Humber SFF (Speculative Fiction) organises free events for those interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror and speculative fiction in general. These events feature both established and upcoming writers who discuss their work and offer up readings from their most recent novels and short stories. In addition, guest speakers are invited to talk about key areas of interest for those engaged in writing speculative fiction.
The last event took place on Sunday 24th July 2022 at the King’s Head in Beverley, Yorkshire. This was the first face-to-face event after the disruption of the pandemic and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Two guest speakers took to the stage: Carl F Northwood and Susan Oke (that’s me!).
Carl regaled the audience with an extract from one of his series of novels The Mainguard Chronicles – a sword and sorcery epic with invaders from another plane of existence. Even more interesting was his talk on the ups and downs of self-publishing. It is certainly easier these days to get your work into a publishable format with tools like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, which is a great way to get your books to the market on a much quicker timescale than the traditional publishing route. However, costs can mount up when it comes to marketing your book, choosing to have an ISBN and, of course, you need to factor in printing costs. Self-publishing is not for everyone, but it is good to have that option available.
I was invited to talk about editing, primarily I expect, because I am the Reviews Editor for the BSFA—a role I’ve held for about six years now. I took the audience on my journey from aspiring writer to editor—that journey included my experience of the Complete Creative Writing Course run by Maggie Hamand, to the confidence that gave me to complete an MA in Creative Writing to, yes you guessed it, my experiences at Milford.
I was lucky enough to study my MA at Middlesex University when they were still offering a master’s course that focused on Science Fiction and Fantasy writing. This course was led by the late David Rain, with the redoubtable Farah Mendelson as a key lecturer. The practice of working in small groups and critiquing each other’s work was the first real stepping-stone to becoming an editor. After the course, a group of us continued to meet once a month to eat cake and critique each other’s work at that same MA standard—several members of the group have gone on to have their novels published. Almost ten years later, we are still meeting, albeit via Zoom (no cake, but on the plus side, we can now expand the membership of the group to, well, anywhere in the world, really).
I gave the Milford experience a huge thumbs up, while being realistic about the work involved and the possibly challenging nature of the feedback process, especially for newer writers. There really is no substitute for the Milford Speculative Fiction Conference—I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without it. All those who are attending this year—enjoy!! I’ll be there in 2023.
I did give a reading from the opening of my YA SF novel Blood Will Out, which was fun to do. Let’s hope I can find representation for that, otherwise I’ll by dropping Carl a line 😊
Susan Oke worked in the UK Higher Education sector for thirteen years before surrendering to her passion for writing. She spends every minute she can spare writing and has had short stories published in anthologies, magazines and podcasts. As the Review Editor first for Vector, and now for the BSFA Review, Susan gets to read lots of books—her favourite pastime, when she isn’t writing––and edit copy (another fun job, which she genuinely enjoys!). Susan is an active member of several critiquing groups and works part-time as an English tutor. You can view her blog and read samples of her work at: susanmayoke.com