Friday, 7 September 2012

Never go back?

They say you should never go back.  But you know what? Sometimes, "they" are SO wrong. The minute I got on the train to York I was filled with good vibes. Not only did I manage to increase my word count by resisting the internet and writing for three solid hours, but the minute I stepped onto the platform and gazed up at the familiar iron arches on the ceilings I was right back at home. The taxi ride with a witty Yorkie took me round the town walls, close to my 3rd year house, glimpsing sights of a city that appears to have changed very little in nearly thirty years.  Not something you could say about the University which appears to have tripled in size since I was here, spreading so far out from the core six colleges, that there is now a North, South,East and West campus. James College, where I am staying is new, and has subsumed the old Goodrich College, which has been removed up the road, replaced by a snazzy conference centre, complete with a jazzy greenlit bar. A far far cry from the grotty formica tables of my youth.
         Still the lake is still as lovely as ever (if smellier than I remembered} and once I'd settled into a student room double the size of my rabbit hutch of 1984, I couldn't resist revisiting my old haunts by running round campus. It was a lovely nostalgia filled run:  there was the spot I fell of my bike and had to be rushed to hospital (a moment immortalised in one of my very poor poetry assignments); there was More House, the Catholic Chaplaincy, where my lovely friends Anne (@Bridgeanne), Judy and I used to spend many an evening discussing the novels we'd write; there was the turn off to my 2nd yr house at Badger Hill; Heslington Hall, the destination of the first run I ever took, leaving me red faced and breathless when I arrived; the dour Chemistry Department which has since morphed into a massive Science Park; Alcuin College site of the best disco on campus; the fabulous library which still has it's magic cafe underneath; my old room at Vanbrugh college; the Biology lab where I failed to become a scientist; and all the student halls, where I learnt that activism starts with a leaflet posted in a doorway. A lovely trot down memory lane that brought me back to my room glowing with energy.
           But nice as the nostalgia was, I haven't come here to relive my youth, I've come to network, to meet writers and agents and publishers. To garner a few tips and perhaps gather a bit of encouragement, and so far, so very very good.I've met a spread of conference participants, and from the publisher I  in the drinks queue, to the agent who's running 2 workshops and 33 one to ones, to the writers I chatted to over dinner  and in the bar(a crime writer from Wales, a young adults fantasy writer from London, a general fiction writer from Newbury whose crazy life mirrors mine, and a picture book rhyming writer who's just got been signed) everyone so far is friendly, welcoming, informative and passionate about writing. And if this wasn't enough, we were treated to Literary Live, as 6 brave souls read from their novels whilst we the audience selected our favourite. The standard was high, and it was so close we had to count, and it was nice to see the winner was an Indian woman of advanced years, not something you see every day.
    So tomorrow we have Jo-Jo Moyes and I have a workshop on landscape, and a 1:1 with an agent. I'm also hoping to get a bit of writing done, and maybe even toddle up to the East campus to try out the new swimming pool.

This writing life...hard sometimes isn't it?

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