5th Milford Live Blog

Jacey Bedford

2012-09 Carnarfon Castle wallsThe work part of Milford 2018 is over. We’ve critiqued 20 pieces (that’s five per day since Sunday, a total of close to 150,000 words). Luckily we were able to make a start on the reading in August as most participants sent their work in in good time. Friday is our final day in Wales, so we’re planning a tourist trip. We’re going to Caernarfon in the morning, and hoping to have a pub lunch at a place we’ve been to before. Some people will probably take the opportunity to visit the castle (above), others to do a little light shopping in the (small) town. Then in te afternoon we’re heading for Conwy, another castle and a very fine set of town walls. Unless the weather socks in we’ll be coming back the pretty way, through the Llanberis Pass at the foot of Mount Snowdon.

Present this week: Kari Sperring, Juliet McKenna, Jim Anderson, Liz Williams, Carl Allery, Jacey Bedford (me), Juliet Kemp, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Gus Smith, Anthony Francis, Mihaela Perkovic, Pauline Dungate, Nisi Shawl, Dave Gullen and Gaie Sebold. Most of our participants are British, but people have come from as far away as the west coast of the USA, Croatia and the Netherlands.

It’s been a great week full of hard work and laughter. The mix of people has been perfect. No cross words, just a spirit of kind cooperation. Though no one has stinted on the critique, which has been thorough, but fair.

I’m already looking forward to next year which will be held on 14th – 21st September.

Posted in writing | Leave a comment

4th Milford Live Blog

Mihaela Perkovic

I have always loved libraries, but have never, ever thought to throw a party in one. Milford did throw one or three and the Croatian mistletoe brandy might have helped. 🙂

The evenings at Milford have been so much fun: great food, and even greater after dinner conversation which has gotten progressively sillier and sillier every night. Today we had our last crit session in the afternoon and the evening at the library started rather more seriously. The discussion on markets was informative, insightful and very, very useful. I do not think I ever discussed the business aspect of anything with quite that many jokes.

Laughter in the library is an aspect of Milford I would not have imagine but I am enjoying it immensely and am quite happy to return to it right now.




Posted in writing | Leave a comment

3rd Milford Live Blog

Juliet McKenna

For a writer first published twenty years ago, my very first experience of a workshop environment has proved very interesting and rewarding. I’ve had invaluable feedback this week on the opening chapters of a new fantasy novel, set in the River Kingdom. Not just for finding the straight-forward detail and character glitches and bits that need tidying up, where fresh eyes are always essential.

You see, I know how to write for people who like my stuff and are familiar with my style, and that’s fine, but not nearly good enough at this point in my career. I need to know how to write for people who haven’t read my work, so they need more inclueing earlier on in a story, because they don’t know how I think and can see which way things are going.

So seeing where attentive readers have stumbled and wondered is really, really illuminating. Now, I’ve always had test readers, of course, every writer needs them, but getting fourteen views from a range of different writers, with diverse tastes and experiences is something else entirely. The book is going to benefit enormously, and I’ve added to my overall perspective in ways that will inform my future work.

Then there’s sitting and chatting with fellow authors about the art, craft and business of this writing lark. Great fun!

Posted in writing | Leave a comment

2nd Live Blog – Milford 2018

Jacey Bedford

It’s Wednesday morning. The sun has come out for five minutes but the south wind is still blowing a hooligan. It’s been a very wild week in Wild Welsh Wales so far, but other than venturing between our accommodations and the main meeting room where our crit session is held, we don’t actually need to be out in it. Though, of course, braving the elements is an optional extra to the Milford week. If you’ve been hunched over your laptop all morning, it’s nice to let the weather blow the cobwebs away.

VLUU P1200  / Samsung P1200

I nipped into Pennygroes (the next village) this morning and stopped to take a photo of the view up the Nantlle Valley. Compare and contrast this year’s from last year’s photo taken from the same spot.

Here’s 2018…


And 2017. That’s Mount Snowdon in the distance. It’s head shouded if fluffy white clouds, but at least you can see it.

Nantlle Valley sm

We have another afternoon of critiquing ahead, four more stories. Then tonight, after dinner, it’s the Milford AGM, when committee members are elected (or re-elected) and we get through a lot of admin. We’ve just had some really good news about bursary funding (for writers of colour). Applications are open now for 2019 and we’ve just had a donation to cover 2020. I can’t tell you more until after the AGM.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live Blog from Milford 2018

Jacey Bedford

It’s my turn first because I look after this blog.

We all arrived at Trigonos on Saturday, ready to start critiquing on Sunday. We are fifteen. We’ve all sent in our pieces for critique in advance and now, on Tuesday, we’re suddenly halfway through the workload. I’m not quite sure how that happened.

We have a tradition of taking phrases from critiques out of context–because we can.

“I’m left alone in a dark room with three women, two of whom are naked, two of whom are dead, and I don’t know why.” – Dave Gullen

“You don’t stop in the middle of a battle to editorialise. ‘Oh, I remember when–‘ THWACK!” – Juliet McKenna.

“I think the Zealots got a bit too zeloty.” Anthony Francis.

“If you’re going to give the women male names, I’d like you to call Phillips Petunia.” – Liz Williams

Jim Anderson

We’ve passed the half way point and it’s another spectacular week with the Milford crew.  One of the things I find most interesting about the experience is getting the first hand reports and commentary from readers who’ve something very different than the piece the author intended, and we’ve had a bit of that.  And it just reminds me, when we read, we bring with ourselves the whole of our previous experience, and authors bring with them their entire experience, and it’s always a fascinating mix.

It’s wonderful getting to know people, some of whose names I’ve heard before and some of whom I look forward to reading more from in years to come.  And my reading list between now and the end of the year has many new names on it, both those I’m working with this week and also the people they’re suggesting as the people I really really should read.  All most excellent.

Liz Williams

Milford is currently defaulting to Welsh Standard Rain: heavy and nocturnal. It’s great to lie awake at night, as if one were on the prow of a great ship, listening to the gale roaring in the trees but one also starts calculating the height of trees + wind direction + distance to the house… some us ventured out this morning to the usual walk at Rhyd Ddu through the forest, which was not possible on this occasion as there were fir trees down across the path. More weather expected for this evening with the advent of the season’s second named storms. We’re staying in! We have books and we have wine.

Gaie Sebold

Ah, the company of writers.  Dinner conversation involved an exchange of martial arts anecdotes, followed by Narrowly Avoided Death By Road Traffic anecdotes, and now, comfortably ensconced in the library with wine, we are onto Weird,  Poisonous and Otherwise Scary Animals We Have Met.  I have now discovered the existence of many many really unpleasant things that David Attenborough never told me about.  (Seriously if you want to invent weird creatures, just look at what we’ve already got on this planet).  Wales is comparatively unscary in this respect, apart from apparently they have ticks that drop on you from trees.  Yick.  I am having a great time.





Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Much Ado About Not So Much by Madeleine Robins

Like a goodly number of my friends and colleagues, I went to the Worldcon in San Jose in August. How could I not? It’s literally just down the road from me. Plus, chance to see all sorts of people I don’t see nearly often enough–writers, readers, fans, people I have known for an unflattering number of years.

A few days before the convention I started hearing odd things. Like “Don’t Worry We’re Hiring Extra Security” type odd things. I, being blessedly deaf to most scandals and brouhaha, had missed out on this new wrinkle in a several-years-old brangle. A wing of SF writer/fandom has been objecting to SF and fantasy that features women, LGBTQ folk, and persons of color. These folk believe that they–white, male, straight–are the Default Setting, and our genre is being ruined by these forays into the Other. Some of these folk attempted to establish a beachhead and die on it, and take the Hugo Award with them. To that end there was an attempt a few years ago to stack the deck of the awards, which was thwarted (the announcements of No Award garnered louder and louder applause as the evening went on). Then the rules were changed to make this sort of tampering harder to do.

I had thought (see above, blessedly clueless etc.) that this particular wrinkle was ironing itself out. Yes, even in this contentious age. I was naive. This year a writer was banned from attending the convention after he thoughtfully served notice that he intended to come to the convention and break the Code of Conduct, specifically by filming people whether or not they consented to be filmed. Apparently in order to establish how discriminated-against he was. The Convention Committee, bound to take this seriously, offered to refund his money if he could not conform to the Code. Me, I find this totally reasonable.

Someone who gets into rumbles on line and talks about wearing a body-cam into a SFWA meeting (presumably so he can film… what? The treasurer’s report? I’ve been to SFWA meetings, plenty of them, and they are rarely hotbeds of conspiracy. And usually they run out of coffee and danish before I get there) is not likely to go quietly, and The Guy did not. He attempted to gin up a protest on Saturday afternoon, posting an announcement on Facebook in the hope that oppressed Millions would converge on the convention center to make their wrath known.

Then Antifa* apparently said they’d be there to stage a counter protest. Why can’t we all just get along?

Such warnings have to be taken seriously, on the off chance that something really nasty happens. So the convention paid what I assume is a healthy amount of money for a heavy security presence (it paid off on Friday, when The Guy apparently came to the convention and was escorted out), and the city of San Jose spent what I assume is a healthy amount of money for police–in full riot gear on a hot, sunny day–stationed outside the convention center.

SJCC-plazaThe photo shows the plaza of the San Jose Convention Center. Even when the assembled hordes of the right and left were there (fittingly, on the right and left respectively), it was almost as empty as it appears in the photo. About twenty souls on each side, separated by about 100 feet and many barriers. I should note that the instigator of the whole shebang did not come, announcing publicly that his son was ill (in which case props for him staying home and being a good Dad), but possibly going sailing instead. What if we gave a riot and nobody came?

That evening the Hugos were awarded. Quite reasonably, because she’s a phenomenal writer who wrote a brilliant novel, Nora Jemisin won the Best Novel award. The fact that the other winners of writing awards were women is because they wrote what the voters most admired. (I now have a huge number of new things to read and new authors to research; I particularly want to read the story by Rebecca Roanhorse which won the Best Short Story Hugo. Roanhorse–who is half black and half indigenous–also took the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. (Anyone who is familiar with who Campbell was will appreciate the delicious irony of this.)

So, Worldcon: I got to eat meals or have a drink with almost everyone I wanted to see. I did a panel and an autographing and have a new list of a couple of dozen books I need to read, like, right now. Worldcon celebrated SF and fantasy in the myriad ways that it can be celebrated. In other words, Worldcon did exactly what it was meant to do, and everyone went on with their lives. Even, I assume, The Guy.


* Antifa, for those not current on the niceties of US political movements, is a freeform movement of militant “anti-fascist” groups who work via “direct action” (which sometimes looks a lot like violence) in reaction to aggressive right-wing protestors.


Madeleine Robins head shotMadeleine Robins has been a nanny, an administrator, an actor, and a swordswoman;  trafficked book production, edited comics, and repaired hurt books.  She’s also the author of the dark urban fantasy  The Stone War, three alternate-Regency-noir mysteries — Point of  Honour,  Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner;  and Sold for Endless Rue, a retelling of Rapunzel set in the medieval medical school in Salerno, Italy.  She is a founding member of the Book View Cafe.  An unregenerate New Yorker, she now lives in San Francisco , where she manages the American Bookbinders Museum, bakes cakes, and is a slave to the dog.

Posted in writing | 1 Comment


Due to the generosity of the committee of the 2012 and 2018 Eastercons, and an anonymous (writer) donor, Milford SF Writers’ Conference is offering two bursaries for self-identifying science fiction/fantasy writers of colour (BAME)  to attend the 2019 Milford SF Writers’ Conference in the UK which takes place from 14th to 21st September. The location is Trigonos, Nantlle, North Wales (9 miles south of Caernarfon).

107In 2017, our bursary recipients were Suyi Davies Okungbowa, from Lagos, Nigeria (pictured above) and Dolly Garland from London, UK. In 2018 our recipients are Nisi Shawl from the USA and Rochita Loenen Ruiz from the Philipines, currently resident in the Netherlands.

Applications for the two 2019 places are now open. They close on 28th February 2019. Successful applicants will be notified in March 2019 and must confirm acceptance or decline within a week of notification.

Writers from all over the world (far and near) are invited to apply as long as they write in English and are ‘Milford qualified’ (i.e at least one SF story sale to a recognised publication).

Each bursary will cover the cost of the conference fee and full board accommodation (i.e. room and all meals). The bursary value is approximately ÂŁ650. The bursary does not cover the cost of transport to or from the conference from either inside or outside the UK. Should a successful applicant be unable to take up the offer of a bursary, there is no cash value, and no guarantee that we will be able to offer a bursary in a future year.

This is intended to be an encouragement and not a quota. We have a limited number of bursaries available, however we operate an equal opportunities policy so all SF/F writers who are ‘Milford qualified’ are welcome to apply for the full-price Milford SF Writers’ Conference places, subject to availability.

Thank you to all previous applicants. If you have applied unsuccessfully in the past, you are welcome to apply again. For an applcation form or if you have any questions, please contact the Milford secretary.

If you are interested in helping to fund our bursary programme for future years, please talk to us.

Milford secretary: jacey@jaceybedford.co.uk.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments