Milford at Fifty: Milford is… by Sue Oke

That’s an interesting start to a statement and one that has multiple possible endings. I discovered those endings over the years that I attended Milford, at the wonderful venue at Trigonos in Wales, and I’m very grateful that I did.

Not as Scary as I Thought

The first time I attended it felt like quite a challenge. I’d met the criteria for applying: one actual story published (which felt like a milestone in itself). But some of the other attendees had multiple books deals, taught Creative Writing at prestigious universities or were just generally amazing writers. What was I doing there, really? Well, it turns out that writers are (at least the ones that make it to Milford) friendly, generous, supportive people. When it came to my turn to be critiqued, my chapters emerged slightly pummelled, but were so much better for it. I remember feeling a little overwhelmed, but also immensely grateful. Proof of the pudding: I signed up on the spot for the following year.

Hard Work

The first couple of times I attended, the wordcount limit for submissions was 15 thousand words (it has since been reduced to 12 thousand words). Now times that by 15 attendees. That is a fair bit of reading and critiquing (well, times by 14 really, as you only fret over your own submission). I got most of the work done in the August, to reduce the load once I arrived at Trigonos. I had other plans for my morning—yes, you guessed it: writing a chapter or two of my current book. Working through all the submissions was challenging and time consuming, but also interesting and useful. I learned so much by critiquing other writers’ work, and even more by delivering those critiques. More importantly, listening to the critiques given by other members of the group was illuminating. Perspectives! That whole process is an invaluable lesson and one that stays with you when you’re writing.

The lake at Nantlle

A Lot of Fun

Mordor

As I said, the mornings are effectively free time (all the critiquing happens between 2pm – 6pm). You are in a beautiful part of Wales, with Mount Snowdon in sight (depending on the weather, of course)—there is always a handful of writers who want to explore the area (walking, running, even climbing). The local slate quarry (known amongst Milfordites as ‘Mordor’) is well worth a visit. Trigonos has a lake. Lake related activities include, but are not restricted to: sitting in the stillness on the slate bench overlooking the lake; listening to sheep mumbling away to themselves on the steep fields on the opposite side of the lake; exploring the narrow, sometimes overgrown path that follows the contours of the lake. A bit of alone time resets the spirit. Then its back to writing. Evenings are a time to gather together in the Library: comfy sofas if you’re quick, more functional chairs if you’re not, or sit on the floor by the fire. It’s all good. Time to relax and unwind in good company.

Milford is fuel for the creative spirit, inspiration for your current or next project, an opportunity to meet a bunch of great people. Why wouldn’t you go?

Sue Oke

Susan writes mostly science fiction. She has had quite a few short stories published over the years and is busy polishing drafts of her YA and adult novels. When she’s not writing, Susan enjoys teaching English and Creative Writing to GCSE and A-level students, amongst other things. Currently engaged in an epic story-telling project with her granddaughter: The Ongoing Adventures of Vincent, Lexi and Andrew.

About Jacey Bedford

Jacey Bedford maintains this blog. She is a writer of science fiction and fantasy (www.jaceybedford.co.uk), the secretary of Milford SF Writers (www.milfordSF.co.uk), a singer (www.artisan-harmony.com) and a music agent booking UK tours and concerts for folk performers (www.jacey-bedford.com).
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