This post is by Nancy Jardine.
I’ve often commented longingly, even enviously, when fellow Wranglers have posted an update on them having gone to a Writers Conference since I’d never had the experience of one. I am now delighted to say I am no longer a conference wannabee because…I went to my first ever Writers Conference a few weeks ago. However, the story of it isn’t a short one…
SAW – the Scottish Association of Writers – has hosted a conference every year since its inauguration during the 1970s and this year was their 48th. To join SAW you need to be a member of a writing club but since there wasn’t one local enough, I didn’t attempt to join SAW when I was first published in 2011. It was by chance a couple of years ago, I realised that I could join a group named The Writers Umbrella as a ‘postal’ member and in turn then join SAW, which I duly did in 2015.
Since the SAW conference was the same March weekend as my grandson’s 2nd birthday party in 2016, I didn’t attempt to attend that conference. On the other hand, this year (2017) my grandson wasn’t having an official birthday party, apart from my husband and I going over for a late afternoon meal and birthday cake at their house on the Sunday.
I still wasn’t going to be able to sign up for the Friday through Sunday full event but I could attend the conference as a Saturday day delegate and go to the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening. I find any public event quite daunting because I have a serious hearing problem but I signed up for the Saturday deal. I ‘virtually’ knew one attendee, a fellow Crooked Cat Books author, who was going to the event and we arranged to find each other at some point during the day.
The Westerwood Hotel is about 150 miles drive from my home but it also just happens to be about a mile and a half from where my sister stays. I popped down on the Friday night and stayed with my sister and B-I-L. On Saturday morning I arrived at the hotel just after 9 a.m. (my B-I-L plays a great taxi driver). This proved to be way TOO EARLY because the first workshop I‘d signed up for didn’t start till 10 a.m. (in my defence, I hadn’t been sent a full weekend schedule). It wasn’t a problem though because the ‘meeter and greeter’ invited me to join those in the main hall where the second batch of competition adjudications were taking place. I’d no idea what was going on, me being a complete newbie!
I watched person after person going forward to the podium for an award or certificate having won some competition or other – and knew none of them. Poetry; Flash Fiction; Short Stories; Prose Essays, Non- Fiction; Junior ‘First Readers’; Picture Books…there was an endless succession of categories, winners and runners-up. The excitement in the room was palpable, the surprise unmistakable and I only realised why when everyone went for a coffee break.
My Crooked Cat colleague, Rosemary Gemmell, waved me over to join her when she recognised me wandering around like a knotless thread. In the excitable and very noisy hubbub of something like 200 people milling around, she seemed to be trying to tell me that I had to make sure to speak to a lady named Myra Duffy about something that had happened on the Friday night. There was something I should know but it was better that I waited for Myra to explain it. The name Myra Duffy rang a bell but I couldn’t remember why I knew it. While I frantically tried to tune in to the conversations, Rosemary was called away to do something admin. I found the whole situation so bemusing and a bit of a blur.
Coffee Break was a rushed affair since the second adjudications had over run their slot but I learned the palpable excitement was due to the fact that all of the entries to the competitions were sent in with a pseudonym being used by the writer, this being the way that SAW finds it best to impartially judge when they have no idea who the entrant might be. Perhaps that’s common to most of these Conference competition rules? I have no comparison to go by.
Two excellent workshops over, I was in the dining room for lunch when I met up with Myra Duffy. I was stunned to be told that The Taexali Game, my time travel novel for early teens, was placed joint second in the Barbara Hammond Trophy Competition for Best Self-Published Book, 2017. Myra then told me the competition was unusual because the adjudicator actually sees the name of the author because they are sent a paperback version of the published book. AHA! Now it made sense. I had sent a copy to Myra’s address back in September 2016, one of three different competitions that I had entered The Taexali Game for.
It was lovely to be told by Myra that choosing a winner was nearly impossible but she had eventually settled on one and had decided to award the next two joint second.
Also amazing is that I have a two page breakdown of the criteria she officially used to decide on the winner and runner ups. That, I can tell you as a debut self published author, is like gold! I’m also jumping for joy because she posted a great review on Amazon for The Taexali Game.
I’m really sad not to have heard her adjudication at the Friday night dinner but she gave me a copy of her ‘speech’ that was relevant to my novel. And I had a photograph taken with me holding my certificate at the very splendid Gala Dinner on the Saturday night.
I grinned like a Cheshire Cat when my B-I-L picked me up on the Saturday night.
The drive home on Sunday morning was a long one…but I had a quite a tale to tell when I got home.
If I manage to attend the conference next year I’ll book into the hotel for the 3 days, regardless of whether I enter a competition or not!
Was it worth going to? Absolutely! I’ve made loads of new writer friends and I’ve even joined yet another group as a postal member. They’re based about a 90 mile drive away but I’ll try to meet up with them at least once a year.
Nancy writes historical romantic adventure; contemporary romantic mystery; and time travel historical adventure. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland.
You can find her at these places:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @nansjar
Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere