With three previous attendees securing publishing contracts, for its young age Crime & Publishment is now amongst the most successful of writing courses. It’s third course ran over the weekend of March 6th – 9th and regular attendee Ann Bloxwich has given LifeOfCri.me her perspective on the whole shebang.
I recently attended Crime and Publishment; a short writing course for beginners as well as more established folk. This was the third one and it promised to be just as informative and enjoyable as the two previous years, with established authors teaching us their tips and tricks to becoming a successful writer. This year we were lucky enough to have Caro Ramsay, Bob and Carol Bridgestock, Michael J. Malone and Neil White sharing their knowledge with us, alongside David Headley from Goldsboro Books. He is also the founder and CEO of DHH Literary Agency. He runs an independent bookshop in London and is well-respected in the publishing world.
I arrived at the Mill Forge in Kirkpatrick Fleming along with two friends I’d picked up on the way, and was met with a very warm welcome by the host and manager Graham Smith. Graham is a well-known book reviewer and the brainchild behind C&P. He has just had his first novel, Snatched from Home, published. He and two fellow attendees have now been signed up with Caffeine Nights Publishers.
After checking in, we met up in the bar for drinks and met new attendees, and I caught up with old friends from the previous years’ courses. There are quite a few of us who have come back each year, to improve on the techniques we learned last time around and to expand on what we already know.
The first session started at 10am on Friday morning, Graham split us into two groups and my first session was run by successful author Caro Ramsay. I was looking forward to this as I am a big fan of her books. Caro was great to listen to, we covered topics like how to write a pitch document, gripping your reader, how to build and maintain suspense, how to write a character map and seven rules behind the perfect plot. Caro had kindly pre-printed off all her notes for us, which was useful for me as I can never decipher my scribble afterwards. She even provided chocolate as an incentive!
After a lovely buffet lunch, the two groups switched places, so my group had Bob and Carol Bridgestock as tutors. Bob is a retired superintendent in the Police Force and has worked on some very well-known cases, including the Yorkshire Ripper. As well as being best-selling authors, Bob and his wife Carol, who also worked with the Police, are consultants on TV programmes Happy Valley and Scott and Bailey. This was a session I particularly enjoyed, as I am not very knowledgeable about police procedure and ranking structure, so it was great to pick their brains during the session. They covered subjects like who does what during an investigation, the role of the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), Pathology, modern techniques used to identify suspects, dealing with victims’ families and interviewing suspects. Some of us watched a very short clip of a robbery and had to describe the suspect afterwards as if we were being interviewed by the Police. We did run over time a fair bit, but none of us minded.
An optional extra session was available to those of us who felt it would be useful. Nuts and Bolts was run by Graham and best-selling author Michael J. Malone. In this session, we talked about things that should be in every crime novel, how to keep the pages turning, plot twists, action and using series threads through your books if there will be more than one with the same characters. Both Graham and Michael were more than happy to share what worked for them and what didn’t when plotting and planning their own novels.
By this time my brain was fried, so we all adjourned to the restaurant for dinner and drinks, and everyone got the chance to talk to everyone else. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, and although we were there to learn, I always feel as if I’m among like-minded friends. The tutors are all very approachable and were very happy to answer any questions we had.
Saturday morning’s session was with author Neil White. Besides being a successful writer, he is also a Prosecutor and has previously been a Defence Lawyer, so his knowledge of the courtroom is second to none. Neil had stepped in at the last minute to replace David Thomas, who was unable to make it, and to be fair he was very well-prepared despite the short notice. Neil took us through getting the facts right when writing and the role of expert witnesses such as Pathologists, Police Officers etc. He explained about how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked, and the Defence vs the Prosecution.
After lunch we swapped over and I was in David Headley’s session. I’m not a confident writer and always feel that I’ll be told I’m terrible at it, so was a little daunted going into this session. To be honest I felt the same the previous two years when doing classes with the publishers and agents who’d taught us then, so it was nothing personal on David’s part. I don’t know why I’d been worried, David was so nice and was very detailed about the role of an agent, what you should expect from your agent and in turn what they would expect from you as a writer, how they differ from a publisher and so on. He described how he would proceed if he were to become our agent. He was very passionate about his craft and made me feel very at ease. A lot of us were burned out by the end of day two, so there weren’t many of us who stayed up late that night. Those of us who did had a great time, chatting to everyone and offering advice and tips to each other. Local author Matt Hilton popped in for an hour to catch up with us all. Matt had been on the first year’s course and I hope he will be able to take part in future courses.
Sunday morning dawned before I knew it, and David was happy for us to pitch our work to him in the hope of securing a contract with him. Some of us had submitted work to him the day before so he could look at it in advance. I decided not to pitch this year as I haven’t finished my novel yet, but the many who did seemed to get a lot out of it and had only good things to say about him.
It took a long time to say goodbye to everyone, as I really didn’t want to burst the bubble I’d been in all weekend. For anyone considering going next year I highly recommend it. You are made to feel like part of the family from the minute you arrive to the minute you leave, no-one is unapproachable and we are all there for the same thing. I have no doubt that there will be a few from this year’s course that will be signed up by this time next year, and I look forward to one day being one of them.