Five things I learnt at the 9th Geneva Writers’ Conference

I love writers’ conferences; they help take the edge off the loneliness of writing. This year I have a book on its way to the publishers, a short story in the Offshoots anthology and I have begun my MA/MFA in Creative Writing at Kingston University. I was interested to see how these developments in my writing life would affect my participation in the 9th Geneva Writers’ Conference held in February.

These are my five discoveries:

1. Don’t publicize your book too soon
“I’m a communications professional and psychologist and I have a contract for my self-help book, Holding out for a Hero, Five Steps to Marriage over 40. I wanted to know whether to publicize the book before it comes out”, I asked the social media panel. “No” they replied, “Readers will be confused as to whether it is out or not, wait till you have a publication date”. Another panellist thought it was a lovely problem to have: readers who can’t wait to read my book.

2. Network
My book is finished bar final editing but I wanted a fresh perspective before I finally let it go. In particular I wanted to be sure that its contents are not potentially embarrassing. With so many talented writers I found just the person to read it from her chalet in the mountains.

3. Meet your publisher
I had signed with John Hunt Publishing’s Bedroom Books imprint in September. Contact takes place through a forum and data base rather than personally so it was a plus to meet John Hunt in person. He was reassuring but honest about what lies ahead.

4. Don’t worry about lunch
My freshly made cream cheese on wholemeal lay forgotten on the kitchen table. I wasn’t hungry till I bumped into Bob. He had brought a selection of ham and peanut butter sandwiches for his own lunch. I’m a vegetarian and peanut butter sandwiches are my favourite. Bob’s generosity proved that even if you come unprepared the Conference will provide.

5. Explore obsession
Henry Sutton’s workshop focussed on the intricacies of plot, motivation and desire – ‘whydunit’ rather than ‘whodunit’. The author of My Criminal World showed me that if my heroine is really looking for a partner she needs to get out there, not wait for fate to throw someone her way.

Lesley Lawson Botez

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