Alt Fiction weekender

17 January 11 words: Adele Harrison
Fancy a weekend away in February discussing and writing speculative fiction? If so, Alex Davis is your man
Alex Davis - married to his job and very much in love.

When it comes to speculative fiction, you are hard-pressed to find anyone quite as passionate about it as Alex Davis. He is currently spearheading Alt Fiction for Writing East Midlands and has lined up a weekend retreat in February that offers up workshops, author talks and many other things to satiate the every need of genre lovers. We caught up with him for a virtual cuppa to find out more about this and other forthcoming projects...

Congratulations on Christmas Spirits, you must be delighted with how well the event went?
Yeah, absolutely. I'd wanted to run a night of classic Christmas ghost stories for years – it's great to hark back to that fine tradition of MR James, Charles Dickens and all those fantastic writers reading their stories round the fireplace. We had to do with a virtual fireplace, but it still had pretty much the same effect.

We were sold out weeks before the event, including a kids' show in the afternoon, and it was a fantastic day. There's something about these Victorian tales that still catches the imagination. It was also my performance debut, which was equally exciting and terrifying. There's already talk of the show being resurrected (if you'll excuse the pun) for the end of the year, so watch this space...

I’ll excuse it this time. Moving into February, you have some writing weekends planned I believe...
We're taking over Diamond House, a fantastic listed building in the Nottinghamshire countryside, and for May we're headed to the Chesterfield Hotel which, less than surprisingly, is in Chesterfield. In February, we have top notch horror and young adult author Sarah Pinborough and Nottinghamshire's own steampunk writer George Mann taking part, while May will see horror supremo Simon Clark and prolific fantasy author Mark Chadbourn joining us.

We've got a nice mix of local and national authors there for both weekends, and we will have a third coming up later in the year as well.

Who would benefit from attending the weekends?
Anyone interested in writing science fiction, fantasy or horror! There are a lot of writing weekends taking place in the UK, but they seldom focus on what is known as 'genre work', so it's exciting to be bringing these types of events to the East Midlands. It'll be a great chance to meet people of a like mind, people who want to write the same type of thing, and also to hear from those who are already making their way in the field.

What can attendees expect?
Well, attendees can first of all expect a warm welcome! I always pride myself on Alt.Fiction events being friendly, and the weekends will be no different, with a Friday night social to kick things off!

The Saturday and the Sunday of the events will be crammed to the gills with writing activities, including feedback sessions, advice, writing workshops and discussion sessions. We'll also have a guest author visiting each day to run a workshop session and share their experience and advice in a Q+A session, so it's a fantastic chance to pick their brains!

The idea is that these weekends should do three things really – introduce you to new people, inspire you to go away and write and inform you on how to start forging your career.

So there will be a practical element to these weekends too for people starting out in the business?
Absolutely – I think it's more important than ever that budding writers have a good
understanding of the business. It isn't enough any more just to churn out quality work – authors need to know how to promote their work, how to deal with publishers, how to get an agent and much more. These are all areas that we'll be discussing and looking at throughout these weekends, with the view that not only will you have some new ideas to write but also a good idea of where to place it.

You’ve sold it to me, what do I need to do?
You can find all the booking details and latest info at the Alt.Fiction events page. We've managed to keep the weekends really reasonable, with £180 covering two nights of accommodation, all your meals throughout the weekend and the full range of activities with both guest speakers. And of course if you want to ask any questions at all, feel free to drop me a line at [email protected]

More generally the writing weekends are part of a whole range of events and a change of approach for Alt.Fiction, can you describe the new approach for the brand and how it fits into the wider Writing East Midlands remit?
When Alt.Fiction first began, it was part of my old role at Derby City Council. Times change of course, and when my post there was coming to an end Writing East Midlands took up the reins to keep things moving forward and keep a growing event going. Despite the difficult environment for the arts, we want Alt.Fiction to keep on growing, and as such the expansion into a brand and a year-round programme was the logical step. It gives us a chance to tie in with new partners, work more extensively with publishers. It's a way for us to explore things that we think are needed and also take advantage of the working opportunities that have previously passed us by. It's a really exciting time, because (as far as I know) there has never been a brand doing what we are doing – specialising in genre book events across a region. We've already had two hits with Other Worlds and Christmas Spirits, and hopefully the success will just continue.

 Specialising in genre fiction events across the region.

 For details of forthcoming events and the annual festival, please visit the Alt.Fiction website

For a behind the scenes look at the world of Alt Fiction, please see Alex Davis blog

Adele Harrison runs the Un:Bound book review and Un:Bound Video Editions genre vidcast sites.

AngryRobot will be accepting unsolicited MSS in March, so if you've penned any genre fiction then send it off.

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