Once, as an undergraduate, I was reading negative feedback from a creative writing tutor when something dawned on me. It was a useful little epiphany regarding a fact that everyone knows, but few take heed of; a good writing style isn’t something that you can learn in class. Writers develop their craft over years and years of doing it, and doing it badly, until, if they persevere long enough, something good is produced. They read constantly to come to grips with why some passages are so fresh, yet others lie unreadable in their banality. Up to this point, I’d been relying on a university module to improve my writing skills – waiting for that magic lecture in which everything was revealed. Those who offered creative writing lessons, from that moment on, I viewed with suspicion and scepticism.
Yet, if you have the writing bug – and the discipline – a bit of guidance is something worth considering. And the Craft of Comedy conference, which was at Venue Cymru from March 30th to April 1st, was more than a bit of guidance. As the name suggests, it wasn’t a three-day creative writing seminar which veered towards comedy, but an overview of the entire industry. Covering niche areas, it was a must for anyone who creates the material but doesn’t know where to go next. Not that there weren’t any lessons in writing itself, but that wasn’t its sole purpose – it really did cover the entire craft.
One of the most interesting talks I heard was from a few individuals who’d made a career out of social media. One of the talkers began his career in comedy in an unlikely place – running his local pub’s Twitter account. From there he got noticed by other businesses for his wit and style. The name of this position is “social writer”, I learned – as well as a good sense of humour, social writers need a good understanding of how social media works, and a sixth sense for current and upcoming trends. Brave new world.
After a handy talk from Gail Raynard from the Writer’s Guild, the first big interview was from Comedian Elis James. He spoke in Welsh, and the audio translator did a damn good job of keeping up with the raconteur, as well as translating both language and humour – kudos to her. This was the first of a few interviews in the main hall, all of which were both candid, interesting and informative – especially the one with QI’s Alan Davies.
The theme of topical comedy was a big presence at the conference, and a seminar from a few of the HIGNFY writers was a highlight for me. We were split into groups, given a piece of news, and told to go crazy with it. It’s a promising idea for a party game, come to think of it.
You’d expect a conference full of writers to be quiet; after all, we writers have a solitary job well suited to introverts. But alas, creatives involved in comedy are a different breed to regular creatives. While events like this won’t teach you how to write, if you’re already typing away day and night they’re almost imperative. Everyone there was talkative, and during the breaks you’d always find yourself talking and joking with someone. I expect next year’s to be even bigger, so if you’re a budding writer, a veteran, or one already in the trade – this isn’t an opportunity to be missed.