Gwen Stokes on the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference 2021

My first Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference 19-21 March 2021

I didn’t quite know what to expect from the conference, along with everyone else this year I suspect, but probably for different reasons. This was my first writers’ conference and I had been looking forward to attending this in its usual hotel environment. The continuing restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to that and the conference went on-line for the first time.

For the first time too, competition submissions were made on-line – this may become the default position; I can hear those saved trees soughing their grateful thanks. There were a couple of glitches with this system but I’m sure these will be ironed out going forward.

The conference itself was almost glitch-free, testament to the hard work put in by the committee in the weeks and months leading up to the event. And by all the speakers and adjudicators who had to record their sessions.

The opening session started with a warm welcome from President Wendy H Jones before diving straight into a welcoming sea of workshops.

These broadly fell into two categories; developing writing skills, and publishing and selling. Each workshop lasted around 30-35 minutes and could be paused – a feature I found very useful. As a relatively new entrant to the creative writing world I found them all to be engaging and informative.

The writing skills workshops included short story writing, killer first lines and writing in Scots. This focussed on poetry and included some useful prompts, such as choosing five Scots words and using these in a poem. Other topics included navigating the book journey, children’s picture books, creating realistic characters and dialogue, and writing for the dyslexic audience. I found this one particularly interesting; did you know that there is a font specifically developed for this readership? It is called the Grace font after Sarah Grace who helped develop it.

Although some of these covered areas we’ve recently focussed on in our own group it is always good to consolidate learning, especially for us beginners!

The publishing, marketing and selling topics included self-publishing. These covered; marketing and promotion, turning strangers into readers, successful self-publishing, feature articles, market research, post-publication requirements and business tips for authors. I had always liked the idea of trying my hand at feature writing, however the pitfalls associated with selling, researching and writing these has made me think that perhaps I should stick to fiction!

One of the highlights for me was listening to the adjudicators outlining what they had been looking for in the submissions. Bearsden Writers did well in their first year as affiliated members of SAW; Jane Patience picked up two places and I was delighted to get one too. I submitted three pieces in three different categories, more to get the critiques on these than with any expectation of being placed. The critiques arrived via email within the indicated timeframe. These have been very helpful and well worth the £5 entry fee.

There were two keynote speakers this year – another first. Amy Collins outlined her secrets of success while Theresa Talbot took us on a romp through her writing journey. Both were very enjoyable.

The AGM went smoothly on Zoom and the current committee were re-elected for another year. Palo is our SAW rep and attended the reps meeting. Congratulations to Palo who has now been invited onto the SAW committee to become their first Inclusivity and Diversity member. You will be a great asset to the committee Palo.

Unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to Zoom in to any of the panel Q&A or Dragon’s Pen sessions – I had been looking forward to these. I am hoping these have been recorded and will be made available to watch, as is the case with the workshops.

Now that I have dipped my toes into the SAW conference, I can say, come on in, the water’s lovely!

By Gwen Stokes