities, support others with theirs, and offer up advice for overcoming them. If you want to visit the other IWSG member blogs, or sign up yourself, you can do so here.

Do you remember that song; Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)? Basically a long list of good advice put to music. I had it on CD. Loved it. Tried to live by it.

There was one particular line that still resonates: ‘Do one thing every day that scares you’. For me, that’s not difficult. I’m scared of everything. Some days, just stepping out of the front door is scary enough.

But I still do it. Because I think it’s important for me to push myself. When I look back over my life, I can see all the things that would have never happened if I didn’t do things that scared me. And the sense of accomplishment when I have pushed through my fears is like no other high.

I’ve just agreed to do something that terrifies me. Later this year, I’ll be appearing at a literary convention. I’ll be running a workshop, and, scariest of all, I’ll be taking part in a panel discussion. On a stage. With a microphone. In front of an audience. An audience expecting me to be clever and insightful. (Thank goodness there’s no expectation for me to be funny!)

This terrifies me. I’m sure I’ll simply sit there, gaping like a fish, unable to get a single word out. I’m hoping that my theatre training will kick in and get me through it. But I know how good this is for business. How important it is. How many doors it could open.

Have you ever been on a panel discussion or led a workshop? What are your top tips? What scares you, and how do you push through your fear?

The Best Thing I Got from Edge-Lit 6

Edge-LitEdge-Lit is Derby’s annual romp into the world of speculative fiction in the form of a fantastic and friendly literary convention. It also marks my annual escape into the world, and a day that I get to only think about me. My special day that I get to totally nerd out with other people who are nerdy about the same stuff as me. Wonderful.

As is the way with conventions that you’re a regular at, it gets easier, and more tempting, each year to simply sit in the bar chatting. But, for me, it’s all about finding a balance.

Edge-Lit offers some discussion panels, guest speakers, book launches, and workshops. And a goody bag, of course. So it would be amiss of me to spend the entire day simply chewing the fat. You see; balance. Because while some great stuff happens in the sessions, equally great stuff happens out of them too.

With the noted omission of some familiar faces, all the usual crowd were there, and it was so good to catch up with them. But I also made sure I caught a panel, a guest speaker, a book launch, and a couple of workshops. It’s just a shame Edge-Lit don’t have a cloning machine at the front desk, It would have been handy to have been able to be in two places at once.

Everyone talks about the ‘post con slump’ or ‘the comedown’, and it’s true. This one special day that you’ve planned for and looked forward to for ages is suddenly over and real life returns. Like Christmas. But there’s one very important, and very exciting thing that I always come away from Edge-Lit with. Ideas. Loads and loads of ideas.

Like I said, great stuff happens in the sessions, and I came out of those with pages and pages of notes, but great stuff happens out of them too. The networking. Everyone discussing projects, collaborations, opportunities. It’s brilliant. It’s inspiring. And those conversations have fuelled me with plans, and things to mull over, and motivation. That’s what I love about Edge-Lit; all the shiny new ideas.

Edge-Lit 4 Roundup

Sunny With a Chance of ZombiesThe Book Launch

Yesterday, I was at Edge-Lit; Derby’s annual (well, soon to be bi-annual) speculative fiction convention. Packed full of panel discussions, workshops, and book launches and sales.

I was there, once again, with KnightWatch Press, and this year we were launching the Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies anthology. The launch was for several of the press’ anthologies: Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies of course, along with Chip Shop Horrors, Killer Bees from Outer Space, and Nice Day for a Picnic. Yes, KnightWatch are not your typical horror publisher! There was also a reading by Terry Jackman, from her novel Ashamet, Desert Born. The launch was fantastic, and had a really good turn-out.

zombie

And, of course, it wouldn’t have been complete without a real-life (albeit undead) zombie, and some brain cakes. Well, it goes without saying, right? And, despite shaking like a leaf, my book reading went very well. In fact, it couldn’t have really gone any better (wink, wink. More on that another day.)

So, a huge thanks to KnightWatch Press, to Theresa Derwin and Steve Shaw, and the wonderful Dion Winton-Polak, editor of Sunny, with a Chance of Zombies. Also, my fellow Sunny reader on the day, Louise Maskill, whose story Run, Rabbit is also in the book. And of course, a massive thank you to Alex Davis and the whole Edge-Lit team.

So, the launch was great; we ate cake, we conquered our fears, we signed books, and we made new friends. Here’s to the next one!

The Panels

While the book launch kept me tied up for some of the day, I did manage to make it along to a number of panel discussions. I love this part of the convention, and I eagerly sit there, with pen and notebook, ready to grab useful hints, tips, insights, and soundbites.

The first panel, Into the Grimdark, featured authors Adrian Tchaikovsky, Gav Thorpe, and Sophie Sparham, plus Adele Wearing of Fox Spirit Books. It was a really interesting discussion about the elements and tone of grimdark fiction, and its place and future in the world of literature.

Adele Wearing pointed out that “Writers can’t help but respond to the world around them”, that the choice is to “either go in with escapism, and the lighter strands, or you reflect what’s really going on.” She added that “there is a mood for more flawed, everyday heroes, without the heroic persona.”

They all agreed that the genre is evolving, that it’s becoming something more playful, and satirical. Despite that, Adrian Tchaikovsky noted that “it is easier to write stories where everything’s horrible, because the conflict is given to you on a plate.”

The Looking Back panel discussed how much history is required in fantasy fiction, and it reiterated some of the points raised in the grimdark panel. This one featured authors Stephen Deas, Freda Warrington, Joanne Harris, Tom Lloyd, and Angus Watson.

Freda Warrington stated that “it’s almost impossible to write a book without history”, and, indeed, neither the panel nor the audience could think of an example. Joanne Harris went on to say that both stories and history—words that, in many languages, are almost identical—are a “shared narrative of being a human being, and the planet, and the cultures that we all come from”, that “they are entirely the product of their creator, who is entirely a product of their own time”.

They also discussed how historical accounts can’t be trusted, because they are written from particular perspectives, often embellished, twisted and changed over time. There are also huge gaps in our knowledge and evidence of the past. Joanne Harris pointed out that “history is as speculative as science fiction”.

The Death House signed by Sarah PinboroughThe third panel I attended, Monstrous Regiments, looked at the monster in horror fiction. It featured authors Adam Nevill, Sarah Pinborough, Mark Morris, and Alison Littlewood.

Such a panel couldn’t have avoided a debate on the zombie trend, and Alison Littlewood pointed out that their appeal was because “they’re not just zombies, they’re actually us. There’s an emotional connection”. Adam Nevill added that readers enjoyed “the fantasy of being a survivor”. But Sarah Pinborough personally found “much more emotional resonance” in ghost stories.

But there was clear agreement that readers didn’t want the old tropes and cliches, with Mark Morris concluding that they want “something different and new”.

All in all, another set of great panel discussions, and I only wish I could have attended more of them. Still, there’s always next year…