My journey started rather gloomy sitting half-asleep on the train on a dark, freezing cold and windy Saturday morning. But it was all well worth it even though I was mostly an observer other than a participant (it is a bit hard when you come on your own and your mind set happens to be on a ‘non-social’ setting that day..).
Got in there just in time for the first talk ‘A Room of One’s Own: motherhood and creativity’ and what a brilliant feast it was! All the speakers were great including Margaret Atwood (which I didn’t expect at all!) via video link from Canada, dressed up in a winter coat and scarf at 4.30am (what an incredible women is she! It totally puts me and my morning moaning into perspective or shame rather!!). The quality of the link wasn’t the greatest and it affected the fluency of the session for a short while but we were all very understanding and the chair (Bryony Gordon) had no choice but to somehow plod along.
The session was very witty, full of brilliant ideas and quotes and funny at times which is a key to success at 9am! I loved listening to Meera Syal. I found myself almost waiting for her turn to speak and writing down most of her answers. She is not only wise but funny and can grasp the point quickly and puts it very succinctly. Some of her quotes: ‘I have gained in creativity what I lost in time as plugged to the whole area of emotions’. She advocated that the childcare should be made much more affordable (no tax break for families) and that would relief lots of pressure for many women who want to engage in something creative as well as motherhood. Then she said ‘There is nothing like paying for a really expensive childcare to focus your mind’ which I found rather hilarious ;-).
My other favourite was Catherine Mann, lots of very interesting observations without the hint of arrogance (mother of-three, recently got back to her legal career job). Very down to earth, funny and intelligent. Her blog was the first one I have signed up to as soon as I got home that evening ;-). I thought her response to ‘more affordable childcare’ argument was very interesting as she said she would not change these first few ‘stay at home’ years for any kind of work even if the childcare would be made more affordable. But of course she agreed that it is all about having a freedom of choice in here.
Other ‘advice’ I have written down by the panel were: ”don’t be grateful all the time’ ;-), ‘let’s take away the blame of guilt’, ‘marry someone who is more domestic than you are’ 😉 and ‘write because if you don’t it won’t happen’.
I would be pretty much happy to go home after this one (only joking ;-)) as it was so good but then it was only just beginning…
The next session I attended was ’25 ways to get published’ chaired by Sam Jordison… and that is all I remember from that session as my eyes (and ears ;-)) were literally glued to him! 😉 😉 Ha ha ha joking of course but I really liked his informal, unique, engaging and charming and… style ;-). He would engage with its speakers on every level without being too overwhelming and still in control. On the left sofa there were Will Francis and Mathew Clayton duo, two publishers sharing their wisdom with us, eager and novice writers as to what are the best ways to get through to the publishers ;-). It would appear that there is the whole new world of publishing corporations out there waiting to be explored (as certainly not waiting for our books as in every publishing agency on average they are getting something between 1-5 new books from prospective authors! and we are talking years from there… ;-)).
I have started writing the children book this summer (and had no time to go back to it since!) but I cannot honestly say that all this advice inspired me to get on with it and finish it. The whole experience can be pretty intimidating and it is yet another ‘competition platform’ you could add to your ‘competition portfolio’ if you think you may need more to your collection! 😉
This talk was followed by ‘Think bombs: hosted by Kate Williams’ and I can only explain the title by an ‘exploding’ line of speakers namely Sandi Toksvig, Val McDermid and David Baddiel.
For me it was Sandi Toksvig who completely blew me away with her passionate speech about women and their place in history. In fact I have ordered a couple of her books as soon as I got home. She recently founded ‘Women’s Equality Party’ and as I would not be interested in joining in any time soon it will be interesting to see what cause it is going to take. She is a very passionate and captivating speaker and she firmly believes in her cause so I think there is all but a success for her (if she won’t get eaten by the male sharks of politics first but then she may be too shrewd for this I reckon..).
All this was followed by a delicious lunch which.. I took twice! oh dear… These were delicious noodles and beef Thai style (although I am sure I am getting this wrong but nevertheless it was delicious!).
I attended the Blog Clinic during the break and it was extremely helpful! The girl I spoken to gave me some really good technical advice re my blog, it was really good being able to ask one-to-one advice on a very specific issues.
And some more great sessions to follow in the afternoon.
Jude Brooks has given a presentation about ‘Building your brand: digital marketing for bloggers’ which was interesting, if not too corporate at times. I think I would appreciate a bit more catered advice for a small bloggers as some of her presentation was aimed at the big players and perhaps had too much content in it for our needs. Nevertheless she is a very professional speaker. An interesting quote from Simon Senek (coincidentally I watched this very same podcast on Ted the other day) ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. It would make a very interesting post in its own rights (if I ever get a chance to do it..).
I really enjoyed ‘Brevity is the soul of wit: big ideas in small spaces’ session. It was a great idea to put Tim Dowling (columnist for Guardian) and Helen Simpson (short story and poetry writer) on the same sofa ;-). They not only had their ‘short stories’ in common but their outlook and perception of the world seemed to be rather similar as well. Lots of interesting tips as to how make your writing interesting yet not too long (sorry everyone ;-)). Tim often uses dialogues in his column to make it more interactive while Helen reads things aloud in order to make it as succinct as possible. All the speakers concluded in the end that something between 500- 800 words is the self-regulated length which keeps a reader interested and focused (sorry once again! ;-)).
The last ‘show’, as I should call it, was ‘Giving it away: the public stories of our private lives’ with a string of animated and jovial speakers! The main ‘Bursting Aloud’ award has to go to Shappi Khorsandi (a comedian) which has as many jokes and personalities as her photographs in the internet! Lucy Cavendish was also great with many amusing stories from her family life (we all had to promise not to disclose the fact that she has been recently laid off from her Guardian writing job… very upsetting…). It was rather lighthearted and funny session and I guess that is a way it meant to be judging by the highly amusing speaker panel.
That certainly put everyone in the right sort of mood for the Mumsnet Blogging Awards chaired by Shappi Khorsandi. Some of the names I have jotted down are: Brummy Mummy of 2, The Comeback Mum, Mojo Blogs, Complicated Gorgeousness and Hurrah for Gin who won the main prize.
I then headed off to the Drinks Reception only to realise that there is still a long way back home so perhaps I should rather head back. Call it a fifth sense but as I was on the train back some 10 minuets away from home my Hubs called me asking for help (stuck in the traffic etc). He did a brilliant job looking after children’s Saturday’s affairs (and there were quite a few on that day!) and somehow I could not help but feel proud (not grateful ;-)) that it is him I chosen to be my ‘hubs for life’ ;-). Thank you Hubs!
It was a brilliant event. A few days on and I am still going through some of the talks in my head, smiling to myself occasionally ;-). One of the speaker’s said: ‘Don’t disappear from life just because you are a mum’ (who said it?) which has been sinking deeper and deeper within me ever since…