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Yesterday I was at the Writers’ Toolkit – a networking conference in Birmingham run jointly by WritingWest Midlands and the Birmingham Book Festival. I’d been invited to go and speak on a panel about social networking for writers. This makes the Ashworth household laugh, as I’m famous for my lack of social skills.

That makes it sound like I don’t know when my flies are open and dribble when I talk, swear inappropriately, stutter, smell occasionally and insult people without meaning to. Yes, I do some of these things but really I meant I am shy, I don’t like parties, I hardly ever march up to people I don’t know and do a bit of networking on them, and I only leave the house to make the five minute walk to the office where I work, pay cheques into my bank, or buy food. So being asked to do a panel discussion on social networking has been the cause of much hilarity in this household.

(Not as much, it has to be said, as the very nice Guardian quotation about killing for a comic gift… especially as my favourite joke is the one about the baker and the brown hands… not sophisticated at all)

All the secrets are coming out today.

So. Networking conference. I didn’t as much network, as chat to other writers about blogging and answer questions and maybe alay a few fears that all blogs are inane witterings about what the writer had for tea that night (stew done in my slow-cooker and not the oven because the glass panel in the door broke weeks ago and we’re crap in this house, we really are) or the dull intricacies of their love life (pass).

Or maybe not.

I talked about why I liked blogging – which is because writing here lets me play around with the same ideas and themes as I do in my novel and short story writing (identity, persona, narrating the self, autobiography, creative non fiction and lying…) but the gratification is instant (no waiting for editors or agents – I publish when I like by clicking that little orange button) and the community of writers and readers it makes me feel a part of, and the special bloggers I’ve met that have helped me understand my own writing identity and the way it has often led on to other kinds of work.

And then I talked a bit about the things I didn’t like about blogging. About the way the instant gratification can make you publish things that are ill-drafted, badly thought out, expose too much of your own story, other people’s stories. About stalkers. About the cliques and in the in-crowds. The dull, repetitive dailyness of the thing. The pseudo-detached, ironic, not caring style we’re all supposed to have, because we’re Generation Y, we’re bored, we’re cool, we’re too nervous and alienated to be friends with anyone and we like it that way. The inanity. The way the girls aren’t in the club. The way you’ll meet people at readings who feel like they know you and the way you’re not allowed to be irritated about that because you’re the one whose pasted this all up on the tinterwebs.

On balance, I like blogging better than I don’t like it. I think that came across. I’m also a convert to networking conferences, although I thought it wouldn’t be my sort of thing, I was wrong. I got to meet Jo Bell again and have lunch with my editor and chat to Helen Cross who is almost converted to blogging now, and even though it rained and rained and rained and my train was delayed and I was incoherent with exhaustion by the time I got home, I was glad I went. 

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