The 2015 UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet was held once again in Bristol, this time from the 11th to the 13th of September. The Meet has grown tremendously since a dozen of us sat down in a room above Ely Library six years ago, but the organisers have capped numbers at a manageable 150-160 delegates – resulting in a waiting list for probably the first time this year – although in the end everyone who wanted, and was able, to attend managed to do so (drop-outs being replaced neatly by waiting list peeps).
Friday evening was kicked off with a guided walk around the city – something I’d enjoyed in Manchester in 2013 and felt was lacking from last year’s Meet programme. This year’s walk had a pirate theme, and our guide assured us that all his stories were completely true (although since he was dressed as a pirate, one does have to wonder…). The almost two hour long tour covered a little under a kilometre but fitted in several centuries of history, covering not just pirates but also Bristol’s role in the slave trade (and most of those stories gelled with what I’d previously learned in Portsmouth at the Historic Dockyards’ displays on the anti-slavery movement and the Royal Navy’s part in eliminating illegal slavers after the triumph of the British Abolitionist Movement).
Our guide allowed us to pose alongside his natty transport: not a ship, but a converted hearse, and sold us copies of his highly entertaining book. Once we’d had quite enough history for one evening, and been cheered mightily by the vast hoards of locals yelling Ooh aah at us as we passed, it was back to the hotel for me to meet up with my host for the evening and for others to put on their glad rags ready for the later evening entertainment.
Saturday morning saw me back at the hotel bright and early to catch up with all the attendees I’d seen the previous evening and meet more old friends and new faces before Charlie Cochrane marshalled us into the main room for the opening Welcome Session. This included the ever-popular Novel Openings section, but with the added twist of snippets being chosen and read out by readers rather than authors.
Following coffee and snacks (there was a lot of both on offer throughout the weekend along with multiple varieties of tea and a range of other beverages), I moved into one of the smaller rooms for my panel: Mystery, Myth and Magic – Legends and the like as inspiration. My two co-panellists and I managed to get a lively debate going with plenty of audience participation, although I suspect we could have gone on for considerably longer had we not heeded the call to lunch.
The afternoon featured the ever popular Buffet of Banter, although the layout of the rooms didn’t quite do justice to the range of discussion topics on offer. Some delegates found moving between groups to be hindered by the seating arrangements and I gather that the split between author and reader topic sets didn’t work as well as whoever suggested the idea last year had been hoping. My topic of Author vs Character Voice prompted some varied and interesting comments from those delegates who stopped by, however.
More coffee and snacks (I told you we had plenty!) were followed by our first Keynote Speaker, Elizabeth North of Dreamspinner Press. I was particularly interested in her reasons for starting the publisher, and in the stories she told of correspondence with and about both the quite young and the very mature ends of their readership. After that, I had far too much fun acquiring new reading material at the Book Fair (bearing in mind that I somehow had to lug everything back on the train the next day), although I ended up owing money to LA Witt (aka Lauren Gallagher aka Ann Gallagher) and promising the lovely women of Ylva Publishing that I’d be back to purchase books from them the next day. What can I say; the books were just too tempting and the authors and publishers just too persuasive…
My journey back in on Sunday morning was slightly hampered by the Bristol Half Marathon (starting outside the hotel) causing my bus to be diverted. Fortunately, my valiant host accompanied me and made a sterling Sherpa so I didn’t have to carry all of my luggage on my own. The additional walk meant that we spotted a new piece of street art, positioned at the base of the adjoining wall to Banksy’s man hanging from a window, which I think I shared with you all last year.
Sunday morning provided me with my second opportunity of the weekend to be photographed by the lovely Temple Dragon. These two short sessions were possibly the first time I’ve actually felt comfortable posing, partly because I knew the sessions would be happening and was able to dress up in steampunk costumes that I felt comfortable in, but mainly because Temple is that lovely.
I attended two panel sessions in the morning: Humour in Fiction and Unlocking Your Dark Side – convincing killers, gripping plots and the like. Then, after lunch, we had our second Keynote Speaker, KJ Charles whom I’d already bounced at in a rather fannish manner and who went on to tell us some very revealing stories about the mainstream publishing industry and make encouraging comments about the future of ‘mixed’ series and the crossing over of LGBTQ fiction into the world of mainstream publishers (not that smaller publishers will be disappearing any time soon).
The usual raffle in aid of the Albert Kennedy Trust was followed by a Wrap-up Session for us all to help plan next year’s Meet. And by the time that had finished the buses were running normally, so I didn’t have too much difficulty transporting my excessively book-filled luggage back to Bristol Temple Meads station (named after the Knights Templar, according to our guide of Friday night).
All in all, another excellent Meet and I’m greatly looking forward to 2016. I’d love to see more of the gang from here come over for it too. We need a bigger lesfic representation, much as I love all the current regulars (some of whom have been known to write lesfic, but need extra encouragement to write more).