Live blogging from Milford #8 and final.

Kari Sperring
The beer is pink and tastes of strawberries. It’s almost enough to compensate for missing cake — and a trip round one of my favourite castles on a day with clear skies and fine views was definitely enough. It’s Friday, and we went out for the day: twelve sff writers loose in Criccieth, stir-crazy after 5 intense days of crits, and silly with it. In the castle bailey, Victor becomes our Director, arranging various of us in poses appropriate to our mood and setting. Sam leads out from the prow of the Engine tower, held back by a conga-line of writers. I climb a wall and recline, channeling my inner disdainful Tory MP. “Less centrefold, more snob,” says Victor. Out on the beach below assorted dogs chase waves, try to round up recalcitrant humans and look hopefully at the ice cream vendor. Tiffani glances at his board and later is able to recite the whole list of flavours.

It has been a good week, full of unexpected angles and observations. Aside from Sunday, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) presides gracefully over the end of the valley and our crit sessions. His lesser companions form perfect images in the calm surface of the lake. Yesterday, Liz, Jacey, Tina and I went up to Trefriw, to watch the woolen mill in action. The A5 is unexpectedly closed, and we turn up the Llanberis pass. “Murder on the highway,” says Tina, darkly. A great iron sword rises out of the bank of the lake in front of Dolbadarn Castle: I wonder, as ever, what Llywelyn ab Iorwerth would have made of it. It is not, perhaps, the symbol he would have chosen, the blade slicing down through the lands he inherited and the lands to which he also laid claim. Heredity is rarely simple. There is always more than one version of any story.

In the library, we are sleepy and talk about the weather. Powder has been disturbed by strange noises from the roof: Pigeons, we opine. But then again, maybe not. The land around Trigonos is vivid with jackdaws; up along the valley, Lleu Llaw Gyffes waits in eagle shape for Gwydion to find. The lake is restless: perhaps the afanc is stirring.

One of us reveals a super-power: things happen around them.

The wind listens.

Terry Jackman
I really missed Milford last year, now that we can’t attend more than two in a row, so it was great to be here again, and to know that I’ll be back in 2020. I’ve been the odd one out, almost, this time, as between crit reading and crit giving I found myself disappearing, not into the mists of Mordor behind us but into my room, to write. Trigonos is quiet, and feels so far away from the rest of the world, that I can unravel how to filter a whole new third thread of a story into the two-thread plot I thought I was writing. At home, there’d be interruptions and I’d have got lost about where and when a scene had to go, where who was when, how to get five sets of characters to the same end destination at roughly the same time AND MAKE SURE ALL OF THEM HAVE A GOOD REASON TO BE THERE. Here, even when everyone else was around, I could concentrate, and on the day almost everyone else went out it felt like I was the only person for miles.

Do I act like this every time I visit? No, but the option is there, to walk down to the lake, to sit and stare at Snowdon, to climb the looming mountain of slate we’ve christened Mordor, to go off on serious hikes – or sit and talk about so many new subjects, cos there are such a variety of minds around me.

Next year, maybe I’ll just chill out, or even talk writing.

Powder Thompson
Milford is an experience unlike any other I have had,
Inspiring, peaceful, beautiful, productive, delicious, and utterly
Life-affirming, particularly in such a time of turmoil and travail.
Fantastic, in so many ways, from the stories written in that mode, to the feedback graciously given.
Otherworldly, wrapped in mist and the wet Welsh mountains.
Ranging through Middle-Earth in microcosm, the landscape singing,
Do I really have to leave already? I don’t want to go.

Russell Smith
It’s a damn good thing I have reasons that getting back is going to be good for me because I’m not sure I’m ready for this being my last day yet. Today was our field trip, in which I got to walk up a castle, eat fine fish, sit in a throne (not Iron this time; sorry George!) and make a pilgrimage to the Purple Moose. I am now equipped with my first bottle of the delicious Black Mountain blackcurrant and apple brandy in several years and have some amazing pictures from the week. Not least of these pictures is one pretty much every day of my wanders down to the lake and the happiness this brought me. Most of this is just thinking about today.

I’ve plenty to take away from this week; ideas, inspiration, copious notes and encouragement from the best possible sources. I’m hoping to carry some of the momentum I’m leaving with forward, particularly in some quite uncertain times, but I’ve left here more or less thinking I can do just about anything. That’s a lot down to the company, though I suspect the excellent food has probably also worked wonders…

More of this sort of thing, please, and anyone thinking about this in the future, just do it. I’m really looking forward to the chance of being back for the writing retreat in June, for sure.

Mbozi Haimbe
Last night of Milford 2019. Spent the day reflecting on the week and the invaluable experience of being critiqued as well as critiquing. I also got some writing done out in the sunshine looking out on the breath-taking scenery. Now spending the evening winding down in the library with my fellow Milfordians. A wonderful week of fellowship, laughter and debate. I feel enriched by my Milford experience.

Steph Bianchini
Here we are, closing another great edition of Milford. Not the first time I’ve attended and not the last, I expect – because it is always awesome to be here. I had the pleasure to see old friends and meet new ones, in seven days full of crits and stimulating discussions. We’re finishing it up in the best possible way, in the library playing ‘Sussed Wonderlands’ and discussing about the most unlikely superpower or what we would like as starship captains…See you all next time!

Jacey Bedford
Well, that’s all folks. We’ve critted and eaten and talked and drunk our way through a fabulous week, but now it’s (almost) over. Once more sleep and then breakfast tomorrow before we all head off in different directions.

 

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Live Blogging from Milford #7

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There may be wine involved

Thursday 19th September

Jacey Bedford
Today was our last day of formal critiquing. The week has gone well. Submissions were all high standard and so were the critiques. My story was last up and I received enormously helpful feedback. This evening we gathered in the library after dinner for a session on markets and marketing, initially with suggestions for where and how ro market the pieces we all submitted, but then it expanded into a useful chat on publishing and agents in general.

Apart from a couple of people who are going to stay at Trigonos tomorrow and write, we’re all going to Criccieth for lunch and a visit to the castle. Wheee! A day off!

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Live Blogging from Milford #6

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Lake Nantlle panorama by Victor Ocampo. (The lake at the bottom of the garden.)

Wednesday 18th September

Jacey Bedford
Tina arrived last night, only able to take part in the last part of the week due to unusual circumstances, so now we have our full fifteen writers. We might have cracked a bottle of wine and stayed up a little later than usual, but that’s what Milford is all about. Well, that and writing, of course.

Wednesday night is always the AGM. A new committee is elected to run Milford for the following year. That committee has been fairly static for the last couple of years and was reelected unanimously with one addition. So the Milford committee for the coming year is:

  • Dave Gullen – chair
  • Jacey Bedford – Secretary
  • Liz Williams – Chair in charge of vice
  • Tina Anghelatos – Treasurer (together with her minion)
  • Kari Sperring – in charge of shouting about the blog
  • Jim Anderson – egregious token male
  • and new for this year…
  • Tiffani Angus – links with academia

Blame them for anything you don’t like.

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Live Blogging from Milford #5

IMG_20190917_122656648.jpgJacey Bedford
Five of us ended up going to Caernarfon this morning. Liz Williams drove, Russell Smith snagged the front passenger seat. Karri Sperring, Victor Ocampo and I squished into the back seat. The weather was lovely, and Caernarfon was welcoming. we met a nice lady barn owl. Victor and Russell did a quick trip around the castle. Liz and I bought wearables, and we all had coffee.

Mark Bilsborough
Hard critting today, with plenty of chocolate to keep us sweet. We’ve had genocidal aliens, dreamy dream sequences, telepathic symbiotes and fire-starting mechanoids. Just another day in the office. Actually it doesn’t feel much like Milford – the sun’s shining, for a start, and I haven’t been to Mordor yet. The food, though, is as fantastic as ever. Of course, we’re all writing in our garrets now (yeah, right. For garret read drinking the library). It’s a hard life.

IMG_20190917_123032095Liz Williams
We have been working hard but escaped to Caernarfon this morning so that one of the overseas visitors could see the castle. This was a big success: we had tea, cake, a visit to the castle, several shops, sunshine and an owl (this was to advertise the re-opened Tourist Information centre). Socks were purchased. The sunshine meant a more or less uninterrupted view of Snowdon for most of the afternoon.

Russell Smith
Big day on the base and beyond. Got up at 7am and got straight on the catchup reading before breakfast and then my usual morning walk to the lake. Yeah, this is a thing for me now. But then we got to go across to Caernarfon, so have mooched around a castle, got a couple of fun souvenir presents and then we got back to a pretty intense critique session but a good one I think. Dinner was amazing and now we’re having a well-earned social. I’ll have some great pics for the week from today. I’ll figure them out from somewhere!

Victor Fernando R. Ocampo
Alder, rowan, birch. Rose, nightshade, meadowsweet and cockle.  I am in Wales, a lone tuft of cogon grass, atop  a hummock under which two dragons, ruby and crystal, turn turn turn in restless, eternal sleep.

In Milford, we feed them dreams of spaceships and puppet children, Astral Edens and fleshy things that change in the night. Through gates of horn and ivory,  we burn them in a fire of bones, freeze them in the Blackthorn winter till they rise again like a golden city of a thousand spires.

I had too much port, haven’t I? Or perhaps it’s the rush of another rich pastry. Many, many cwtches, new butties and old.

Milford is gold.

 

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Live Blogging from Milford #4

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Sunrise over the Nantlle Ridge this morning, by Powder Thompson

Jacey Bedford
We had a good day yesterday. Four more stories critiqued constructively in the afternoon followed by good conversation in the library after dinner. Sometimes conversations break up into small groups of twos, threes or fours, and other times it’s one conversation involving everyone, which is what happened last night. We were talking publishing of course. Stick a bunch of writers in one room and sooner or later we start talking shop.

Some people are still catching up with their reading and critiquing, but five of us are heading into Caernarfon this morning. Our excuse is that Victor Ocampo, who has flown in from Singapore for Milford, wants to see the place. I always like to take a little trip into Caernarfon when I come to Milford. The town is quite small to say it has such a honking great castle in the middle of it, but it’s lovely to wander around.

 

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Live Blogging from Milford #3

Jacey Bedford
It’s Monday, but somehow it feels like Wednesday. Time doesn’t run quite straight here. Timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly and all that. I’m preparing for another afternoon of critiquing. Four crits to deliver. I’ve read and critted all the pieces, but that was between late August and Early September, so I have to do another read through to remind myself of the pieces so I can talk sensibly about them. We only have four minutes to deliver what we want to say, but that’s plenty of time. After the critiquing has gone around the room, the author gets uninterrupted right of reply and then it mutates into a general discussion. We can also give the written piece back to the author at the end, or email it if we’ve done any line edits that are not worth bringing up in the spoken crit. We start at 2.00 and each crit takes about an hour. There’s a break for Trigonos’ excellent cake at 4.00. In some years we’ve had to start early and finish late because we’ve had up to six crits in a day, but this year it’s worked out that we have a steady four crits a day. Today it’s the turn of Russell Smith, Mark Bilsborough, Victor Ocampo and Tanya Haimbe in the hot seat.

Have an early morning view of the lake taken from Trigonos’ dining room. Even when it’s murky this is, truly, a lovely place to hang out in for a week.lake-1

 

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Live Blogging From Milford #2

Sunday 15th September – p.m.

Jacey Bedford
Jacey-new hairThe first full day of critiquing went well. Four stories were up for crit. Mine first, then stories from Tiffani Angus, Powder Thompson, and Sam Tovey. No one ran away screaming, ‘But you don’t understand my genius!’ No one burst into tears, and everyone kept to time. That’s a win!

We got some good out-of-context quotes, too:

“This story is Brothers Grimm meets Deliverance.” – Jacey Bedford

“There are possibilities for government snooping. Boris would bloody love this.” – Russell Smith

“I think you’re going to call a penis a tallywhacker and just get on with it.” – Powder Thompson

“A strong man is useful for moving furniture, but you wouldn’t want one to run the country.” – Kari Sperring

Liz Williams
Today has, I think, gone well: we try to start off the first day with 2 critiques for people who know the ropes, followed by 2 critiques for the new people. Today has been very positive with some outstanding contributions from the group. Otherwise, it’s been raining…but we are in Wales. Perfect weather for sitting in an old house and reading all morning. And it is roast lamb for dinner tonight. We’re currently sitting in the library for a pre-prandial drink.

Sue Oke
Had a really good day. Caught up with all the critiques, which meant I actually had time to write something new! No grandchildren knocking on my door, wanting a story (not a bad thing), but love writing in this beautiful place. It’s just the right sort of calm atmosphere. The afternoon (2pm-6pm) was our first, official, critiquing session. That went really well – great atmosphere, very professional and constructive. Tired now, though. Especially after the wonderful dinner we’ve just had. Sitting in the library, in front of a real log-fire, just the perfect way to end the day!

Sam Tovey
First round of critiquing today; my first experience of the Milford method, and, as I was one of the critees, something of a trial by fire. A very nice fire, mind. Plenty of laughs (featuring more genitally-oriented jokes than I would have expected), many incisive comments, and an overwhelmingly positive and friendly atmosphere. I’m looking forward to more of the same tomorrow! Still got some reading that I really ought to be doing, but it’s hard to leave the warmth of the library and head back to my room. (Plus there’s port here, so…)

Russell Smith
A fine way to spend a Sunday, and after a really quite anxious run up to my first critiquing chamber in *some* years now, I really did settle relatively quickly. Enjoyed the time – I may change my tune when it’s my turn in the den tomorrow but for now, have figured out a morning post-breakfast visit to the magnificent lake, enjoyed an incredible Sunday roast and am now having a fine time winding down by a window from where I can hear the river, close to a real fire crackling away, with a glass of port to hand. How very civilised.

 

 

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