The Inaugural National Writers’ Forum Was Awesome
From the outset I felt honoured to be asked to present a masterclass on “Building Fantastic Worlds” at the inaugural National Writers’ Forum. I was also impressed by the progamme that Coordinator, Claire Mabey, put together. One of the most significant testaments to her achievement is that in every time slot I was agonising between different scheduled events. 😉
Overall, I have to say that the weekend exceeded all my expectations and so huge kudos to Claire, the NZ Society of Authors, and their wonderful support team (yes, Andrew, Ashleigh, & Hebe, to name only a very few, I am looking at you!) for all the work they put in to make it so.
Keynote Speaker: Chris Cleave
The weekend began on the highest of notes with a wonderful keynote address from UK author, Chris Cleave. I found his address incredibly inspirational (and I believe everyone else did as well.)
Titled “The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen”, it comprised a sobering look at the current state of the world and — in the gentlest possible way — reminded us that democracy and civil society are not spectator sports and that as Augustine of Hippo reminded us nearly 2000 years ago, “as we are…so are the times.”
“You can tell a stranger a story — as a writer that’s your only job”
“The cure for hate is probably not love — it’s probably laughter.”
To read the full keynote transcript, go to:
“It isn’t about my stories changing the world; it’s about the world’s stories changing me.”
“I need to be proud of the work when it goes off my desk.”
To which I can only reply, “Yes.”
Two wonderful sessions and Forum highlights. But there was so much more…
So Many Great Panels:
Here’s the thing, though; there were so many highlights, not least the debate at the end of the first day. The moot was “That NZ Books Need Special Treatment” and I have to say that the negative team of Paula Morris and Leilani Tamu totally kicked butt (imho.)
However, insights from the other panels I attended include:
The Perfect Pitch: Publisher Panel
The four panelists (five if you count the Chair, Scott Pack) agreed that the most important thing about your pitch is not the synopsis, but what I call the ‘spruik’ — the short punchy “sell” on why my/your book rocks, which apparently very often ends up on the backcover of the published book. Food for thought, indeed.
Unprintable Books: Writing for the Digital Era
This presentation from the UK-based Kate Pullinger was fascinating, canvassing new writing platforms and projects such as episodic writing, collaborative projects, developing a literary form that is native to the smartphone (not cracked yet – a “watch this space”), and public projects such as Letter To An Unknown Soldier.
Beyond The Book: Being A Writer
This session with (the always wonderful) Nalini Singh and publicist Yvonne Thynne (also wonderful) primarily addressed building engagement with readers and included both ideas and “writer beware” pitfalls. Key messages included:
- Know your audience and what interests them
- Always define your objective before embarking on a social media or other reader engagement project
Great, practical advice.
“Building Fantastic Worlds”
My own masterclass, “Building Fantastic Worlds”, ran yesterday at 9 am and it was great to have both a good turnout and an engaged audience for the session.
90 minutes turned out to be not quite long enough for everything I had hoped to cover, given the level of questions, and I had to dispense with my projected exercise in favour of addressing the questions — which ended taking up almost the full half hour available. At any rate, I hope those who were keen on a more in-depth exercise were not too disappointed.
The topics traversed included:
- The Scope of Fantasy Fiction
- World-building: The Fantasy-Science Fiction Difference
- Tricks Of The World-Building Trade
- Inspiration & Perspiration
- Creating Otherness
- Keeping It Real
- Continuity & Consistency
- Beware The Infodump
- Less Is More
Plus there were spot prizes and a “world guessing” contest with a mystery prize for the person who came closest — which was a set of Books 1-3 of The Wall Of Night series. I would like to thank my NZ publisher Hachette for contributing two of the books at fairly short notice: very much appreciated!
My thanks again to the National Writers’ Forum for inviting me to present — and to those who attended for being fabulous. 🙂
Note: At the request of some masterclass attendees, I’ll post a list of the NZ books I featured here on Wednesday.