Acorn were offering free manuscript clinics, so, with nothing to lose but my dignity, I emailed a sample chapter in advance and went along.
What I got was a very helpful half hour, mostly about marketing. It's a little sad that you have to think so much about websites, schools packages and series potential when all you really want to do is write, but it's a necessity these days, and I came away with a couple of good ideas.
I won a pass to Saturday's crime writing workshops in one of those annoying but apparently effective 'retweet this to win' things on Twitter.
The first session was by Heather Steed, whose Writing for Children course I'm currently attending. We created a character following quick-fire prompts (in particular, their surname needed to be that of someone we knew - no Rebuses or Bosches) then wrote an introductory passage to see how much of the backstory we could get across. What was interesting here was that almost all of us mentioned alcohol somewhere.
The second workshop was from actress-turned-author Linda Regan (most famous, I now learn from Wikipedia, for her role as a Yellow Coat in Hi-de-Hi.)
She was very express-yourselves-my-darlings and had us divided into teams to work a basic set-up into a murder mystery with suspects, motives, clues, alibis and a detective. Here the interesting part was the very different directions the groups took, from cosy Midsomer Murders territory to gritty drug deals. My team had murder by insulin pen, while another had gun-running in Penge and a third featured the vicar having an affair with a Thai ladyboy.
Finally, the brother and sister team behind Acorn talked us through the pros and cons of traditional versus print-on-demand publishing, and the various packages they offer. We also had a good laugh about the difficulty of writing covering letters.
I admit, I'd still prefer to be published by a mainstream outfit, simply for the validation. If I do go down the self-publishing route, though, I feel I'd be in safe hands with Acorn.
There are an awful lot of aspiring writers in Bromley. Of my fellow-students, one had had meetings with three literary agents but none of them had ended up representing her and another had actually got an agent but not been placed with a publisher. This was slightly depressing.
I didn't emerge from the library until 4PM, by which time I was pretty hungry. Luckily there was a man on the High Street giving away pizza outside a new restaurant. Bromley rocks!