I’ve never been to a writer’s conference before so when my friends from Mahogany T’ree suggested attending the 6th Black Writer’s Conference in Manchester on 24th March, I was pretty certain I’d be going. Yet despite this I was one of the few that left it so late to book I had to pick my ticket up on the door.
The day was a real treat. It started well and just got better as the day went on. The first great thing for me was meeting Dionne Heron, author of Pardner Money Stories (A whimsical look at black family life in England) andStanley (didn’t get your last name Stan) who both bought copies of my book.Stanley’s a playwright, poet, and story teller, and has promised to invite me to one of their events.
The conference began with a panel looking at the ‘future of poetry,’ acknowledging the fact that ‘the spoken word scene has come alive’ and that young people have embraced it and is shaping it in new and exciting ways. In fact poetry featured significantly throughout the conference in some form or other.
The second panel addressed the issue of ‘Ebooks and Social Media’ and their relevance to writers, the final conclusion being that the physical book was not yet dead, ailing maybe, but will be alive for a long time to come. Ebooks and other types of virtual writing such as blogs, facebook, twitter etc will add to the book, not rub it out completely. Particularly as research is emerging that information retention is much reduced with e-reading.
This was followed by an informal salon session, a sharing of media experience and what an entrepreneurial writer/artist needs to do to create and maintain a web presence. These included ensuring you have a presence on as many of the following; tumblr, flicklr Facebook, bootcamp, last fm, youtube, soundcloud, linkedin. (There were more but these seemed to be the main ones)
I missed the session on ‘Writing for Children and Diversity,’ as I attended the workshop on ‘How to Make Money as a Writer’ which was basically encouraging writers to use as many of their skills as possible in as many different genres as possible. There was an extended discussion about the merits and demerits of the Creative Writing MA (which was later picked up in the final panel on ‘How to Get Your Novel Published.’)
The final panel of the day spent a lot of time telling us how not to get our novels published, and for my opinion spent too much time on the pitfalls and not enough on the practical things writers can do. It was only in response to a question that a panel member mentioned self-publishing. DOH! It was a session that was just getting lively at the point they ran out of time.
The conference ended with four young peots fromLeedsperforming their summary of the conference. I felt humbled, such talent, such speed.
I stayed for the evening entertainment and what a treat! Everyone who took part was a joy to listen to and to watch. Speakeasy were amazing, and just when I didn’t think it could get any better they rolled out Kai Miller, a thirty two year old peot from Jamaica who kept us spellbound with his presence and wove a magic spell around us with his words. I’ve never seen a poet recive a standing ovation before, or heard such stomping and cries for ‘more, more, more.’ I was filled and to the brim by the time he finished his encore – yet I would have happily forced down more if he had been prepared to feed it to us.
And that would have been complete even if I hadn’t gone to the birthday party round the corner at The Junction. It made me realise that I haven’t danced since New Year’s eve, so I made up for it. Didn’t make it home till 4 a.m. I bet not all conferences are like this!!