A brief recap of the UK Meet
The UK Meet was brilliant this year, better than last, I think. I very much appreciated the constant flow of coffee, and the fact that there was fresh fruit to snack on all day long (though I was greatly tempted by the curly-wurlies.) I had been all ‘goodie bags? Who the heck cares about getting a whole load of promotional tat you’ll only throw in the bin straight after anyway?’ but was pleasantly surprised by finding lots of things in there I wanted to keep. The UK Meet USB stick in particular has been in my pocket on my car keys ever since, and Jo Myles tin of boiled sweets did us proud in keeping us awake in the car on the way home. (And I’m keeping the tin to use when making tinder.) Whoever it was who made the chocolate truffles which were on the tables in little bags, they were gorgeous. Well worth breaking my diet for. Thank you!
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel opening panel. 150 words is very short, and yet when they were read out you could tell almost instantly if you wanted to carry on with the story or not. I’ve never encountered a better proof of the truism that your opening paragraphs are vital. I didn’t quite believe it, before. I do now.
Next was what, for me, was the stand out panel of the day, and the thing that made the trip worthwhile on its own. That was the ‘what about the other letters?’ panel, which was more of a discussion than a talk. Why, after all, do we avoid writing the other letters? Many of us in the room identified as Q, and yet nobody was really writing genderqueer characters. It was challenging to be asked why not, and very affirming (for me) to realise that the only reason to avoid it was really just the internalised sense that no one will want to listen, no one would understand or care. Cameron Lawton and I shared what seemed like a moment of revelation when we realised that, other than ourselves, no one was stopping us from writing whatever kind of characters we wanted to.
Beside all that, it was just nice to be in a room full of people who could understand a sentence like ‘I write m/m because at least part of me is m. What would I do with myself if I couldn’t let it out that way?’ I’ve never really felt able to say something like that before, because it’s usually accompanied by baffled demands for further explanation. Here it was accompanied by nodding. It was wonderful!
(Putting revelation into practice, the Glass Floor now has gay, straight, bi and genderqueer characters and I feel fine. I could even make Mirela lesbian, though she doesn’t have a romance plot at all so it would be largely irrelevant, and as she’s already a genderqueer CoC it might smack of tick the box tokenism.)
Oh no, I’ve forgotten that I was on a panel about fanfiction. This was not, I think, an enormous success, if only because we ended up reverting to talking about fandom things – interesting in themselves, but not really relevant to a pro-fic conference. Possibly that was a point that could have been made – at some point after you’ve published pro-fic, you do start looking at the world of writing differently.
Then there was a panel on tropes which I went to because I wanted to ‘keep the genre honeymoon fresh.’ But I’ve never really got along with tropes. I’m sure I’ve written some, but if I have it’s been through ignorance. Nothing really stirred me at the thought of ‘cowboys’ or ‘May to December’ or ‘slave-boy’ tropes. I don’t think I really work that way.
The perils of publishing panel gave us a salutary reminder not to be unprofessional on line and to do our taxes and read our contracts carefully. Then Jordan Castillio Price gave a keynote speech highlighting how far the genre has come in such a very few years since she first started publishing on CD. She pointed out that we have the choice now whether the genre will calcify and become only another subset of Romance, with all the formulae that implies, or whether we will continue to evolve into many other new things. I like the idea of the second. Perhaps what that future will be like will be more visible next time we meet, in Manchester for UK Meet 2013. I’m looking forward to it!