Living the Life — @boldstrokebooks day two in Nottingham

Really, as Christian Baines pointed out, it was like a particularly stereotypical queer scene out of rom-com. We three queer fellows had left a room full of queer women talking the trade…


New hat.

To go shopping.

Myself, Jeffrey Ricker, and Christian were standing in a Nottingham Marks & Spencer, and I was asking them to let me know if the hat I was trying on was right (it wasn’t, but we found a better one) and Jeffrey needed a new rain jacket because his brolly had blown inside-out and then—OH!—those socks! They’re so cute!

Anyway. In our defence, we’re going on a three hour hike on Friday, and I needed a hat and Jeffrey needed a coat. Also, it was after lunch and before the afternoon workshops.

(Aside: does anyone else miss rom-coms? I miss rom-coms.)

So! The second day of the Bold Strokes retreat today was just as great as the first. We started today not with pitches but with tonnes of wisdom from Carsen Taite and Ruth Sternglantz about what it takes to put together a successful writing event (be it a book launch, or a book-fair, a bookstore visit, or some mix thereof). The major takeaway from this, for me, was of course the emphasis on prep-work, but perhaps even bigger than that: taking time to really cogitate on what “successful” might realistically mean in the first place. My background in the bookstore has definitely given me a particular point of view about signings, but it occurred to me that I was forgetting to consider other angles.

Then, five brave editors got on the stage to talk about the author-editor relationship, and there was much hilarity to be had. I tried to take notes throughout this panel—so many pieces of brilliant insight were being shared—but it was hard to keep concentrating what with all the laughter. But one giant take-away from this? Editors with a publishing house are so freaking invested. It’s a partnership with many levels: yes, between the editor and the author, but also between the author and the publisher as a whole, between the book and what that book can mean for the brand of the publishing house, and so many other connections that were coming rapid-fire throughout the panel. It may be a cliché aphorism, but a rising tide does indeed lift all boats, and that’s pretty apt for a publishing house. They’re watching a whole as well as all the moving parts.

Now, I think I’ve said this before, but I quite like writing blurbs. Apparently this makes me the alien in the room, because when Sandy Lowe got up to talk about blurbs, the room more or less made it clear that “blurbs” were on most people’s enjoyable activities lists somewhere between “fingernails on a chalk board” and “just shoot me.” Sandy then proceeded to dissect a blurb into brilliant, manageable chunks and her examples were so freaking clear and clever that even a blurb-lover like me was scribbling notes to myself about things I should be giving more consideration.

In fact, that’s been a repeating (and heartening) theme of the retreat thus far: it’s never about getting everything perfect. That’s impossible. It’s about picking up new pieces each time and getting stronger in new ways. And y’know, that’s something I’ve always felt at every step of the journey with my writings with Bold Strokes Books: they want to help me write the best stories I can tell, and that’s always going to be a moving target.

There’s a way forward.

A gentle reminder, too, that this weekend, the 9th Annual Bold Strokes Books UK Festival will be happening, and you can meet a freaking tonne of the BSB authors, hear us talk, and pick up our books at the awesome Waterstones Nottingham.

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