On the 26th November 2016 (Yes, this post should have been written ages ago lol), I went to the Dudley Library’s Writers Networking Morning with the Oldbury Writing Group.
For the event, there was a panel of four speakers: Nell Dixon, Gemma Todd, Elizabeth Hanbury, and Brenda Read-Brown. To start the event each speaker had fifteen minutes to introduce themselves and their work and shared their writing and publishing experience, which I found informative and beneficial to my writing career.
The talk started with Nell Dixon, who is a local author who writes contemporary, romance, and cosy mystery novels. When she was younger, she used to attend the Dudley Writers writing group in Dudley library. She has written for nine publishers and also runs her own publishing house. She started her writing career as a poet, and now has twenty-nine published books. During the talk, Nell discussed the benefits of reading and how to write we need to read. She also talked about the dealing with rejections and the process of submitting your work. Nell shared how agents were after her when she won an award. She then talked about how to successfully self-publish: it’s worth investing in an editor and cover editor, but you should never pay for a publisher. To finish her introduction, Nell mentioned her love for writing groups. I can agree with her here – my writing group has really benefited my writing and confidence.
Elizabeth Hanbury followed Nell Dixon. Elizabeth is a local historical romance author who writes Regency-set novels and short stories. Her first novel was published in 2008. At the start of her writing adventure, she joined a message board about BBC period drama where people would write fanfiction and share it. Elizabeth was never interested in writing fan fiction, so decided to upload her own stories, and was surprised by the great feedback she received. She then joined the Romantic Novelist Association, where she received feedback, advice, and support. She gained publishing success with her third manuscript, but needed to cut 20,000 words – it was a daunting task, but she did it. Her advice to the audience was that you didn’t necessarily need an agent to be published, but they are helpful and can also work as an editor. She also told us about the Society of Authors who are beneficial for those writers who don’t have an agent. She ended the talk with a warning: she told us to make sure that we had our contracts checked to make sure we don’t sign away our rights, such as TV and film.
Brendan Read-Brown, who is a performance poet and playwright continued the talk. She started her poetry career in 1997 and entered poetry slams. In Spring 2000 she won her first poetry slam. She also took part in guerrilla poetry – this involves going into pubs and reading out poetry. After some success, she decided to take a risk and gave up her job to start a career as a freelance poet – and the gamble paid off. She now runs a project called Poetry on Loan, an art lift group, goes to the Cheltenham Cancer hospital to write poems for the patients, which are read at their funerals, she finds poets for performances, and she runs poetry competition. Her talk was encouraging to those who would consider becoming performance poets.
The final speaker was the local author and mobile librarian Gemma Todd. She writes under the name of G X Todd. Her first published novel titled ‘Defender’ is out this month, which she describes as a post-apocalyptic thriller, sci-fi, and fantasy mix – it sounds like the sort of novel I would read, so I’ll be adding this to my to-read list. She started writing at thirteen and started with a fantasy book, however, she spent most of her time drawing the map. Gemma decided to take her writing seriously in September 2012 after her father’s death. Her third manuscript was accepted – she had a response within two days. Gemma advised us to read From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake before submitting our novel: for Gemma, books had always been the best type of education. She also told us that if we get a response to our book when it is out with other agents/publishers that it’s a good idea to give the agents/publishers a nudge and mention that the book has an offer.
After the first hour of the Writers Networking Morning, we had a break for refreshments. And once everyone was finished with their refreshments and returned to their seats, we had an interesting Q&A session. The audience members took turns to ask the panel questions. One question I had was for Gemma Todd, who wrote under the gender ambiguous name G X Todd – I wanted to know why she chose that name as her author name (this question was asked by another audience member). Gemma’s answer was that her agent told her to go with the initials because people don’t buy her genre from female authors. I was saddened to hear this because I thought we had moved on from this, and being a horror writer, it made me wonder if I made the right choice with my own name.
I had a great time at Writers Networking Morning. I felt like I did after leaving the PowWow Festival – inspired, motivated, and full of ideas. It was an informative, interesting, and thought-provoking event, and I’m looking forward to this year’s event.
You can also read Dave Edward’s (Oldbury Writing Group member) review of Dudley Library’s Writers Networking Morning on the Oldbury Writing Group’s website: https://oldburywritinggroup.wordpress.com/2016/12/04/dudley-librarys-writers-networking-morning/
Keep writing, folks!