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Essex Authors and you (and me)

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On the 9th March, I found myself in Chelmsford, speaking at Essex Authors and You. I’d volunteered to lead a session way back in January, after visiting last year and being inspired by the speakers and the discussions. So this year I asked if I could speak about “World Building in Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

Phil Hurst speaking at Essex Authors and You

I am writing up my notes from the talk over the next couple of weeks, but in this post I’m sharing my initial thoughts about the day, and what I learnt. I was lucky enough to have an official photographer (also known as a bored wife) so I’ve managed to get some pictures of the day throughout the post.

Speculative fiction

Saturday was the first time that I’ve given any thought to the term speculative fiction.

After the talk, one of the attendees asked me if I’d heard about speculative fiction. According to the ethically debatable ‘gradesaver’ website, Robert A Heinlein coined the term back in the 1940s, as a way to avoid using the term science fiction. More recently, Margaret Attwood ‘provoked the ire of science fiction fans’ (Wired website) by using it to describe her books.

I’m not going to get into a debate on whether speculative fiction is a substitute for science fiction, or whether it can be used to describe fantasy books. That’s a debate for another time. However, debate it I will, as I might use it to describe my latest (as yet unfinished) book. Science fiction has certain connotations that goes along with it, as does fantasy. Would speculative fiction open my work out to a wider audience?

The schedule board at Essex Authors and You 2019
Or speculative fiction

If nothing else, as the attendee pointed out, saying that would be a lot quicker than ‘science fiction and fantasy’, if I ever redo the talk.

Be honest

At the start of my talk, I was really honest with the audience. I set the scene by explaining this website, and I talking to them about The Unjudged. However, I also mentioned that The Unjudged had been 12 years in the making, and that I was currently struggling with the latest draft of my latest book. I might have imagined it, but showing that vulnerability seemed to release the tension in the room.

Phil talking at the Writers slam at Essex Authors and You 2019
Speaking at the ‘writer slam’

After the talk, I noticed some other speakers at the day who, while they spoke very well, felt rehearsed. Listening to them had the feeling of watching an interview with a celebrity who has told the same ‘funny story’ a dozen times to a dozen different journalists.

Following my experience presenting to listeners and listening to presenters, I will make sure that I’m as genuine as possible in any further situations. I don’t want to ever run through the motions when I’m talking to other writers, I want to make everyone in the room get as much from it as possible – and being honest is the best way to achieve this.

I’ve even looked at the latest draft of my writing advice book and changed a few of the chapters to make them a bit more personal. It’s just more friendly!

There are writers out there

The best bit of the day? I got to talk about writing, with writers. In the real world. It was great. I made me realise that, while there are great resources available online (like my blogs for authors) and there are thousands of social media pages that have some great discussions on, nothing beats just talking about writing.

A laptop on a train
Final prep on the train

I haven’t been to Colchester Write Night for a long time, because (and this sounds pretentious) I’m too busy. I remember really enjoying the time I spent there, and attending the author day made me remember why I enjoyed it so much. It wasn’t the fact that it helped me start The Unjudged, or the short stories I would write there. It was because it was just fun to talk about writing. I must resolve to do that more often, not online in discussions that can be interpreted incorrectly and end up in shouting matches. I’m not even sure how you have shouting matches in online forums. Once you’ve gone CAPITAL, what’s next?

More events

I should make the effort to attend more of these events. If anyone based in Essex knows of any that are going on, please let me know via email or in the comments. I’m likely to be busy over the next couple of months with family stuff, but I’d love the opportunity to attend some in the near future.

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