Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Black Library Weekender - Our Write-Up

We drove up super early to get to the Weekend held up in Nottingham this weekend past.  It was held at the Nottingham Belfry and we were worried about various things, for instance:

Crowding / Over-crowding
Queues for signings / getting into talks
Quality of rooms

Frankly, it was a doddle.

We arrived at quarter to nine after leaving the house at ludicrous o' clock.  Officially the "doors" opened at ten but there were a few people wandering around touching the books put out on display.  And there was a huge selection of books out on display.  All the gorgeous new hard covers and some print on demand titles too.  And of course, there was all the art you could buy. *swoons*

Mark ran around and picked up a stack of titles to purchase after we got our passes.  It was busy, but friendly and everyone circled the tables in the foyer for ages, choosing and deciding what to get.  I enviously watched one guy pick up several pieces of art and wanted to claw his face off from jealousy but didn't. I know how to behave in company.

From L/R - Christian Dunn, Nick Kyme, Laurie King, Graeme Lyon - Black Library Editors
Whilst the talks were underway, there were also signings. The talks were varied and interesting.  I sat in on the Writing for Black Library panel and I have to say, the questions that were asked this time around, compared to the questions asked at the Black Library Live showed how the audience had taken Christian and Laurie's advice on board from previous talks.  The big news here, for me, really, was that Hammer and Bolter will cease to be later this year.  But! Christian hastened to add that they will still be releasing short stories via the website, every Monday - so you can pay and download them for minimal amounts and get the stories you'd like to read.  He also pointed out that it won't just be the stalwarts writing but also newbies.  Laurie fielded questions about the open submission period and revealed that they got over 3000 entries in that period and that he's worked his way through maybe 1500 of those - it's a long process and he asked everyone for their patience.  Christian mentioned that he would be throwing open the door to some themed anthologies in the future and that it won't be widely announced, but that it would be on the website so it's a good idea to keep an eye out.

The "boys" also told the audience that the best way to get a foot in the door is to be already published - they acknowledged that it was a Catch 22 situation (how can you get published if you can't get published) but they mentioned that if you've been published in an online magazine or an anthology in Real Life to actually mention that in your covering letter and to remember to provide links to the actual product, and not to be vague about it.

I asked the question about them perhaps holding a weekend event or a day event for aspiring writers in order to talk characters and plotting and crafting plots etc. and they said it's something they are thinking of doing for sure, because clearly, looking at the subs they received and the popularity of the Weekender, there is a hunger for this.  So definitely something for the future.  Personally, this pleased me immensely!

Other bits of advice was general - read the guidelines, be thorough, be alert, don't try and do something so new it scares the editors.  Show you can do "traditional" well before attempting to go off the rails.

I liked and enjoyed this talk tremendously - the four editors really gave the impression that they enjoyed what they did and although they joked around occasionally things were professional.  It gave me the idea that writing for BL means that you become part of their family - and that is rather special in this day and age.  Good luck to everyone who'll be going for those open windows in the future! May the scrivening gods be on your side.

Next up, we broke for lunch - you could either order a whopping meal via the bar staff or you could join in in the "packaged" lunch from the main cafeteria which was not too shabby - fresh sarnies, crisps, a drink, a piece of fruit and a choccie for £7.  Enough to sustain you till dinner, basically. It was low key and without much fuss and got some food in your belly.

Mark sat in on one of the immensely popular Horus Heresy talks after lunch (although to be fair he went to all of them) whilst I got some books signed by James Swallow, CL Werner (the coolest guy at the Weekender #fact) and Rob Sanders.  I also told Rob that I enjoyed the talk he did with Andy Smillie, Chris Wraight and Rob Sanders on the Space Marine Battles because he always talks so enthusiastically about the Space Marines and how he enjoys making them 3D characters rather than just killing machines.  I do think Rob is one of the shining stars of BL because he's a writers' writer and clearly enjoys his craft.  This is also true of James Swallow who I think eats, sleeps and drinks story.

As I enjoy the Warhammer fantasy novels I dragged Mark to the Time of Legends panel hosted by Nick Kyme, Chris Wraight, Josh Reynolds and CL Werner.  They spoke enthusiastically about what they're working on, the things that make the series stand out for them and the scope for future additions.
All very exciting.

The Heresy panels were very well attended, and the vibe around the whole series was one of genuine excitement and passion. The various writers and editors took turns sitting in on these and fielded the questions thrown at them with enthusiasm, even on the Sunday morning. Saturday night had seen the writers spitting into two teams to tackle a fun quiz set up by Christian Dunn, with Andy Smillie keeping score in his own special way on a Thunderhawk shaped card. It was very, very funny and a good precursor to a few drinks in the hotel bar afterwards... I called time and retired to our very comfy room while Mark 'took one for the team' and stuck around to chat over a pint or two.

Sunday also saw us sit in on the Gamebooks panel with Christian Dunn, Jonathan Green and Graeme Lyon, which became a wide ranging discussion of the appeal of gamebooks, how to expand it to younger readers who hadn't grown up with them, their appeal and suitability for reluctant readers in particular and things that people would like to see explored in this type of product. It fired up our enthusiasm for the books all over again and we could see Jonathan's eyes lighting up as some of the ideas were fired at them, and he went away muttering about Titans. We can only hope..

Graeme Lyon, Jonathan Green, Christian Dunn

The Big Announcement of the weekend was that the phenomenal talents of Neil Roberts and Dan "Oh God that's the opening line of one of my books"Abnett have been marshalled to produce a 100 page, full colour, hardcover Horus Heresy graphic novel. It'll be set after the events of Dan's novel 'Know No Fear' and should be ready in time for the 2013 Weekender. And the intention is for there to be more than one, and for this to be released initially as a collector's edition shortly before going up for general sale, which is a relief. Neil made a point of stressing how excited he was to be working on the project and that his intention was to make it 'the best graphic novel you've ever seen, a $500 million movie in your hands', and from the glimpse we were given of some of the pages he's done already, I don't think he's kidding:

Tres exciting!

The Belfy had ample parking space for everyone who drove up.  The staff were, as a whole, rather splendid and welcoming and friendly.  They helped and advised where needed and I got the chance to briefly chat to the girl running the bar/ coffee area and she was hugely complimentary about everyone attending BLW2012, saying that everyone came across as so friendly and patient, happily waiting to be served.  This pleased me hugely because not only did they make a good impression on attendees, we made a decent impression on them.  This is rather splendid.

And that's the other thing that made the Weekender gel for us- the people. Sure, the talks were cool, there was loads of loot to buy and drool over but without the right kind of vibe things just wouldn't have gotten off the ground the way that they did. One of the key things that came up in various conversations was how much better a two day event was - it took that awful must-do-everything pressure off, giving both sides a chance to have a chat without stewards having to ask them to hurry along because the queue was growing. It was great seeing the writers being able to walk around and stop and chat or sign things off the cuff, and I'm sure it made a nice change for them too.

Everyone who attended was there because of a shared enthusiasm and as testament to the hard work, dedication and passion of the Black Library crew and the calibre of the product that they are putting out there. This is only going to get bigger and better. Well done guys.

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