Thursday, 24 April 2008

A sense of finality

Hi everyone,

Now I know I said I was going to post daily this week, and I also know that I haven't done that. What I hadn't counted on though was getting Tonsilitis on Monday and being laid in bed over the last few days. Talk about bad timing...

Unfortunately I have to begin with some bad news, in that Justina Robson has had to drop out of the event. I was really looking forward to having Justina back after her involvement in 2006, so
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it's a shame, but I'm sure we'll be seeing her at Alt.Fiction again! In terms of the programme I'm looking to sort the 3:00 workshop slot, but Charlie Stross will now be taking part in the closing SF panel, which is much better news!!

Anyway, it's well and truly back to the grindstone today to get all those 'final' jobs done. The last week is always kind of an odd time as basically most of the phoning, emailing and organising is done. To a large extent this week I’ll just be running around doing leg-work, including collecting all our book stock from Waterstones (who’ve done well to get stock by the vast majority of participating authors), collecting our t-shirts from the printers, getting all the stuff we need on the day over to the venue, stuffing goodie bags (that certainly is familiar territory!), collecting the programmes for the day and all other manner of jobs that involve a jaunt across town and back. It’s times like this that I regret not driving- I’m basically dependent on the kindness of my fellow Arts Team members to ferry me and my cargoes about!!

Aside from all that heavy lifting I’ll be communicating all my final emails to everyone taking part, making my final check and double-check of what we need to take and lots of other ‘final’ things. The final press release has gone out, so that’s one ‘final’ thing out of the way at least…

On a personal level it’s a full on few days leading to a pretty full on weekend- my timesheet requires some kind of quantum mathematician to deal with it! But come Saturday evening at 9pm, I’m sure it’ll be worth all the effort….

That’s all for today- I’ll be back tomorrow with a 'final'entry...

Many Thanks


Friday, 18 April 2008

What to expect- part 3

Hi Everyone,

I’m on the very verge of going away for the weekend, but just wanted to put up a final post for this week about the workshop sessions taking place on next Saturday.

Those of you to have attended previously will know we’ve had some very good workshop sessions, but equally we’ve had a few problems with where exactly they should be held. The first year we tried cutting off a corner of the foyer area but we suffered a little too much with noise. We then had a similar issue last year with the Reception Suite Annexe, and both spaces also had some difficulty in accommodating a decent number of people.

However we hope this is the year we’ve cracked it with hosting the workshops in the ’45 Suite- those of you who attended last year may be familiar with this space, as it hosted the book launches. Having been for the site visit the room should comfortably hold about 30 for a workshop and also leave enough room to swing a cat (although I’d rather nobody did).

We have a couple of very career-oriented sessions book-ending the workshop sessions, opening with Christian Dunn’s workshop on editing your writing. Editing down is an essential skill for any writer, as first drafts are almost invariably overwritten and so trimming down the waste is key to having a string narrative with good direction and pace. We’re also focussing on careers with John Jarrold leading a session on an agent’s work, which will be exploring what agents do and of course don’t do. This kind of knowledge is really important for anyone hoping to break into writing and I expect this to be a very popular session- John knows the publishing trade inside out and I expect some great insights in this slot.

We also have three creative-based workshops with three more great authors. It’s a real treat for all the science-fiction writers out there as both Tony Ballantyne and Justina Robson will be running sessions. Tony’s session, entitled Show and Tell, will be exploring how you can effectively get across points in your story without spelling them out word for word, which is a great tool for any writer. Justina will be looking at ‘Trouble-shooting the novel’, looking at how to deal with some of the most common problems writers face in their novels. If you’re having a problem yourself, which not ask for some advice on how you might address it?

For those of you with darker inclinations (a category I tend to include myself in), Kim-Lakin Smith will be running a session on Dark Fantasy. This is a growing area of fiction and this should be an illuminating session for those of you already writing in the field, or looking to turn your hand to it.

Well, that’s all for today- I’ll be back next week exploring some of the panel discussions and reading sessions.

Many Thanks


Thursday, 17 April 2008

What to expect- part 2

Hi Everyone,

Okay folks, I'm afraid it's nitty-gritty time, time to explore a little of what to expect on the day in terms of arrival and so on...

When you first come in the Darwin Suite door, you'll be greeted by the reception desk, which will be manned until around 2pm. Here you'll receive your Alt.Fiction badge, which this year I'm leaving blank for you to fill in names- it's been one of relatively few complaints over the last couple of years that the badges read 'attendee', so now you have the chance to personalise! I would do it myself but it's impossible to know the name of everyone booking, plus you might prefer a nickname or even an assumed name. The pen is all yours...

Once that's out of the way, do keep your badge with you as if you leave the building you'll need it to get back in- it just avoids entirely random people strolling in! A ticket will suffice just as well should you lose your badge at any point.

The top of the stairs is the enquiry desk, where you'll be able to pick up a goodie bag and also ask any questions you may have. All the key info for the day will be laid out on the desk- schedules, taxi numbers, maps, info about Derby and so on. If you're stuck at any point in the day just drop by this desk and someone will be happy to help.

The sessions last 45 minutes each and the break inbetween is 15 minutes- no obligation to go into a session, although your ticket does allow you access to all of them. The bar will be open all day and you can always browse the book and info stalls in the foyer. There will be announcements made of when the sessions start made over the PA system, and I have been known to shout the same thing from atop a table on the odd occassion...

The signing session runs from 4:45 until 5:30 and runs in the Darwin Suite, so do feel free to come by and take a look. We've got 11 authors confirmed for that so far, and hopefully will have more on the day as well.

Dinner is served between 4:45 and 6:15pm, with a variety of hot and cold food. There'll also be things like sandwiches and snacks throughout the day, although please note the bar will be closing at 8:30!!

I think that's most of the basics for the day- feel free to post up any questions here, or as always drop me a line in the office at

Thanks a lot


Wednesday, 16 April 2008

What to expect- part 1

Hi everyone,

Over the next few days I thought it'd be a good idea to cover many of the aspects of the Alt.Fiction day that people may want to know about- there's plenty going on, so I expect it'll take a good few days to cover!!

First up I wanted to cover what will be going on in the foyer, as it's the first thing you'll see when you enter the main area for Alt.Fiction. As you come to the top of the stairs, on your left will be the enquiry desk, where you can ask any questions you have about the day or about Derby at large. That'll be manned by volunteers throughout the day.

The foyer will also hold all of our stalls on the day- it's a little tight but we manage to squeeze quite a lot in! This year you'll be able to take a gander and buy from...
Interzone magazine/TTA press
Pendragon Press
Elastic Press
Scarthin Books, Derbyshire

Also for the first time this year we'll be running an official Alt.Fiction table, which we hope will be selling books by all of the authors appearing on the day (if not it'll be the vast majority) plus some other stock garnered from various places. We'll also be selling our Alt.Fiction t-shirts for the first time, which will be black rather than the usual white (white stands out far too much for general wear, I tend to think).

So basically there's plenty of spending potential on the day, and a great chance to stock up on authors both familiar and unfamiliar!!

I'll be back again tomorrow covering what to expect when you first arrive at the building, and Friday looking at the range of workshops on the day.

Thanks a lot


Tuesday, 15 April 2008

The minutae of events

Hi Everyone,

As we enter the final week or so towards Alt.Fiction I find myself increasingly preoccupied with small things, sat before a long to do list full of tiny jobs. The major stuff by now, of course, is all in hand- booking authors, dealing with catering, arranging books, printing t-shirts and so on but any event is filled with a multitude of small jobs. Today it's been tweaking the webpages, dropping flyears around town, arranging some bar vouchers, adding a plug to my email signature and a whole host of other little tasks that seem to have almost no end.

I've always thought this is the key part to any successful event- in many senses the larger tasks can be more difficult but are equally more obvious. Thinking about all the smaller aspects makes the big difference to how the event runs and to how much people enjoy it.

The next week or so is going to be bitty, and if I have forgotten anything come the day it won't be for lack of thinking about it!

I'm going to be posting daily in the run-up to the event with a brief update, so keep checking back as we approach the day itself!!

Thanks a lot


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The excitement kicks in!

Hi everyone,

So the panic of my last post has passed (at least for the time being!) and I'm really starting to feel the buzz of being involved in Alt.Fiction. With two and a bit weeks to go everything is basically in hand- today I'm working on some more marketing stuff, eflyers, press releases all that sort of stuff. It's a good time to get plugging, even if it just helps to remind people to pick up a ticket (I know because I'm the worst at leaving that sort of thing to the last moment!!)

I'm also considering what should go in the goodie bags (we've got some fantastic Charlie Stross books for this year, plus some back issues of the regional Tripod magazine) and working on the programme booklet, which is always an exhaustive and pernickity process but it's always nice when you see the final product on the day.

The schedule is now all but confirmed, although unfortunately Adam Roberts has had to drop out of the event. However we still have 28 fantastic participants and a strong science-fiction representation with Charlie Stross, Justina Robson, Eric Brown, Tony Ballantyne and Philip Palmer (plus some others depending where you want to draw your genre lines...) and a number of sessions focussing on science-fiction. These are things that unfortunately happen year by year, but hopefully we'll be able to get Adam involved in the future.

The current schedule you can view either a few posts down or at the very long webpage address here: I'm really happy with how it's come out and I think the balance of topics is pretty good- it's impossible not to leave at least a few people thinking that they'd like to attend a number of things going on at the same time, but I always think it's better that than finding yourself struggling to find something interesting!

So long may the excitement last, and long may the to do list shrink in size...

If you do want to ask anything about the event dont be shy to either post it here or tap me up in the office at I'm pleased to help where I can!!

Thanks a lot


Thursday, 3 April 2008

The days tick away...

Hi Everyone,

So we're a little over three weeks away and the reality that I'm running a rather large event in the near future has just hit. In a rational sense most things are in hand but I'm kind of at that point thinking about 'what if this happens?' or 'what if that happens?'. Obviously those are all bridges to cross if we come to them, and hopefully we never well!

In the real world, outside of my paranoia, the venue is all set, catering is now confirmed and the schedule is finalised, with Michael Marshall Smith replacing Steve Gallagher on the scriptwriting panel. You can check out the schedule at or of course a few entries prior to this in the blog...

So what's left to do? A list of small tasks which is unfortunately about as long as my arm. There's a whole host of things to buy- namebadges, books for sale (I'll be running an official event bookshop this year, which will be aiming to have titles by all the authors taking part!!), t-shirts (which again I'm hoping to have a stock of on sale), stationery and so on...

There's also the programme booklet to sort, which will be a job for the weekend. There's the mailouts to all the attendees to go (there's a stack of envelopes on my desk just waiting to be stuffed...) and of course the continued marketing efforts as we run towards the event. Then I have to make arrange with our fabulous volunteers, sort out the goodie bags, get all the stuff to the venue (which is more challenging without my own car!!) and a whole heap of other tiny jobs that will no doubt keep popping up!!

I tend to find the best thing to do in this run up is give up on a social life of any kind and just get stuck in until the day really!!! So that'll be the plan from here on in...

Anyway, if anyone does have any questions as the days tick away just drop me a message here or send me a line at and I'll do what I can to help!!

Thanks a lot