All About Milford SF Writers' Conference
VENUE: Gladstones Library, Hawarden, North Wales. (Close to Chester)
Please note the 2024 critiquing conference is FRIDAY 13th to FRIDAY 20th September, but the first critique session isn't until Saturday at 2 p.m., so if you have a problem with the Friday start you can travel on Saturday morning.
Cut the explanations, I already know all I need to know. Take me to the booking page.
MILFORD is a gathering of authors who write speculative fiction (in its widest sense). It is not a school for beginners; there are no "teachers" or "students". It is not an elitist in-group. Invitations are extended to any SF author - from relative newcomers to those may only dimly recall what rejection slips look like. Generally the workshop includes some writers who have not attended a previous Milford, and they are particularly welcome. The language of the conference is English, so all work must be submitted for critique in English.
The conference is the longest-running SF writers' event in the UK. It has been a regular (and almost) annual occurrence since 1972, drawing members from the UK, Europe, America, Asia and Australia. Over the years it has moved venue several times, and is moving to Gladstone's Library in 2024. It has settled into a comfortable, workable format: demanding and exhausting, but also convivial. In short, it's a social as well as a literary event--a chance to connect with other writers. We are open to newcomers as long as they have at least one short story sale.
Many famous names have passed through Milford in its (more than) five decades in the UK (some of them before they were famous): Anne McCaffrey, Brian Aldiss, Bruce Sterling, Charles Stross, Chris Priest, Diana Wynne Jones, George R.R. Martin, James Blish (the founder of Milford in the UK), John Clute, Neil Gaiman, Alastair Reynolds, Jaine Fenn, Karen Traviss, Kari Sperring and Liz Williams.
Some attendees are novel-writers, others specialise in short stories
Minimum qualification for attending Milford
Minimum qualification for attending Milford is one fiction sale to any recognised market. Please note that though self-published works do not generally count, if you have worked with an editor and self-published on a large scale with some success, please contact the secretary to see if this can be counted. Talk to us if you're not sure.
The authors are there to give and receive critique of ongoing work and to workshop ideas relating to that work.
Each participant submits up to 10,000 - 12,000 words in one or two pieces (short stories or novel excepts) for critting. A timetable is drawn up and the pieces slated for discussion on specific days.
Constructive rather than destructive criticism is strongly encouraged. It's the work being critiqued, not the individual authors, so no ad hominem attacks.
Milford rules allow even the shyest member's voice to be heard.
Each participant, in rotation, spends up to three minutes (timed) giving their critique of the work at hand. Once the three minute timer goes off, you may complete your sentence to wind up.
Everyone gets the opportunity to open the critting.
No interruption, whether by the author or anyone else, is allowed during this stage of the proceedings.
After everyone has spoken the author gets an uninterrupted right of reply.
This is followed by a more general discussion.
It's customary for the critee to scribble copious notes, but the critter normally gives the crittee a written version of their crit (or maybe their original MS with notes) or emails it afterwards.
Outline of the Week
- Beforehand — Participants must distribute their manuscripts by email at least 2 weeks before the workshop begins, and preferably 4 weeks. This gives people the chance to read MS in advance, reducing the workload during the week itself. You will already have had the week's timetable, setting out when each MS will be discussed.
- Friday — Arrive any time. You can get into your room from 4 p.m. onwards. There's no programme on the first day, just dinner in Gladstone's restaurant, and getting to know each other afterwards in the comfy common room.
- Daily Timetable — Breakfast from 8.00 to 9.00. We'll set a time to meet up for lunch in the cafe for those who want to do that. Dinner at 7.00 p.m. (You make your choice from the dinner menu at breakfast.)
- Saturday to Wednesday — These are the main working days. Mornings are free, and can be used to read manuscripts and prepare notes or go walkabout in Hawarden village and castle grounds if you're ahead on reading. Workshop sessions are in the afternoons, from 2.00 p.m. until we finish (though rarely later than 5.00 p.m.). Here the stories are discussed one at a time as forthrightly and constructively as possible, sticking to the Milford Method of critique as described above.
- Tuesday — Milford is legally constituted so that the current 'members' (i.e. this year's attendees) are obliged to hold an AGM and elect officers for the coming year, thus each Milford provides for the next one. It usually only takes half an hour after dinner.
- Wednesday — The evening generally includes a markets session, discussing where the week's MSS could usefully be submitted on completion.
- Thursday — Usually this is a free day, in which the group may visit nearby places of interest, but it's always a fall-back day in case the workload is too heavy and additional critting time has to be scheduled. Places of interest include Chester itself with its Roman amphitheatre and medieval streets. Chester Zoo is well within reach, one of the finest zoos in the country.
- Friday — Depart after breakfast. Or you can stick around to write for a few hours as long as you vacate your room by 10 a.m.
- Afterwards — Groups often keep in touch and pass round useful information. If your story is subsequently published please let us know for our Success Stories page.
- Our one truly inflexible requirement is that you must send, in advance, one or two pieces of unpublished work for critique. Aim for below 10,000 words in total, but you can run a little over if necessary. 12,000 words is a hard cut-off. Complete stories or novel excerpts are acceptable. Leading and/or trailing synopses must be in your document and included in your word count.
- Works may be any kind of speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror, or ambiguous genres such as slipstream, alternate history, steampunk etc. (for adults or children).
- Correct double-spaced manuscript format isn't necessarily required. No one is going to crit the format as long as it's clear and readable. Word docs are the norm, but you can also submit in RTF.
- Please inform the secretary beforehand of the titles and lengths of your manuscripts, so that the workshop schedule can be organised/fine-tuned.
Gladstone's Library is the only residential Library in the UK. Yes, it was built by THAT William Gladstone, Queen Victoria's prime minister, and is now a registered charity.
It is about 10 miles from Chester, and is accessible by taxi, bus or train. (there is a station in the village or it might be more convenient to take the train to Chester and share a taxi from there with other participants.
As a resident you have full use of the library itself (via an electronic 'key'). It's pin-drop silent, so please respect other people's work space. If you leave your books on a table overnight, you get to keep your place for the next day.
Gladstones is a Victorian Gothic building with the library, restaurant, comfy common room and well-appointed ensuite bedrooms, each complete with a writing desk and radio.
There are two accessible ground floor rooms as well as bedrooms on the first and second floors.
There is a dedicated light and airy conference room on the ground floor.
There may also be individual guests or smaller groups during the time that we will be there, however this shouldn't impnge.
Accommodation is bed, breakfast and evening meal. The menu choice includes vegan, vegetarian and meat meals. There are tea/coffee making facilities in your room or the cafe serves lattes etc. all day. You can eat lunch in the cafe at your own expense (choices start from £5.50 for soup and bread) or there is a coffee-shop in the village, and a pub, plus a small post office and general store for snacks etc. There's also a pharmacy in the village (closed on Saturdays). Everything is within very easy walking distance.
Inclusion and Equal Opportunities
(From our constitution)
STATEMENT OF INCLUSION. Milford shall be open to all professionally published writers of SF/F, over the age of eighteen and writing in English. Writers under the age of eighteen may attend at the discretion of the committee if accompanied by a parent or guardian or designated responsible adult (with written permission of parent or guardian).
EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY. All published writers of SF/F are welcome, regardless of gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, colour, nationality, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age, or planet of origin. Milford will always do its very best to select venues with level access for writers with mobility problems and to comply with all the laws of the land regarding physical access.
How to Sign Up, and What it Costs
- Milford itself is run on a non-profit basis. The total cost of the Milford week in 2024 is £750.
- There is a ceiling of 15 members with a deposit payable on initial booking of £200. This includes your Milford admin fee of £25. You should note that your deposit is not returnable in the event that you decide to cancel. [See cancellation policy below*]
- The deposit is paid to Milford on booking. The balance is due to Milford eight weeks before the event.
- Once the event fills up, there is a waiting list (in case someone drops out) which you can join by filling in the application form and paying the deposit. The Milford treasurer will hold this until the booking is either confirmed or cancelled. If no one drops out and you don't get a place you will get a full refund or you can take a place on the next available Milford and carry your deposit over.
- A few places will be ring-fenced for Milford first-timers until the Easter weekend immediately before. (Though it can book up earlier than this.) Once that deadline has passed any unsold places are open to everyone on a first come, first served basis. If we already have a waiting list they will be at the front of the queue when places open up.
- Go here for booking details
Cancellation - The Small Print Writ Large
We advise Milford attendees to take out cancellation insurance to protect themselves from loss in the case of lost deposits. We regret that we can't refund deposits once paid. PLEASE NOTE IN THE EVENT OF COVID-CANCELLATION BY THE VENUE, DEPOSITS ARE REFUNDABLE OR CAN BE ROLLED ON TO A FUTURE MILFORD.