Milford Report 2007
by Karen Williams
Left to right: Liz Williams, Heather Lindsley (back), Alys Sterling, Tina Anghelatos (very back), Jacey Bedford (front), Jim Anderson, Jaine Fenn (front), Dave Clements, Dave Gullen (back), Sandra Unerman (front), Vaughan Stanger (back), Terry Edge (front), Karen Williams, Kari Sperring
As I sat in the train to Wales, watching the English countryside roll by, I asked myself, "Are you crazy? What do you think you're doing?" Well, what I thought I was doing was traveling a third of the way across the world to go to the Milford UK writing workshop. What I thought I was crazy about was a little more complicated. Yes, I qualified for the workshop, having sold at least one story, but I only already knew one of the other people who would be there. Would everyone else be as nice? Would everyone else be so much better than I was? Who was I kidding, going to a workshop like this?
When I arrived at Trigonos, in the Nantlle Valley, my fears calmed some. Trigonos is a cozy retreat next to a lake, with a view of Mount Snowdon in the distance. In fact, we could see Mount Snowdon (picturesque mists allowing) from the window where we did our critique sessions. At least the week would be spent somewhere beautiful.
By dinner that evening, everyone had arrived. There were fourteen of us, with four Americans, though I was the only one who didn't live in Britain. As we sat around the large group dining tables that evening, talking away and getting to know one another, I quickly realized just how nice everyone else was. And smart — there were at least five Ph.D.'s in the group, ranging from Medieval Welsh to Math to Cosmology.
The days quickly fell into a rhythm — gather for breakfast and interesting conversation, go off alone and read manuscripts, gather for biscuits and tea, go off alone and read manuscripts, gather for lunch and interesting conversation, go to the critiquing session, take a break for tea and cake, go back to the critiquing session, gather for dinner and interesting conversation, then retire to the library for libations of various sorts, and interesting conversation. When not reading, we also had the opportunity to take walks in the countryside, either down by the lake, where one day the group I was with saw a cormorant grab a fish from the lake and fly off with its prize, or up into the abandoned ghost town of a slate mine, which was quickly nicknamed "Mordor". Add to that the antics of "Talk Like a Pirate Day", where Jacey dressed like a pirate and sang a special Milford sea shanty, and the "Eye of Argon" reading, where some people only managed to get through two words without laughing, and it was a full week.
I learned quite a bit in the critique sessions, whether one of my stories or someone else's was under discussion. I liked hearing from people with very different backgrounds and viewpoints. And no one was mean, even if they didn't like the story... that is, even if they weren't that story's target audience. No one felt the need to jump in the lake. I'm now back in California working on rewriting my stories with the critiques in mind, and thinking about going back next year
And Jacey Bedford adds a few notes on the final Friday
We always try to get our critting finished by the end of Thursday so that the Friday of the Milford week can be a social day when we can kick back and be tourists for a while. Of course the SF-ness lingers and we tend to see everything as having relevance to stories, past or future.
In 2007 our whole group trip was scuppered somewhat by Liz's car getting an attack of the wet-distributor-cap, so instead of one big group we ended up in two. I was with Jaine, Dave, Vaughan and Tina. We did the underground trip to the hydro at Llanberis (Electric Mountain) emerging clear in the knowledge that we know what it feels like to live inside a hollowed-out asteroid.
We drove back down the Glaslyn Valley and stopped off for a lakeside walk which Jaine knew, but because of the rain the path had disappeared into the lake. However I did find a dragon in the wood, so it was well worth the stop.
After that we went to Beddgelert, sad to discover the ice cream shop was not doing chocolate pizza due to a lack of the right kind of melting chocolate. Instead - after a week of shockingly healthy food we ordered wonderfully greasy bacon butties (all except Jaine--a veggie--who almost single handedly destroyed a huge, non-sentient ice-cream sundae). The four meat-eaters tucked into the best bacon butties this side of the moon. A true pork-gasm! Wonderful!
Then we went for a walk by the river - which was immensely high and fast after the torrential rain of the previous night and morning.
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