Snowdonia is one of my favorite places in Britain; it’s a little Mountain Kingdom, squeezed into this overcrowded isle and existing almost as an Other Place. It's a perfect hideaway for someone who writes fantastic fiction.
Trigonos is also a special place: a retreat, in the mountains, away from the distractions of everyday life. I always enjoy Milford; it’s good to mix with writers/creative people, and actually feel like a writer yourself, not some kind of impostor. It’s also important to be with people who think in SF terms, and looks at things like the future, space etc. in a similar way.
This year, we had (as usual, really) a nice bunch at Milford, and the pieces of work submitted for critique were of a very high standard. The idea, for those unfamiliar with writer’s circles, is for individual pieces – short stories or novel excerpts – to get submitted for mutual comments and criticisms.
This process can be very useful – but it can also be quite challenging, and I think it’s important to have in mind what you want from a critique beforehand. Over the last year, I’ve been writing a novel, and the main thing I needed to know was whether people ‘bought’ the central premises. On the whole, this time, I think I got away with it....
I’ve always had mixed feelings about writer’s circles. Whilst having your work critiqued is important and can be useful, conflicting advice on stories can be confusing at times. I tend to agree with the idea that that the process of commenting on other people's work helps you learn how to critique your own work more objectively.
Milford, and the conversations there, gave me something else. It’s helped remind me of the sort of writing that I really love, and why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. My life has been so enriched by exploring fantastic other worlds, that I’d be really crazy to give it up. But everyday life can make you forget that, so it’s good to meet up with other explorers from time to time….
NEXT TIME: Writers versus Mountaineers!