Milford Report 2001
by Ian Creasey
Colin P Davies,
Milford 2001 was held at the Bowden Close Hotel in Maidencombe, on the south coast near Torquay. It was a lovely setting, with a small secluded beach nearby, and steep coastal paths with vertiginous views over the sea and surrounding farmland. We had the hotel to ourselves, so we could sit around talking about corpses and demons to our hearts' content. Comfy sofas around a log fire, excellent food, a superb rural backdrop ... it's a shame that this was probably the last Milford at the Bowden Close. I hope future Milfords find somewhere just as nice, and at least they might be easier to get to.
Nine people attended Milford this year, bringing a wide range of work. There were short stories from 2000 words up, novelettes, and excerpts from novels. There was also a good mix of science fiction and fantasy, and a refreshing absence of genre clichés — no cyberpunk, no space opera, no elves and dragons and castles. The standard of work was high, because all attendees were published writers (the Milford entry requirement is a minimum of one sale), so there were no manuscripts with beginners' mistakes such as hackneyed plots, or poor spelling and grammar.
It's always an unnerving moment when you're about to be critiqued. The Milford system is that people take in it turns to comment, everyone speaking for three minutes without interruption, and then there is a general discussion. So, as an author, you listen to half an hour of praise, criticism, nitpicks, comments of "I didn't understand...." Then you get a chance to reply, though really there is little point going into a detailed justification. After all, you're not going to be able to do that when it's in print.
I found the comments on my own work very helpful, as people pointed out things that I would never have spotted myself. Also, taking part in critiques of other people's work is extremely enlightening, as it makes you realise just how many stories and techniques and perspectives there are. After you deliver your own comments, it's interesting to hear someone else come out with points that you had never thought of, but are perfectly valid.
In the evenings we discussed markets, other writers, and Life, the Universe, and Everything. We finished the critiques by Thursday, and had a day out on Friday that encompassed the House of Marbles, the World's Most Collectible Teapots, and a walk to Haytor Rock in Dartmoor. It was the perfect end to a great week.
This was my first Milford, and at first I was nervous about meeting a group of 'real', published writers, especially as many of them turned out to be harder working and more talented than myself. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is serious about their writing. If you want to improve your work, learn new techniques and meet people who share your passion, Milford is the place to be. My only regret is that it's just once a year.
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