Milford 2021 – a report by Liz Tuckwell

Left to right: Jeremy Pak Nelson, Sue Oke, Pete Sutton, Tiffani Angus, Matt Colborn and Jim Anderson (back), Dolly Garland Trevor Jones, Jacey Bedford, Pauline Dungate, Charlotte Forfieh, Liz Williams, Terry Jackman, David Allan, Georgina Kamsika, and Liz Tuckwell.

Milford 2020 was postponed due to COVID so, we’d all been waiting a year to attend. There were ten “old hands” and five newbies. Milford tries to keep five out of the fifteen slots for new writers every year. That meant many already knew each other but everyone was very friendly and welcoming to the newbies.

There was a flurry of emails before the weekend, sorting out travel arrangements especially the all-important how to get to Trigonos from Bangor. Drivers in the group were very generous in giving lifts to people. Everyone was asked to take a test the day before or on the morning of departure so we could be sure no one had COVID.

View over the lake towards Snowdon

Trigonos is set in beautiful scenery with a lake nearby. If it’s not cloudy, which it often is, you can see Snowdon. It’s amazingly quiet there. Now I’m home, I’m really noticing the noise.

I was a little worried when I read that people bring chocolate along to the crit sessions if they’re giving a harsh crit. And when I saw the chocolate piled on the table, I got more worried. The first day is allocated to stories by writers who’ve been previously, to help the newbies understand the process. To my relief, none of the crits were harsh but thoughtful with helpful suggestions. Liz and Jacey organise the running order so most of the newbies’ stories are on the second day, so newbies don’t have too long to fret.

Crit group

It’s surprisingly tiring taking part in the critting sessions as you’re concentrating all the time and I found myself going to bed far earlier than I ever do at home. And that seemed to be the norm for most people.

The things I enjoyed most about the week were:

  • Meeting the other writers.
  • The conversations in the library at mealtimes and after dinner. I really enjoyed talking to people who too love science fiction and fantasy.
  • The markets discussion on Thursday evening and when we went round the group at Pete Sutton’s suggestion to talk about what we’d had published.
  • The book recommendations as in ‘You should read [insert name of book] it’s amazing.”

There are swings and roundabouts with the accommodation. If you’re in the house, then you can just walk downstairs to breakfast and up to bed and help yourself to tea and coffee without leaving the building, which can be a real bonus if the weather is bad. If you’re in one of the other blocks of accommodation, you have a proper shower instead of a bath with a shower attachment. This year, the weather was pretty good so, I was pleased I had one of the rooms outside the main building.

I’ve been told that every year the daily menu demonstrates what the Trigonos garden has had in abundance. This year I firmly believe it was tomatoes and kale. The centre is usually vegan and vegetarian but makes a special allowance for Milford meat eaters. It’s good at accommodating people with special dietary requirements. I think there were four or five different milks on offer!

Jeremy Pak Nelson entertained us on the last night with a couple of beautiful tunes on his violin. Jacey Bedford entertained us throughout the week with funny phrases recorded for posterity from other Milford years and some she’d collected this year. My own favourite was “It was cheap and near the docks. How was I to know it was a sex hotel?”

We were hoping to go for a group lunch to a fish restaurant on Friday, but the restaurant was already fully booked. (One of the knock-on effects of COVID) So, some of us went on a trip to Caernarvon and fish and chips. Trigonos provided a packed lunch for the rest who wanted to write or go for a walk.

The week flew by. It seemed we had only just arrived before it was time to go.

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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #6

Jacey Bedford: This is our last day at Milford. We finished the crits yesterday, so today has been a free day. I drove into Caernarfon with Terry, Liz T and Tiffani. We did a little retail therapy and had lunch at the Anglesey Arms on the waterfront, right next to Caernarfon Castle (which seems to be currently buried in building work). Pete brought Jeremy and David, who went their own way but met us in the pub at lunchtime. It was disappointing that the pub’s extensive lunch menu had been severely reduced, but we were all happy with fish and chips.

Tomorrow we all depart after breakfast, some to the road, some to trains, but it’s been a fabulous week once again. Here are the participants…

Left to right: Jeremy Pak Nelson, Sue Oke, Pete Sutton, Tiffani Angus, Matt Colborn and Jim Anderson (back), Dolly Garland Trevor Jones, Jacey Bedford, Pauline Dungate, Charlotte Forfieh, Liz Williams, Terry Jackman, David Allan, Georgina Kamsika, and Liz Tuckwell.
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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #5

Jacey Bedford: Whoo-hoo! We’ve finished all the critiques. At the beginning of the week, when it all stretched before us, it seemed as though we had so much to get through, and now it’s all behind us. Where has the time gone? Of course we all have rewrites to do. Some of us have managed to do some of it already, but mostly we’ll be taking our rewriting jobs home with us. Tomorrow we have a day off. Some people are staying at Trigonos to do more writing, but seven of us are going into Caernarfon for a little retail therapy and a pub lunch. Personally it will be my first shopping trip since March 2020, so I’m looking forward to it.

Just thought I’d share this photo with you all. They very kindly stuck our group name on the dining table. Spot the deliberate mistake.

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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #4 (part two)

Milford 2021

Jacey Bedford: We managed to get the Milford group photos taken after lunch.

We’ve had a pretty full-on day today with five crits to do in the afternoon and then the Milford AGM after dinner. We’re obliged by our constitution to hold an annual general meeting in order to report on the previous year, the current state of Milford finances, and to elect a new committee who can then deal with any other business.

Unsurprisingly the 2021 committee was re-elected to run Milford in 2022. Liz Williams is chair; Jacey Bedford is secretary, Kari Sperring is treasurer with the assistance of Phil Nanson. Also on the committee are Jim Anderson, Tiffani Angus, and outgoing chair, Dave Gullen. We were very pleased to have offers of help from several of the assembled attendees, especially with web design, social media and technical assistance.

Tomorrow is our final day of critiquing, and then on Friday we can take a day off to see something of North Wales. We don’t seem to ave been here long and already the week is almost over.

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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #4

Jim Anderson took a great photo this morning of the sun rising over the Nantlle ridge. Mount Snowdon is centre back in the far distance. It’s the first time this week that it hasn’t been obscured by clouds.

Here are some of yesterday’s sayings taken out of context, just because we can.

I appreciate Dinesh is an equal opportunity abuser.

I don’t think I could wear a pyjama cape with the same confidence you do.

We’ve got timeshare spiders.

I’ve got to admit I’ve never been a nineteen year old girl.

I have a kill list but the problem is I’d have to be invisible to carry it out.

I feel like you’ve hit the plot gas and floored it to the end.

Nuke now, ask questions later.

I always think of risk assessments. It’s disgusting. My job has ruined me.

It’s not finished, but I just stopped there.

She has sweat dripping in all sorts of unfortunate places.

Even if they’re not fucked now, they’ll be fucked in a bit.

I wanted a future relationship between man and bee.

It would bee like talking in bee.

That’s the way they get you and suck you down.

I did not sabotage the cake.

It’s worse than putting a snail on your tongue.

He’s the psychedelic Indiana Jones.

Just remember, re your fear of judgement, we’re judging you either way.

I do like the idea of the band Nine Inch Snails.

It’s OK if she’s a brunette, there are a lot of us around.

It makes me wonder how competent they are as magical beings.

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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #3

Jacey Bedford: It’s been a good day. The sun came out, and Trigonos looked lovely. The clouds lifted and we could see Mount Snowdon along the Nantlle Valley. This morning I wrote 1000 words on what is about to turn into my next new book. The crit session this afternoon went well, and now we’re stuffed full of fish pie and sitting in the library with several bottles of wine.

Jeremy Pak Nelson: When can a vegan fish pie be called a vegan fish pie? Is it a matter of a fish substitute, or is the experience what matters? Now that my two stories have been through the Milford wringer, and unimportant questions queue to fill the space vacated by the apprehensions I brought with me to Trigonos.

Terry Jackman; Vegan fish? Obvously fish that don’t eat meat [or other fish]. So it’s Tuesday, and everyone has settled in, or should I say got over the shock. It’s another year where everyone who’s come is friendly, strange how SF people are almost universally nice to each other, even if they’re saying things like ‘I am not your target market’ they manage to sound polite about it. And we haven’t, so far, heard a single ‘Shame on you!’ from Tiff. Though maybe I shouldn’t be too optimistic since some kind soul has scheduled my crit for the last day. I’m not sure it’s conducive to the peace Trigonos is meant to engender.

David Allan: An expedition to Mordor sounds like a suitable preamble to the inquisition that is a critique session at Milford. It happened today for some of us. An intrepid band of seven braved the horrors of Mordor (aka Dorothea Slate Quarry) and found it orc free – much to our relief. Actually it was rather pleasant since we had sun for the first time today. Those of us who were on the menu for the afternoon’s critiques bore up well under the strain (with suitable applications of chocolate) and can now relax and anticipate the screams of tomorrow’s victims.

Milfordites in Mordor. L – R Dolly, Jim, Pete, Liz, David, Charlotte (back) and Sue
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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #2

Here are today’s sayings, taken out of context.

I used Matt’s snotty napkin.

My devil worship lore is rather flimsy.

I don’t know why Eric hides a turnip.

I was thinking, ‘Doesn’t he want his turnip. What’s going on?’

I did think about the poo, actually.

I love the machine washable cushions, but I wasn’t sure what they were doing in the story.

Experienced psychonauts will take this in their stride.

I don’t know enough about snails.

I read this as an alien invasion story.

It’s worse than putting a snail on your tongue.

He’s the psychedelic Indiana Jones.

Just remember, re your fear of judgement, we’re judging you either way.

I do like the idea of the band Nine Inch Snails.

Everybody has red hair. It’s OK if she’s a brunette, there are a lot of us around.

It makes me wonder how competent they are as magical beings.

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Live from Milford 2021 – Day #2

Jim Anderson The critique sessions are going very well, and one thing I’m always reminded of is how differently people read stories. We go around our circle, and each of us brings to the critique, the conversation something about the story unique to their reading. I know this is something that shouldn’t take me by surprise, but somehow it always does. In part, I think this is because we are largely encountering each others work afresh; even though some of us belong to regular groups and get used to each others style, here we don’t encounter each other all that regularly and it’s wonderful for that, getting a fresh perspective.

Liz Williams It’s wine o’clock! We’ve earned it – everyone’s working really hard and as Jim says, the workshop’s going well under a lowering and sombre Welsh sky. During the morning, people are reading, hiking and in our case taking an hour to drive the 7 miles into Caernarfon because it’s getting a much needed bypass. Really enjoying reading everyone else’s work and the conversations which revolve around writing (and bears. We’re talking about bears now).

Jacey Bedford My piece was up for the first crit yesterday. I’m pleased to say that mostly people liked it, and there were some great comments and good feedback. I spent this morning writing a new chapter. Now I’m sitting here in the library with a wineglass and good company.

Charlotte Forfieh First critique done! Such sweet, sweet relief. Such sweet, sweet feedback: perceptive, constructive and delivered with grace. It’s all good.

Dolly Garland So grateful to be at Milford this year. It’s awesome at all times, but after the COVID year we’ve all had, being here is even better. As always, the beauty of Trigonos is astounding and humbling. The company of lovely people, despite the mental effort required for crits, good food, and lovely surroundings means that this is the break we’ve all been looking forward to from our normal life. I know the week will fly by, and I don’t want it to end.

Pete Sutton I’ve been meaning or trying to come to Milford for years and failing. So when I finally managed to book a place of course COVID happened <shakes fist>. But eventually all good things and all that and I’m finally in Trigonos with a bunch of writers talking writing (and many random other topics) and although I knew I needed this I didn’t know how much. Trigonos is in such a fantastic place and I have already wandered into Mordor (despite warnings to the contrary) and down to the lake (I wish/don’t wish I’d brought my swimming costume.) The critting has already been useful but, until my story is critted, I am still viewing it with a little bit of trepidation…

Sue Oke Well, I’ve attended Milford a few times and have always found the experience great fun, hard work and immensely satisfying. Spending a week with like-minded creative writers is priceless, and in a beautiful setting to boot! And the food… has anyone mentioned the food? I’m in vegan heaven. The first two days have flown by. Tomorrow is my turn to be critiqued, after which I will be happily rewriting 🙂

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Live from Milford 2021- Day 1 #2 – by Jacey Bedford

It’s a Milford thing that we take conversational utterances out of context – just because we can. These are the ones from last night in the library.

The best thing about a question is how it illuminates the questioner.
What do you think about postage stamps?

I felt that about the kids I saw on the train today.
You mean you want to chop them in half?

It’s like my entire three hours of life coaching counts for nothing.

I can’t even say, ‘Hopefully people don’t die,’ in my line of work.

Especially when Angela Lansbury gets her head bitten off.

I just noticed you have the cutest little hands.

Mine’s like a drunken spider on its way to Odd Bins.

Did you say critgasm?
No, I said crit-induced aneurysm

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Live from Milford 2021- Day 1 – by Jacey Bedford

At last we’re back in North Wales at the start of another Milford writers’ week. Along with so many other events Milford 2020 was cancelled, so we’re doubly pleased to be here. Our venue, Trigonos in the tiny village of Nantlle, just nine miles south of Caernarfon, has undergone a few changes during lockdown, but mostly things are the same. There are a couple of new comfy sofas in the library (yay!) but no cheese course at dinner (boo). They insist we wear masks in the public areas (sensible) but have a policy of not asking if staff have been vaccinated.

We have all been double-jabbed and we all did a lateral flow test before setting off from home, so we’ll be forming our own bubble of 15 writers for the week.

I’m in Room 8 once again. It’s the smallest room in the house, but it’s big enough, and it has a lovely big bathroom with a walk-in shower. It faces the front of the house, so it doesn’t have a view to the lake and the Nantlle Ridge beyond, but it looks out over the kitchen door and across the (secret) garden. This was the view at 7.45 this morning – a little overcast but dry.

I’m a night owl, so I don’t usually see two 7.45s in a day, but at Trigonos breakfast is 8.00 until 9.00 and it’s as much of a social thing as an eating thing, so my alarm was set for 7.30. Oh, joy!

We spent last night getting to know each other. Milford has a policy of reserving 5 of the 15 places for newcomers, so that we don’t form a clique and anyone gets a chance to come. (Though applicants must have sold at least one story to a recognised market.)

I’m Milford Secretary, so I do the organising, taking bookings, negotiating with Trigonos etc. Liz Williams is the Milford Chair, so she runs the critique sessions.

It’s Sunday morning. We have our first formal crit session this afternoon, starting with my piece. It’s always someone who has been before who is first up for critique. I’ve only brought one piece this year, the start of a new novel called (for now) The Long Long Time of Jornish Marum. I can’t tell you any more because if I did I’d have to shoot you. What I hope to get out of the critiques is whether the novel idea has legs. I’ve only written 7,500 words so far so I’ll decide whether to continue it in its present form – or not – after the assembled writers have kicked it around the field for a bit.

I’ll be posting (or getting other writers to post) something every day this week as a Live from Milford post. Please follow.

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