No writer is an island: the BFS Discord community celebrates their support team

Last month, our own PS Livingstone put together an all-day virtual event for the BFS which centred on the book journey. We heard from artists and designers, from marketers and book coaches, from editors across the divide—developmental, commissioning, copy editing, and more; yes, no two editors are the same!—and it got me thinking about that old trope about writing being a lonely business. Sure, the mechanics of sitting down and Getting Shit Done is down to you and only you, but before that? After that? Heck, during that? No, siree.

Writers are human, after all. We crave connection. We need stimulation, if only to keep the creative juices flowing. And once it’s done, we need people to check it for us, to read it and tell us where we can improve the story, to proofread the end result, to help us promote it, to buy the darn thing. For those who can afford it, or who desire extra help, there are the book coaches to keep you on track, the narrators and producers to give your audio book a polish, the agents and the publishers who work tirelessly to get your work in front of the right readers at the right time. 

No, writing is a team sport. 

So for this month’s collective blog, I asked the BFS Discord members to shout-out their support team. Who’s helped them along the way? Who do they trust and rely upon to get their work up to scratch? And below is what you said.

But before we get to that, I’d like to give my own shout-out to the amazing volunteers who keep the BFS running. You’ll find them all listed on the website, here, but an extra-special celebration for Chair Extraordinaire Shona Kinsella, Secretary David Green, Treasurer Stewart Hotston, webmaster E.M. Faulds, online events officer PS Livingstone, social media guru Lucie Goulet, reviews editor Sarah Deeming, BFS Horizons editor Pete Sutton, poetry editor Ian Hunter, and archivist Karen Fishwick. Without these wonderfully giving people, your British Fantasy Society would be ever-poorer. 

This is a collective blog post written by and featuring the thoughts of BFS members. To take part in the next one, head over to the BFS Discord (the invite link is in every month’s newsletter). 

Photo by Mo Baghdadi on Unsplash

AK Faulkner
Website | Twitter | Instagram | BlueSky

I’ve got two off the top of my head, so LET’S GOOO!

My go-to virtual assistant is Katie Bruce. I am overall pretty terrible at remembering to finish (or, sometimes, even start) a task. I’m terrible at remembering whether I’ve booked a table or travel or a hotel. I’m extremely terrible at a lot of things that aren’t “write the book”, and that’s where Katie comes in. Katie is dedicated, punctual, methodical, and organised. I can discuss with her what needs to be done, and if Katie needs further input from me—or if the task is to make sure I do something only I can do (pay a bill, sign a contract, etc)—she’ll let me know. And then she will make sure it happens. She has taken all kinds of tasks off my hands that I didn’t have the bandwidth for myself, and I’m 100% certain she can do these things for you, too. She’s quick, efficient, and will achieve a startling amount of work in very little time!

And my narrator is RJ Bayley. RJ is extraordinary. He’s from Yorkshire, with a naturally smooth baritone, but he can perform a wide range of voices and accents. As an extremely skilled voice actor, his narration breathes life into an audiobook without detracting from the narrative, rendering it wholly immersive. He’s extremely professional and punctual, with an extremely low error rate. My books average around 10-14 finished hours, and there are usually fewer than 10 corrections per book. RJ is also an absolute pleasure to work with. He’ll present you with a full, detailed document outlining how he works and how to work with him, and asks for your notes on character voices, accents, and personalities, as well as whether or not that character is or will be recurring if your book is part of a series. He’s able to ensure consistency of characterisation across multiple instalments. He also has experience working with co-narrators on a production, as well as full-cast audio recordings, computer games, ad voice-overs, being a presenter, and even voicing animatronics. When I hand my manuscript off to RJ, I breathe a sigh of relief, because I know it’s in the right hands. 

[later]

Shout-out to PS Livingstone for being kind, thoughtful, proactive in welcoming people to the BFS, organising events, making sure people are safe and well at those events, and having more energy than a sack full of border collies. We first met at FantasyCon in Glasgow, 2019, and Pam spoke to me (gasp, me, the socially useless potato) and subsequently remembered who I was and reached out several times since then — not only for QuaranCon, but also general wellbeing checks, and to introduce me to other BFS people so that I would be far less adrift at future events. Pam’s an absolute legend, and the BFS is extremely lucky to have her!

[later still]

Another shout-out. This one’s for Sunyi, who is not only an absolute gem, but has also written the collection of blog posts that I recommend the most often. Her posts deconstructing query letters use her own as examples, and break down exactly why she made the choices she did for each letter in a way which play extremely well with my brain. Every single time I see someone ask for help with query letters, I drop them a link to Sunyi’s blog posts, because they’re a god-tier resource that she put out into the world FOR FREE. Thank you!


Tristan Gray
Website | Twitter | BlueSky | Instagram

My go to editors are:

  • Salt and Sage books for development editing, who also provide sensitivity readers. Currently working with April Jones
  • Dark Sky Pages’ Gillian Hamnett, who has been doing my Scots language dialogue

I’ve been working with both for over four years now.


PS Livingstone
Website | Twitter | BlueSky | Instagram

Shout out for Lauren McMenemy who’s a powerhouse within the writing community. Tireless and inventive, always lifting others. Loves ya! Xx


Matthew Palmer

I’m still very new in my writing journey, and I don’t have a large budget for professional services, but I have used the following: I hired H Noss Proofreads for an authenticity read on my manuscript. They offered fantastic and detailed feedback, going above and beyond in several areas.

I’ve also just had a Sample Edit from The Write Advice who not only gave me some excellent advice on how I can improve my prose, but also helped guide me to the right service that they offered, something that’s really important for a beginner.


Katie Bruce
BlueSky

Speaking of querying resources, I used Dan Hanks of Foxtales Editing to edit and polish up my query package. Really insightful, shows the reasoning behind his suggestions, it’s very much a discussion between the two of you.


Siân O’Hara
Twitter | BlueSky | Instagram

I don’t have lots of specific recommendations to make, as I’ve only got back into writing over the past few years. But getting regular feedback (critiques) from my online writing groups (Scribophile) is really valuable. As has been the incredible support from within the community, with particular shout outs to Shona Kinsella, E.M. Faulds, David Green, Halla Williams and Annabel Campbell, along with all the very many people I’ve hung out with at conventions, for being so very welcoming and supportive.


Sarah Elliott
Website | BlueSky | Instagram

I wouldn’t be where I am without meeting Chelsey Pippin Mizzi! Chelsey uses tarot cards to inspire writing, support a writing practice and support creative businesses. 

Chelsey is a creative coach who I worked with for a year. It was great fun playing with tarot cards. We met monthly and she helped keep me on task with my actual writing. 

The most important gift from Chelsey was her encouraging me to claim my identity as a writer. Chelsey shared her wisdom, was always honest yet encouraging and she signposted me to many resources. 

One of these was the Writers’ Hour hosted by London Writers’ Salon, which is an online global writing community. It is full of supportive members, writing resources and opportunities including numerous interviews with those in the writing world. There are also groups within the community such as Myth, Folklore and the Occult as well as Sci-Fi and Fantasy and Horror. I host the Writers’ Hours and it is a real privilege to co-host with another member and hold space for all the writers joining us (sometimes up to 300!). 

My writing life snowballed from there due to the wonderful hosts and members I have met. If I need help, that’s where I put in a call!


Lauren McMenemy
Website | Twitter | BlueSky | Instagram

And ok, I’ll include my own support squad to round this up. This very large list includes some fabulous people and I swore I wouldn’t make a list because I’ll end up forgetting someone, so this is by no means exhaustive:

  • Alex Davis, who encouraged me to set up my own events and partners with me on my Writing the Occult virtual events series
  • Vicky Brewster, who ran a haunted retreat in Wales just before the plague hit, from which all good things in my writing life have stemmed
  • Photographer Nicolas Laborie, who’s not only a good friend but also somehow made me look presentable in photos
  • Creative coach Sheryl Garratt, whose no-nonsense approach cuts through my ‘but what if…’
  • Writing communities 26 and the London Writers Salon, who gave me the kick up the bum I needed, especially during plague lockdowns. 
  • To the wonderful humans that are Lee Murray and Dave Jeffery, for all that they do to support the mental health of horror writers. 
  • And of course Stuart Conover and the Horror Tree team for giving me an outlet as editor of the weekly Trembling With Fear publication – and Stephanie Ellis, who I met at one of Alex Davis’s events and who introduced me to Stuart! See, no writer is an island. Magic happens through connection. 
  • Oh – and the husband, Chris Hawton, for his endless cheerleading. Go listen to his podcast, Whovians who read!
  • And my friend Matthew Ducharme, who dragged me to my first FantasyCon a few years ago and made me realise the BFS wasn’t just about Tolkein (even if he’s on submission with an epic fantasy of his own). 

Meet the guest poster

Image for BFS Discord Community

This is a collective blog post written by and featuring the thoughts of BFS members. To take part in the next one, head over to the BFS Discord—the invite link is in every month’s newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

5 × 1 =