I’m going to cover two sessions in this post:
Chaz Brenchley on A Writer’s Life
John Jarrold on An Agent’s Work
Chaz was a last-minute stand-in for Justina Robson, who couldn’t make it on the day. So he pulled a whole session out of his hat and it was brilliant.
He chose to speak about what life as a writer is like. He’s possibly the best person to talk about this, as he’s never done anything else. He went straight from dropping out of University to writing short stories for teen magazines. His one paid period of employment was as a writer on an arts project.
Chaz is a charismatic chap, and extremely lovely person, and he’s filled with anecdotes from a long life buried entirely in the arts and entertainment industry. As a child he even met J.R.R. Tolkien, and confesses to remembering absolutely nothing about what the professor said to him, being so smitten as he was about meeting the man who wrote his favourite books.
Life as a writer, he was keen to point out, is spent largely insolvent. But he was thrumming with such enthusiasm for the career path that it’s easy to see how writers can go without money if it means they get to write.
He’s a great example of how to write for a living and enjoy doing so.
By now I had to promise John that I wasn’t stalking him.
John’s session was quite brief, largely because John gives this advice so often that it’s reached a condensed form, and largely because everyone seemed so terrified by him that they couldn’t think of any questions.
For those who weren’t present, here’s John’s core advice in a nutshell, from his own website:
Keep reading and keep writing. It’s no good writing in an area of your genre which has not sold well for some years, if being published is your goal. You are not writing in a vacuum. Before a publisher gets your book to eager readers, it has to be taken on by the book trade, and the publisher’s sales department have to persuade W H Smiths, Ottakar’s, Waterstone’s and the rest that you, as a new writer, are worth stocking. This is not easy. It’s infinitely less so if your work is so outré as to require a written explanation. Put it this way: both China Miéville and George R R Martin write fantasy. They are very different writers, but they are both interesting and accessible. Keep your own muse, but don’t be wilfully obtuse. You won’t get published if you do.
A session well worth attending. John has a flair for being both brutally honest and extremely motivational, which is why I like to attend sessions he’s in – I get to recharge my batteries off him for a whole year at a time 😉