The Milford Write Up for 2017

Contributors: Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Dolly Garland, Mark Isles and Steph Bianchini


Setting: Trigonos Centre, Nantlle Valley, Wales
In the beautiful Trigonos centre, under the cover of clouds and rains and occasional bursts of sunshine, fifteen writers gathered together for one week of respite from the regular world. It is understood that most of what happens in Trigonos, stays in Trigonos. But for posterity purposes and for future generations we write this report to give a flavour of some of the things that transpired at Milford 2017. We thank Val Nolan for (unwittingly) donating his story-style for the creation of this document.

Dolly Garland (First generation recipient of the writers of colour bursary & all-around troublemaker): When a fellow Milfordian you’ve never met agrees to give you a lift from London and willing to spend four plus hours in a car with you, you know these folks are all right. Or possibly that you may end up in a car with a complete nutcase. Susan Oke thankfully wasn’t a nutcase. I am not sure if she can say the same about me. The whole week devoted to thinking only about writing has been a sheer luxury. There has been high quality work, great productivity, mind-blowing conversations and sheer lunacy. Muddy trousers too, as I battled imaginary orks during a trip to Mordor (aka slate quarry) with Vaughan Stanger, and traversed across the landscape to map out the lake on my fitbit. And while attempting to play a joke on Phil Suggars, I ended up being on the Milford committee to help out with social media. Tiffani Angus called it karma. I regret calling her wise now.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Youngest Milfordian this year, recipient of writers of colour bursary, aspiring beardgang member, snitch on the weekends–if Dolly’s to be believed): There’s got to be one Dolly in every room, I guess; every gathering needs that energy, and Dolly really packs it. Though the other thirteen also bring different aspects of themselves to the table, there’s three things all fifteen of us can agree about the trifecta of Milford + Trigonos + Nantlle: the views are breathtaking, the food turns out to be absolutely fabulous, and everyone’s real kind and thoughtful and awesome (even during crits!)

Steph P. Bianchini (One of four New Milfordians of 2017. She watched too much SF Horror as a kid): Somebody should inform prospective Milfordians about the real and substantial dangers of induced insomnia. They’re real even if in your home settings you sleep as a baby (I do). Instead, here you’ll probably spend many nights checking out your phone or staring at your ceiling. No, they don’t put anything strange in your food (you wish), and the sky doesn’t offer many opportunities for deep-sky observations (it might, not being so clouded). It’s that your brain, after the hyperstimulation of the day, stubbornly refuses to switch off and keeps going into loops as if it were at a holiday theme park. Things get even worse if you have a critique the day after: last night, I briefly considered Val Nolan’s Immortal Hero Pillow Cryo-Option, deciding straight away it was not such a good idea (no tentacles). I decided to settle for the mammoth “Games-of-Thrones-in-Mediaeval-History” The Accursed Kings: endless descriptions of XIII century French brocade dresses do work miracles with tired minds. Consider yourself warned, and bring over your more abstruse and boring texts of choice for emergency sleeping remedies.

Sara K. Ellis (First time Milfordian channeling messages from Trigonos toaster, now reimagining itself as a haiku generator).

Slot 1
That cake on the board
Brown, smelling of cinnamon
All those chocolates

Slot 2
Time spell overheard
War breaks out over warm toast
It’s burnt anyway

Slot 3
Crowding on the steps
Hope no one crop dusts and leaves
We’ll know who it is

Slot 4
The last crit is done
Robot has midlife crisis
Oh, that slidey eye

Mark Iles (Milford virgin and relative of Uncle Albert from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ – constantly dreaming of cheeseburgers)
Rarely eating chocolate I came bouncing full of joy to Milford only to find myself recovering from a self-induced chocolate overdose, severe insomnia, and now an aversion to cake. If I never see a slice of the latter again I’ll be a happy man. I have to admit to having extreme  fantasies of chicken and steak … then more chicken. Just not chocolate covered…

The Overlords: From the contributions above it seems that this Milford malarkey may be worth continuing with. Perhaps by talking to one another about dragons and spaceships, these weirdos may get it out of their systems, and spare the outside world. Of course there is always the risk that it could go the other way and they may end up egging each other on and move on to time travel and women who lead battles. But it’s a risk we are willing to take, because at least by putting them in one place, we know where to find them.

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Live Blogging from Milford: Friday 15th September – 5.30 p.m.

Jacey Bedford

This will probably be my last live blog from Milford for this year. The hard work is over. Today we’ve been to Caernarfon for a mooch around the castle and lunch at the Anglesea Arms. Though the weather forecast was not great there was only one short shower and this afternoon the sun came out.

caernarfon-2This was Suyi’s first look at a proper British castle and he took masses of photos and got a quick history lesson from Terry to put it into context.

Lunch was delightful. On short notice they shoved tables together to accommodate all of us and we (nearly) all chose meat of some kind. Several people had the burgers. I had gammon, Terry had lamb shank. After a week of healthy eating and set menus we really enjoyed the variety. Though we resisted pudding.

We had a quick race round the shops after lunch and I may or may not have made a purchase which was very rash and I may have to introduce it into the Bedford household with a discussion about the value of art. It is something I’ve looked at for a few years now, and not bought. However, this year…

Suyi Nantlle valley smWe stopped on the road back to Trigonos for the perfect photo opportunity – a view up the Nantlle Valley towards Snowdon. Suyi immediately leaped out of the car to capture it.

We arrived back at Trigonos at cake o’clock – lemon cake this time – and found Jackie waiting for us with her husband. She’d hung around to say goodbye. It always feels weird once people start to leave. We’ve become more than a tight knit group after seven days together–we’re almost family. Tomorrow people will be leaving immediately after breakfast and Milford 2017 will slide gently into the place where we keep good memories.

Milford 2018 is almost fully booked already (2 places left) and on Saturday 16th September we open the booking for Milford 2019. Several people from this year’s Milford have already said they are coming. As usual we’ll ringfence five places for Milford first-timers.

We’ve been building up the Milford bursary fund. If you are in need of financial assistance to attend and if you’ve never attended a Milford before and feel you could not only benefit, but also contribute, please get in touch. We particularly encourage writers of colour, but bursaries (full or part) could also be available on the grounds of need.

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Live Blogging from Milford: Thursday 14th September – 10.00 p.m.

Liz Williams

We are now well into the Writers’ Tears whisky, having just gone through the Milford Marketing Meeting. Where to send your precious piece? What to do? What to write next? The Milford MM collective hive mind will tell you and give you chocolate. We have now come to the end of the workshop: Thousand Yard Stares all round. Outside, Wales is being particularly wet. There are plans for tomorrow involving chips, pubs, and strong liquor. Milford 2017 is complete; we have all bonded. What an exceptional experience this has been, and every year brings something new – this time, HIT training. Not only are our brains expanded; our muscles are too.

Dolly Garland

We are in the library, all sitting together, people chatting about all sorts of stuff. There is real warm feeling now. I went around the room, taking photos, and feel as if in one week these people have become special to me. They have. Even if some of us drift apart (I hope not), we will always have this week. This amazing, productive week where we got to know one another, learned more of who we are, shared personal stories, and more importantly shared our writing, and our hopes for how we see ourselves as writer developing. It’s been an incredible week, and once again I feel fortunate to be a part of Milford.


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Live Blogging from Milford: Thursday 14th September – 6.30 p.m.

Jacey Bedford

The last day of Milford crits has arrived. We sit around the crit room with horizontal rain blowing across the wild Welsh hills outside. Five more stories to crit today.

Vaughn Stanger’s story is up first. It’s a follow on short story from one he presented at Milford in 2013. Some of us read the earlier one, others didn’t, but we have to crit the story as a standalone.

Sarah K Ellis’s story is about the complexities of human interraction and how to tell the difference between humans and synths in a future where synths are almost perfect.

Steph Bianchini’s piece is a weird cadet school story which divides opinions, pro and con.

It’s 4.00, which makes in cake o’clock. We amble up to the Plas for cake and then gather to take the Milford photograph. We try some indoor shots because the weather is showery, but suddenly the sun comes out and we dash outside and get the perfect shot.

Back to the crit room for two more crits. Terry has brought a sequel to a book some of us have read before. We finish with Liz’s story about The Ontologist.

And then Milford crits are over for another year. Tonight we discuss markets for the pieces we’ve critted this week. And tomorrow we’re going into Caernerfon for pub lunch and a trip around the castle

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Live Blogging from Milford: Wednesday 13th September – 10.30 p.m.

Jacey Bedford



Not much time for blogging today with five pieces to critique this afternoon and the Milford AGM after dinner which then devolved into a general conversation and, later, finished up with four of us diehards in the library talking about the state of science fiction internationally.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa


Suyi Davis Okungbowa opened our eyes to the state of speculative fiction in Nigeria. Steph Bianchini jumped in with snippets about all the countries she’s lived and worked in, and Sarah K. Ellis, and American currently living and working in Japan added local knowledge. Fascinating stuff.

Our AGM went well. It’s obvious that Milford is currently enjoying a strong revival thanks to the work of the committee. It’s extremely well supported and looking forward to new and exciting projects. All the current committee members were re-elected and Dolly Garland was coopted to address our social media profile. The committee for 2017-2018 now consists of:

  • Dolly Garland


    Chair: Dave Gullen

  • Secretary: Jacey Bedford
  • Treasurer: Tina Anghelatos
  • Vice Chair: Liz Williams
  • Committee: Kari Sperring
  • Committee: Sue Thomason
  • Committee: Karen Williams
  • Committee: Jim Anderson
  • Committee: Dolly Garland *NEW*

We have also set the dates for Milford 2020 – 12th – 19th September. Booking for that won’t open until this time next year, but booking for 2019 opens at the end of this week. 2019 dates are 14th – 21st September.

Milford 2018 is 15th – 22nd September. At the time of writing there are only two places left, though we do operate a waiting list system. More information from the web page.

So that’s all the business out of the way. We have one more day of critting and then Friday – demob happy – we’re heading to Caernarfon for shopping, a trip around the castle and a pub lunch. Yay!

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Live Blogging from Milford: Wednesday 13th September – 9.30 a.m.

Jacey Bedford

One day slides into the next… and suddenly it’s Wednesday. How did that happen? Yesterday we reached the halfway point on crits, so we have only another two days to go, another ten pieces to crit, with sixteen pieces completed already.

Panorama Tuesday


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Live blogging from Milford 2017: Tuesday 12th September – 9.45 p.m.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi smallMorning starts off quite wet, then suddenly gives way to this beautiful amount of sun we’re not expecting. Some take this opportunity to slink away to Mordor and return without any Gandalf Eagles (looking at you Vaughan and Dolly). Some, like me, try to enjoy the warmth before the skies change mood again (and they do flip into the Darth Vader of skies before evening).

Crits start earlier because we’ve got six today. Contrary to our expectations that it’s gonna be gruelling, I find it even more thoughtful than yesterday. It seems Milford gets better by the day; if this goes on, I could end up on a real high on Friday, and Saturday could easily find me experiencing premature withdrawal symptoms. Cue tears and wailing and clinging to the pillar outisde the Plas.

My story’s up for crits tomorrow. Here’s to feeling the same way afterwards.

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