Welcome welcome to the new-look blog. And yes- – I am experimenting with colours – mainly so the link to Twitter can be seen on the right up there... it kinda faded away on the old background.
Yes, I am an official Twit. No comments please. I shall be tweeting something called Story Gym every day, sometimes twice – with ideas for making connections that could end up as a story.
But Winchester Writers’ Conference was a wonderful few days. Am absolutely delighted with my time there.
Winchester in Bullet Points
• 400 delegates, from as far away as the Antipodes.
• Return to student days – living in a hall of residence for the duration, eating in the lovely dining hall, surrounded by buzzy lovely like-minded people!
• Endless fascinating conversations, networking, swapping ideas and tips.
• Too many speakers to count, including well-established writers, editors, agents and publishers.
• SUCCESS! Many writers found an agent. At the plenary session alone there were six writers from last year with books out or forthcoming from excellent publishers as a direct result of meeting their agents for the first time at Winchester last year.
• A complete lack of pretension. A celebration of writing in all its myriad forms.
• Supportive – encouragement for the newer writers, a guiding hand for the ones struggling up the slopes, and help with professional issues for those teetering higher up.
• Honesty. Straight appraisal of work. From other writers, from editors, agents. Especially work writers think is ready to pitch. Is it? No one wants you to make mistakes at this delicate time – get it right!
• Variety. A blizzard of opportunities to listen and learn about anything and everything to do with writing. Writing for children and young adults. Crime writing. Historical works. Women’s magazine fiction. Commercial work. Poetry. Memoir. Literary work. And all the rest.
• Inspirational keynote speakers. Barry Cunningham, one-time marketing guru from Bloomsbury who now runs Chicken House Publishing, and who discovered JK Rowling – telling a packed auditorium how, and why, and drawing lessons for everyone from his experiences. And Geoff Holt, sailor extraordinaire, writer of stunning memoir for which he had to type over a million characters with a single finger. He is disabled. And sailed right round the UK... putting most people’s get-up-n-go, including mine, to shame.
• Marvellous book-fair, run by indie bookshop P G Wells of Winchester. Who sold squillions of books, of all sorts shapes and sizes. And I love them even more because they are stocking my ‘Short Circuit’ after the conference!
• Writing competitions – eighteen of them. Prizes to be won – and many of the comps are backed by publishers, agents, the local press – the winners are taken very seriously. This years winner of a 1000 wd short story comp run by the Hampshire Chronicle won free attendance to the conference. And went home with an agent for her novel....
• Jane Wenham-Jones. The smashing after-dinner speaker at the awards dinner – author of three chick-lit novels, and two ‘Wannabe a Writer’ volumes – Jane is a scream, and beneath the fun, a very useful and supportive writer to know.
What was I doing? Quite a bit –
• a short story workshop split between 3 hrs on Friday evening and 2.5 hrs on Sunday morning. A small group – intense, hard work, and fun.
• A short story master-class – one hour of tips and strategies, advice and discussion.
• A flash fiction talk – last minute replacement of a speaker who was unfortunately unable to attend because of illness – but it went well – I got them writing as well as listening!
• One-to-ones with writers who had sent the opening of a short story, or in one case, of a novel.
• And attending the plenary session, the prize-giving for the comps, the glitzy dinner following.
• Walking up and down the campus – its on a slope! All those steps, but I felt v healthy by the end.
This was the 31st Winchester Writers’ Conference. I last attended with some friends in 2004, raw, newbie, starting out, and with little confidence for all my bluster. I enjoyed it, and came away with more confidence in what I wanted to do. It hasn’t changed. It is a very good, positive and nurturing experience, in a world in which so much of writing can be less than. That is down to the founder and organiser, Barbara Large MBE. A nicer person you couldn’t hope to find – caring absolutely that no disadvantage ought to stop a writer writing, if that is what they want to do. A deep bow and a salute to Barbara! I have no idea if that link back there is current, but it will tell you a little about this remarkable and very self-effacing lady.
Next year, one week earlier, it will be the 32nd Winchester Writers' Conference. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am invited back to speak. Pretty Please, organisers? But whether I am there or not, the team of speakers will be amazing - writers, put it in the diary for 2012!