As you know, the last couple of weeks have been pretty busy for me but all good fun and a great learning experience.
Share Your Story Writing Summit
It was great fun and a good learning curve taking part in this summit. There was a lot of behind the scenes prep work here (and even more so by the organisers, Creative U!) but I learned a great deal from doing that. I’m sure that will pay off for future events too.
I started by writing down all I wanted to say about flash fiction and its benefits. That took a while! I realised it would be better if I could have a shorter Powerpoint presentation, with pictures, and my notes could be exactly that.
As it turned out for the recording itself, I didn’t need all that I had prepared but that’s a good thing. It is always better to have too much material than not enough.
I had to book a slot for my presentation to be recorded and, bearing in mind the organisers are based in Canada, had to allow for time differences. Mind you, I discovered the charmingly named MST time – Mountain Standard Time. I just love the sound of that (and for practical purposes, it meant I needed to allow a gap of about seven hours).
I was recorded on a Friday evening (our time, MST just after Canadian lunch time!) but this was where I was pleased I’d used Zoom to have a dummy run or two beforehand. It meant screensharing wasn’t an issue. It is easy once you’re used to it. But it also meant I could time my material and trim to suit, which I duly did.
The Summit Itself
As well as being a presenter, I was also an attendee. You learn so much from other writers, even if they don’t write in the same genre as you. For example, I’ve learned what to look out for in terms of writing scams from other writers (and do check out the Writer Beware! website. This is an American site and run by Victoria Strauss. For more see here).
Sometimes, a writer talking about their non-fiction work can spark off ideas for stories in me. The imagination can be a strange thing at times but you get better at spotting those potential sparks and then doing something useful with them.
So if you get a chance to go to an online (or later on a “live”) event of this kind, do consider it. You will also learn from how other writers present their material, if this is something you yourself think you would like to do.
Radio Interview with Hannah Kate for North Manchester FM
It was great fun talking with Hannah about flash fiction and blogging, my two writing loves. I was interviewed for about 90 minutes. (The rest of the time for the two hours show is taken up by intros, music, jingles etc). Again I prepared plenty of notes based on questions that I thought likely to come up.
This wasn’t a scripted interview but I also listened in to several of Hannah’s shows to get a “feel” for the format and I try to listen to them regularly now. I always learn something useful when listening to/reading about what other writers do. No single one of us can know it all (and wouldn’t it be boring if we could? Where would the interaction with others be? Where would be the joy in learning?). Prep work is vital for this kind of thing.
The main thing I wanted to make sure of prior to the recording was to mitigate against a dry throat (and hence coughing). The trick here is to have enough non-alcoholic drink but to time it so you’re not dying to go to the bathroom halfway through the interview! Alcohol can dry the throat incidentally, the time for a nice glass of something lovely is definitely after the interview, always!
I’m glad to share the link for that interview. Do take a listen. There are jingles etc at the beginning and adverts etc during the show but these are easily fast-forwarded. Beware though! I have found on this kind of link you can fast forward but not rewind! Why that is I don’t know. What I do know is that Hannah set some fabulous and challenging questions which I loved answering. Hope you enjoy it. (Oh and Chandler’s Ford Today gets a very good plug too!).
Talk to the Disparate Housewives WI group
This took place via Microsoft Teams on 17th March. It was great fun. Again I prepared notes, did a dummy run, weeded out what wasn’t going to be needed. (I always overwrite but I never worry about that. The editing takes care of all of that!). I also read some of my flash fiction pieces, a couple from From Light to Dark and Back Again, and another from Tripping The Flash Fantastic. In many ways, the stories are their own adverts! The 100-word stories, also known as drabbles, are marvellous for this. They don’t take long to read, they show what flash is and can be capable of, and hopefully they entertain. They’re a great way to show the impact such a short story can make on a reader.
The Need to Prepare Well and Give Yourself Enough Time To Do It
But the key point here is the need to prepare. Writers will do this in different ways but I have to write notes, practice, discover where I’ve repeated myself, cut that out, and so on. It all takes time but these kinds of activities are ways for a writer to engage with a potential audience and definitely worth taking your time over to get right.
The downside is I’ve not had a lot of time to write new material in the last few weeks but every writer gets used to the ups and downs of their own writing journey. I expect things to go quiet on the promotion front for a bit now. I’ll be using that time to get more stories written and write a book proposal for a non-fiction book I’m working on.
Talking About Writing
When I first started writing seriously for publication, this aspect of the writing life had not occurred to me at all. I was just focusing on getting my work out there and hoping someone would take it. But as acceptances came in more regularly, as the books came out, the need for marketing increased. I realised I needed to be able to talk about what I do but also adapt that for different audiences and time lengths.
I also realised it would be useful to have more than one topic to speak about. All writers have one obvious topic – how they came to be writers and these are always interesting as no two writers have the same route to publication. And we can all learn from another.
Then the split comes. My field is obviously flash fiction but the writing world is a huge one with an infinite range of genres (and that goes for non-fiction too). This is why I love attending writing events, online or in person (and I can’t wait to get back to doing the latter!). I am fascinated by what other writers do and nearly always take something from their talks that I can apply to the work I do.
In the last year I’ve learned how to use Zoom, I’m getting better at What’s App and Skype, and I’m now using Teams as well. Having a wide range of apps to use is a good thing as it means I’m ready for whatever an event organiser “throws” at me! Learning how to use these things is all part of the writing life too.
And these things will continue after the pandemic is over. They are also an opportunity. The Canadian summit is one I can’t get to as a live event (though I’d love to go!) but I can do it on Zoom.
Technology makes events more accessible for more people. Whether it leads to a rise in book sales remains to be seen but it does give more ways for writers to engage with possible readers. That has to be a good thing!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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