I’d naively hoped I’d have a bit more time to write here for the next 40 days and nights, as something suitably Lenten. Behold, the barren week-long gap here that resulted! Let’s fix that, with a few scribbles about last night’s adventure in networking.
Networking isn’t something that comes easily to me- or, I imagine, a lot of creatives. The sum of my networking has been trundling round last summer’s conventions and hovering around with other newly-published short story writers. But the Edinburgh Literary Salon is taking things up a level. A quick look around Twitter showed agents and writers coming from London. Ian Rankin often pops along too. When I arrived, Charlie Stross was hovering by the door. I have to say, I got a bit panic-stricken wandering through the crowds. I didn’t know anyone, and my friend who was going to be a wingman didn’t make it along. Then I realised I was basically having Impostor Syndrome.
Thing is, a monthly networking event for people with a professional interest in writing is exactly the wrong time for Impostor Syndrome to hit. So it was that, after momentarily looking like a rabbit in headlights, I got talking to a couple from One o’clock Gun, a lovely Japanese painter, and then I got punted towards Ali from City of Literature, who was doing a fine job welcoming nervous newcomers like me. She pointed out a few authors I should meet- alas, I only managed a brief chat with one and it was about, er, gin- and then I was off towards the name badges.
Bear in mind that, thanks to arriving too late for the free wine, I’ve only just got over the hurdle of saying ‘I’m a writer, and I’ve written an urban fantasy novel’ to complete strangers. Now I have to fill in a ‘Hi, I’m — Ask me about —‘ sticker. I couldn’t decide between ‘Ask me about unruly selkies’, ‘Ask me about unlikely teenage heroes’ and, more cynically, ‘Ask me about my reasonable freelance rates’. I settled on the more generic ‘my novel’. It turned out there were other newbies, and we bonded over debating where the YA boundaries lie, why children’s books are criminally under-exposed, and my cool nerdy jewellery. I knew USB-powered dragon earrings would be a talking point.
By this point, I’ve even got bold enough to dust off the elevator pitch and try it out on a few folk, who seemed to a) like the sound of it and b) be suitably impressed at the fact I’ve written a Thing. I was lucky enough to meet Ruth from Moniack Mhor, a gorgeous writing retreat in the Highlands, and local storyteller James, whose book on Scottish Borders folk tales is out this year. I haven’t had many nights where the conversation takes in Star Trek: TNG, how oral storytelling is its own form of editing, Homeric epics, political canvassing, the best craft beer in Inverness, why Yes are better than Genesis (*hiss*) and the perils of developing characters. A good time all round, then, and I shouldn’t have been at all worried. I’ll be back next month, maybe even with finished edits to be victorious about.
As an added bonus, while in the taxi home I remembered explaining the reason my main character and his brother react differently to the Spoilerriffic Bad Stuff that’s happened to them, and had a sudden epiphany about an edit I’ve been struggling with. That deserves a Victory Llama.
Clearly, I should go to salons more often. Maybe I should also take inspiration from James’s anecdote about Robert Louis Stevenson and his brownies. Do you think they like half-nibbled oven chips as an offering?