Like many people I came to my first Milford with feelings of excitement and fear. I was not disappointed. My novel opening, which I had worked on so hard, was critiqued with attention to detail and the eye of experience. To my relief I had made no horrific mistakes. Nevertheless, as I expected in my secret heart but still hoped was not going to be the case, the overall judgement was that it was not as good as I thought it was. At the extremes, one person liked it just as it was, another disliked it intensely. I exited the critique session feeling somewhat crushed but not devastated. I felt energised too, because now I could see how my story could be improved. I had some work to do. I felt no need to jump into the lake.
By the end of the week I had met people who would become my writerly friends. I would see them again at various conventions through the years, and some of them at future Milfords. They would tell me about their writing ups and downs, and other events in their lives, and I would tell them mine. Experiences shared.
I had also learned much about critiquing in both what to look for and how to deliver it. And equally importantly, how to listen.
I like to go to Milford every three or four years. Over time it has come feel like a place where some of my tribe now gathers. My writing still gets the same due consideration, and each time I come to Milford I still arrive with that mix of excitement and fear. These are all good things.
Over the years Milford became more international, and with the introduction of the bursary scheme, even more so. I think this is more than essential, and as an attendee, and as former Chair of the committee, I am more than grateful to the generosity of the people and organisations who have funded the bursary so that this can happen.
I doubt my SF novel, Shopocalypse would ever have been published if I had not gone to that first Milford. I met someone who knew someone, they made a brief introduction at a convention and we had an initial exploratory conversation leaning on the bar that led to good things.
Many years have passed since that first Milford. Have I become a better writer? I think yes, and my times spent at Milford have played their part. Although I still struggle to find homes for my novels, I’ve now placed over sixty short stories to various magazines, anthologies, podcasts, and spoken word events.
Readers, writers, whoever we are, I think we all have a few places we think of as ‘home’. For me Milford is one of them. Milford weeks are times to immerse yourself thoroughly in the writerly life. It is a place to learn and to share, to read and to write, to think and talk and meet new people and old friends. It is a place to have ideas, and to have your mind changed. To laugh like drains in the evening. It is a place to eat cake. You should go.
David Gullen was born in Africa and baptised by King Neptune He has lived in England most of his life and been telling stories for as long as he can remember. He currently lives behind several tree ferns in South London with his wife, the fantasy writer Gaie Sebold. Find out more at www.davidgullen.com.