Sophie King : Writing Workshop at Cybermummy 11

When the agenda for Cybermummy '11 was announced I was very excited to see that Sophie King (aka Jane Bidder) was hosting a writing workshop.  Wanting to attempt to write a novel in the very near future I thought the workshop would be full of inspirational hints and tips that I could stash away until I was ready to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Sophie King opened her workshop by asking a room full of bloggers what made them different; what their niche was, or their reason for blogging.  Little Miss Gobby here immediately put up her hand and said
"Yes, I became a grandmother at the age of thirty six..."
There was a glimmer of disgust in her eyes.  She composed herself and asked,
"So what is your blog name?"
I replied with,
"Typecast.  I blog at iamtypecast.com and I am trying to break a mould."  Then I squeaked as an afterthought, "It's ironic." but this got lost in her answer.
"Well, I don't think you should call your blog 'Typecast'," retored Sophie.  "It should be called "Granny at 36" so that your audience know exactly what they are getting."

I seethed inwardly and tweeted out:

I immediately got back a few replies:

  • Your blog, your name (@NickiCawood)
  • no way! That's your brand.. walk away from that at your peril! (@spudballoo)
  • I personally love it (@NewMumOnline)
  • Why on earth would you change your very established blog name? (@vbincatalunya)

Ms King moved onto other workshop attendees and proceeded to rip apart every single idea, thought and notion that people were brave enough to put forward about the blogs that they write, nurture and cherish.  She brushed off writing about children with special needs, explained that "new ideas need new blogs" and waved Kat from 3 Bedroom Bungalow off with a dismissive hand after the concept of her "Dear... So-and-So" series was explained.  Yes, she actually looked away from Kat, waved her hand in the air and said, "This... 'Dear... Whatever' thing.  You need a separate blog for that."

She then moved on to talking about promoting your ideas and invited questions about how to do this.  I piped up again *ahem*
"So if we are writing two, three, four or even five blogs for all our different ideas, how do you suggest we create content for each of these blogs, find the time to encourage and engage with our readership and promote what we are putting out there?  We spend a lot of time working on our branding."
"Well, " replied Ms King, in a very you-really-aren't-understanding-this-are-you type voice, "I'm not suggesting that you write two, three, four or five blogs but maybe if you did you could link them all together or something and get your readers to follow the links"

So, that would be like a normal blog then?

I'd had enough by this point and tweeted out:


Kat walked out some time shortly after this tweet went out, visibly upset.  I'll let Kat tell her own story but as she so rightly said, "I paid for my own ticket.  I wasn't sponsored.  I didn't pay £100 to sit here and be spoken to like that!"  Karen had walked out 'to use the bathroom' and must have got lost on the way back and Erica had left due to having to prepare for her own workshop 15 minutes later.  Sophie King did ask why people were leaving but Erica had a genuine excuse.

Ms King continued with some suggestions for finding content to put on your blog.  These included "Finding the secret you", "What really makes me cross" (hello - Queen of Rants here!), "Setting your own style" and the classic of the day "Do your hair differently and pretend to be someone else".  The last thing I heard Ms King say was "I have a blog but I don't write on it".

The group broke off slightly as Sophie King asked everyone work in small groups for a writing exercise.  I had lost interest by now and saw this as our time to escape.  And in true Pied Piper fashion, approximately fifteen other bloggers followed suit and also walked out.

As soon as we approached "Cybermummy Central" (the main networking room) we found that the tweets that myself, Kat and others had sent out had rippled through the venue, were being shown on the big screen on the #cybermummy11 twitter feed, being show around other workshops by people live blogging/tweeting the activities and generally causing concern.

With all due respect, I understand that the second half of the writing workshop was quite a success but I'm sorry to say that the group of bloggers that Sophie King had in the palm of her hand didn't quite appreciate being told that their "work in progress" was a pile of tosh and that we should be doing it completely differently.  I believe that Ms King should have researched her remit for the day more closely and adapted her discussion accordingly.  Susanna Scott (one of the Cybermummy founders) did suggest to me that maybe they hadn't given Ms King enough information about the day but I can say, hand on heart, that I NEVER go to a meeting, interview, presentation or training session unprepared and I ALWAYS have a back-up plan.  Or maybe she really does believe that parent bloggers aren't doing it right.  I totally agree that if you are a journalist, writer of two or three different genres and keep a personal or professional blog then you should be writing under different names.  Obviously a chick-lit writer doesn't command the same audience as a sci-fi writer.  But, blogging isn't like that, as we all know.  And maybe, as a professional writer, Ms King should already know this, shouldn't she?

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