Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images.
Photos taken by me, Allison Symes, with one exception. A big thank you to Lynn Clement for kind permission to use the photo of her with Gill James and myself at the Bridge House Publishing event.
Also thanks to Gill James for the YouTube link showing what BHP have been up to this year – it is easier to see what BHP have been up to than to list it!
It was great to be able to celebrate with Bridge House Publishing twice in one week this year.
On Thursday, 2nd December, there was a Zoom meeting for those who couldn’t get to the in-person event in London on Saturday, 4th December. There was a quiz, a look at the books published by BHP and its imprints this year (including The City of Stories by Lynn Clement, which I edited), and there were readings.
I read Breaking Out, one of my two stories in The Best of CafeLit 10, which is just one of the many books produced this year.
It was lovely to see so many on screen and I loved hearing the stories.
Why do celebration events matter?
Firstly, they do give a chance to look back at what has been achieved especially given the difficult circumstances of the last year or so. A little encouragement can go a long way.
Secondly, it helps publicise and celebrate books.
As I mentioned in my Back from Brechin post last week, the fact that “normal” live events are happening again is, I feel, a good thing. Yes, we need to be careful. Yes, we need to be considerate to those around us. We need to be vaccinated.
(Being asthmatic, I’m taking the vaccine. I will always take my chances with the vaccine over the disease. I cannot think of one situation where the disease has ever been better than the vaccine and that is enough for me. Am off for my booster before Christmas too).
And people need to build up confidence levels again in getting out and about. That will take time, longer for some than others perhaps but that does not matter. The fact things are coming back, even if it is more slowly than we would like, means the process is at least underway. (That to my mind is also worth celebrating).
Book events also bring together authors and readers. I like that aspect too and not just because I’m a writer taking part. I love going to Book Fairs. There is always room for more books on my shelves (literal and electronic!).
The in-person Bridge House Publishing event
Saturday’s event was fun. I love the train trip to Waterloo and from there it was a short hop across to Charing Cross where the event was being held in the Theodore Bulldog pub. Great name!
It was also nice to see the Waterloo Christmas tree again though I am sure it has shrunk compared to when I was last here at this time of year. Am also getting back to my old habit of stopping at the Waterloo Costa for a hot chocolate and to get some writing done before I go forth on the Tube to get to the event.
The event got off to a cracking start with a wonderful pub lunch which was enjoyed by all. (Roasted cauliflower soup followed by pan fried salmon followed by chocolate tart and salted caramel ice-cream for me – lovely!).
But it gave us a fabulous chance to catch up with all that has been going on in our respective writing lives since we last met. There was a lot to catch up on!
And you do end up sharing what you’ve found useful and others tell you about organisations they find helpful etc. I’ve found often that information given like this may not be relevant to me immediately but it may become so later and I will be glad of it. Always pays to have a good listen to this kind of conversation. Usefulness generally doesn’t have a sell by date on it (unless it’s a competition date and even then many competitions are held regularly so if you miss one, you can try again next time).
It was also especially nice to have a good chat with Lynn Clement as this was the first time we’ve met in person since I was a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers’ Society a while back where I talked about flash fiction. Lynn was one of those I talked to about CafeLit and I encouraged her to submit work there. That led to her being published there and to submitting her flash collection to Chapeltown Books.
The event comprises a number of things from celebrating all the books BHP have launched this year to sharing the latest news for those new to working with Bridge House Publishing and those who, like me, have been with them for several years.
It was impressive to see BHP have launched several books this year. (Let’s hear it for the rise of the indie publisher!). I’ve been in two of them (The Best of CafeLit 10 and Resolutions) and edited another (The City of Stories). There was a range of books too from YA to single author story and flash collections and two books looking at the pandemic and its aftermath.
And there are readings too. For the Saturday event, I read from CafeLit 10 and an extract from my story Next Time, Maybe from Resolutions.
What is nice here is there is a good balance of story styles and genres represented and it is lovely to sit back and relax and enjoy the other readings. I love this kind of thing and am always impressed with what other writers have come up with, especially when we’re writing to the same theme (as we all have to for the BHP annual anthology).
The Bridge House Publishing Trailer of Books Published in 2021
Thinking Themes and Competition Tips
Talking of the annual anthology, we’re given the theme for the next BHP anthology at this event ahead of Gill James, the creative force behind Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books etc., announcing it publicly.
A good tip for any writing competition or where you have a call for a submission on a theme is to jot down as many ideas as possible relating to the set theme. The first few ideas to occur will be the obvious ones. Nothing wrong with that but just bear in mind the judge or commissionlng editor is likely to see those ideas many, many times. Especially for putting an anthology together, the publishers will be looking for variety in how their theme is interpreted.
Making yourself dig that bit deeper for ideas will mean you give yourself more of a chance to find something others are less likely to come up with yet still fits the theme. I’ve had the privilege of judging some competitions and stories like that make the judge/editor sit up and take notice.
Give yourself plenty of time for this. You want to come back to those ideas after, ideally, a few days and find they still “hit you”as real possibilities. If you find that, it increases your chances of success as others will react likewise. What you hope for here, of course, is the judge will react like that! But at the very worst, it increases your chances of having your story remembered. Judges come back to the ones they recall for their long and short lists.
The Book Stall
There is no live in-person book event anywhere which does not have a book stall! There was a great display of books at the BHP event and it was a pleasure to put my two flash collections out. (It was also nice to see Lynn Clement’s The City of Stories out too).
I also put out my business cards and postcards. Those do get taken as I mentioned when I reported back from Brechin. I have found the postcards with my books on stand out but it pays to order them in regular, modest batches. Why? Simply because you have to update the pictures regularly to include the most recent works you have out there. Also it is not a bad idea to refresh these cards so you have a new “look” every so often. It is a good way to catch a potential reader’s eye.
The Creative Buzz
There is something about getting together in person with fellow writers that encourages the creative buzz. It is also lovely to share the ups and downs of the writing life, knowing those you’re talking with get this because they go through it themselves. No one writer can know all of the markets and competitions available either so again events like this are great ways to share knowledge with each other.
I always go home from events like this feeling invigorated and encouraged. And it is always exciting to find out what your publisher is up to next and that there will be other anthologies to submit work for. The writing “game” is on – and it is great fun.
BHP are also pretty good at letting you know a schedule for when they want work in by, when an author is likely to hear whether they’ve been successful with the latest anthology submission, and when the latest book will be out. All helps with the old writing plans!
And, yes, I am already looking forward to next year’s event!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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