In September we went to Milford SFF Conference in Nantlle, North Wales – a week of critiques, writing, hanging out with other writers, and cake. Trigonos, the place we stayed, nestled in the foothills of Snowdonia, is determined we need never go more than three hours without something to eat. Vis:
8 am -Breakfast
11 am – Tea and biscuits
1 pm – Lunch
4 pm – Tea and cake
7 pm – Supper
This year Milford felt special. Perhaps it was because it was my first real big step outside of my lockdown life since Covid and my own illness, but I think the real reason was the company. Of the fourteen people, I already knew some beforehand, Liz, Jim, Dolly, and Jacey, and it was wonderful to see them again after a few years away. There were new people too, including visitors from the USA, and Nigeria. The week passed quickly, I was free to write in the mornings, the critiques took up the afternoons and could be tiring. In the evening we chewed the fat, relaxed, and told stories. Some of them were true. Good days, well-spent.
Everyone has a degree of writing experience (it’s one of the entry rules for Milford that you should have had at least one piece published), and this year the work everyone brought was good and interesting, rich with thought and imagination. That’s not to say everything was perfect. Every piece critiqued was a work in progress, the author often having explicit concerns about plot, pace, character, tension, and so on, or sometimes because they had pushed themselves boldly into unfamiliar writing territory and worried whether it simply worked at all. Everyone was committed to their craft, wanting to improve, open to advice and suggestions, and free with their own ideas.
As always, I came away wanting more, and also re-energised. That energy is consistently Milford’s final gift. On that last day I was sorry to leave, and also glad to head home. There was much I wanted, and needed, to do.
One thing about going away is that it lets you look on your own life from a distance. It occurred to me after I had been home for a few days that life is a multitude of journeys, all happening at once, all taking you along different paths, different directions. Maybe each of those paths is a story, but I haven’t properly thought that idea through. Some of those journeys are our own choice, with others we have little control.
I liked the idea of me out on all those journeys, it felt quite pleasing.
I decided I would no longer be scared of the future.
No Fear. Wish me luck.
David Gullen is a two-times winner of the British Fantasy Society Short Story competition, his work has appeared in The Best of British SF 2020, and 2021, with other work short-listed for the James White Award and placed in the Aeon Award. David 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, fantasy writer Gaie Sebold, and the nicest cat you ever did see. Find out more at www.davidgullen.com.