Feeling in a bit of a daze due to staying up until 1am and not sleeping well, on a sunny Friday 6 June I wheeled my suitcase to the Tube station that swept me into London Paddington.
I got myself up to speed with the latest gay culture by reading Attitude Magazine on the relaxing two hour train journey to Bristol. I bumped into JL Merrow on the train where we caught up and kept our fingers crossed for a good event.
Once at the hotel, I received a big hug from Clare London, my writing auntie, and Charlie Cochrane, my writing mother. They knew what I’d been through recently and had promised me a big hug. I needed it.
Ideally I wanted a Big Mac for lunch but this was denied due to the nearest ‘restaurant’ being a fair way out of the city. Evidently Bristol is too posh to McDonalds. Instead I enjoyed a burrito in the sun next to the fountains, watching the tourists and families enjoying themselves.
The Mauretania Club did confuse me: there were far more men than women, but I couldn’t decide if they were gay, or just friendly straight men. There was an *awful* lot of inappropriate touching of shoulders and chests, and at one point I’m reliably informed Clare London was dancing with a couple on the dance floor.
Full of good nosebag, I tentatively sat near the front for the entertainment. Fanny Fontaine’s attempts at erotic writing were hilarious. She was like a badly behaved older sister who’d stolen Dusty Springfield’s wig and Lady Gaga’s outfit. Fabulous.
The unicycle straight jacket act was great fun. At a few points I did wonder if he would be able to get himself out of a straight jacket while riding a unicycle, but lo and behold, he did. The way Mark Willis lifted him by the hips onto the unicycle saddle and how tightly Mark tied the groin strap will be in my memory for some time.
The pole dancer / Diet Coke break man was great fun too. As a gymnast, with his top off, I noticed he had muscles sticking out in places on his sides I never knew actually had muscles. I enjoyed him ‘spilling’ the Diet Coke on himself then mounting the pole a few times.
I tried to do my best circulating among different people, rather than staying in one place, and spoke to Abby and Liz, two readers/avid film/TV addicts like me, Mark Willis the blogger, Charlie Cochrane, Clare and Beverly from www.prismbookalliance.com who I walked home, as we both swayed gently in the night air.
Saturday 7 June
I ate an enormous breakfast – I don’t normally eat breakfast but since it was with the room rate, I thought it would be a shame to waste it. Although, I was a bit disappointed the eggs Benedict wasn’t included in the room rate breakfast *sad face* But no matter, the full English was great, and they knew how to make proper tea, which always warrants extra food points in my book.
I read the first 150ish words to And Then That Happened, I was terrified. Who knew reading a short extract of your own work could be so scary? It made me think about how much the first few paragraphs grabs – or doesn’t grab – the reader... *checks all stories*.
The Demystifying Publishing panel was so interesting and the point of how a good editor will clarify not obliterate the author’s voice resonated with me. The point about authors talking – in private, not online – about their bad experiences with publishers, is one well made. I think we have a responsibility to do this to protect one another. I had a few very useful conversations about other authors’ experiences with publishers I’ve not yet worked with.
After a minor Apple laptops have no connectors that talk to the projectors moment, rectified by using Charlie Cochrane’s *normal* laptop, the Marketing panel was useful. It made me realise although subconsciously I have a *brand Liam Livings* I haven’t consciously expressed that with a strap line or logo. Coming from someone who is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, I think that’s a fail, so I will be rectifying this. Advice I’ve heard many times about marketing/engaging online is to be yourself. I think I manage to be *authentically, Liam Livings* online as well as in person. If not, do let me know.
The Dishing the Dirt, research panel was helpful since I do as little research as possible, since I normally write contemporary. I did research Cocaine Anonymous for The Wrong Room, and my *check this online* note in the manuscript was suggested in the panel. We all agreed it is very easy to disappear into a Wikipedia hole and come out three hours later, having not found what you originally wanted, and not written another word. The importance of dropping in little details of the time within the story was a useful tip, rather than dumping in all the weeks of research you’ve found out, just to show the reader how clever you are. Story is always king.
I joined the Writing Sex Scenes Buffet of Banter table, and embarrassingly, was asked to read a sex scene from Best Friends Perfect Book One that Val and Patrick had included as the middle ground between *fade to black* sex scene and a full strength graphic *insert A into B* sex scenes. Everyone agreed sex scenes should move the plot forward, and Jordan Castillo Price said her theory was all sex scenes are about something other than sex: power, control, distraction, love, money, whatever.
Belinda McBride’s keynote speech was such a breath of fresh air. Realising that we’re not machines and that sometimes the words don’t come, and that’s ok. And that it’s ok to just read/watch TV/films/go for a walk/ have a bath ,and not feel guilty. I also liked her theory about using writing under times of stress and pressure to keep yourself sane; I’ve done this over the past few weeks and it’s really helped. I don’t know what I’ll do with that writing just yet, but the act of doing it, made me feel less overwhelmed by the sadness, and that’s a win in my book. She described a series of very sad deaths she’d experienced, and her positive approach to this was inspirational. I wrote a box around her next advice: Decide what you want. Write it down. Make a plan. That’s simple and perfect, like most good ideas.
I met the drag artist, Eddie and his boyfriend in reception, checked them into their room and went over details for later that night.
I had some lovely chats with Tab, the comic artist, KC Wells, RJ Scott, KA Merican and Anna Martin.
I had half an hour between finishing the day and getting ready for the night’s entertainment. The BF called me with an update about the cat climbing tree he’d made during the day. He sent me some videos and pictures of Cat #2 playing in it.
Liam Livings xx