I went on my own and subsequently didn’t know anyone there other than by their profile pictures on Twitter, so it felt a little intimidating but the feelings were softened by the presence of a few familiar faces from my twitter feed such as organisers MEG and Cheryl, and authors Gareth Powell and Jasper Fforde. I later met a few others I’d chatted with towards the end of the day.
I had several hours to kill before I’d be taking part in a panel, so I decided to sit in on a few that had topics related to the subject matter of my book. Lost cities, Artificial Intelligence, Time Travel … scrub that – it’s not in my book but I wanted to get a feel for what others thought about it (don’t ask why I hate it as a serious topic, it’s a sore point and I’ll bore you – it’s fine as a fictional construct. Rant over!).
Mid-afternoon took me into the book launch for Spark and Carousel, by Joanne Hall, shortly followed by a book signing session. Again, I felt a little out-of-place because I didn’t expect anyone to have copies of my book to sign, and so took a pile with me for people to buy. I sat perched on the end of a table, surrounded by books. Fortunately I didn’t feel the need to make ‘are you interested?’ faces at people, like I’ve had to at a previous events which weren’t genre specific.
I’d mentioned to Jasper that I was quite nervous about it, so I was pleasantly surprised when, half way through the signing, he held up his paper nameplate and turned it over to reveal “How’s it going?” written on the back. I mouthed ‘I sold one,’ and got a double thumbs-up in response. That really made my day.
A little later I attended a kaffeeklatsch with Gareth Powell and got to pick his brains about his writing techniques and other aspects of living and working as a writer. It’s really nice to be able to interact with other authors in informal settings and have their passion for the subject rub off on you.
The time came for me to attend the Faster Than Light panel – another subject that my book relies upon heavily. The other panelists were Rosie Oliver, Misa Buckley, and Stephen Poore. Gareth Powell moderated the panel – having spent an hour with him already, this helped to lessen my apprehension.
The panel went smoothly and gravitated towards discussion of wormholes (pardon the pun), although Gareth tried to steer us back on track. I did shiver a little during the discussion, which I realised wasn’t down to nerves but the cold wind blowing from the air-con. Afterwards I followed up the panel with a reading from Synthesis:Weave – a scene that demonstrated the implications of my own FTL system – and it seemed well-received.
I’m pretty sure I’ll attend next year and hope to get on another panel. The organisers were friendly and helpful, and you couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch to be around. Being largely like-minded, the other attendees were relatively easy to make conversation with so once you’ve found your feet, attending by yourself isn’t so lonely.
If you’re a fan of scifi/fantasy, an aspiring writer, or veteran author I’d recommend coming along to the next one. You never know where you’ll get your next big idea or find a subtle confidence booster.