Friday 9th April
Today I drove for five hours to reach York University by one thirty, the designated time for registration at the 2010 Festival of Writing run by the Writer's Workshop. As I write these words, it’s late at night. I’ve already met some really interesting new people at a Literary Speed Networking session; caught up with some writer buddies; attended a workshop with Harry Bingham and the lovely Helen Corner; watched a live Authonomy session that rivalled the best of the X Factor, and drank one too many glasses of cheap Chardonnay. Actually looking at the single mattress (pvc lined?!) in my student room, the alcohol may indeed aid my night’s sleep. That is if I can ignore the geese clacking (do geese ‘clack’?? Is there even a verb to clack??) I’m rambling. But it’s allegedly mating season and they make loud lovers those geese...
Saturday 10th April
The festival was formally opened with a key note address by the wonderfully charismatic best- selling novelist and chair of the Romantic Novelists Association, Katie Fforde. I love Katie’s books and she had each and every member of the disparate audience laughing out loud with her. People then parted to attend the many workshops offered, or pitch their novels during one to one agent/publisher sessions. Each attendee had two sessions - ten minutes with an agent or publisher during which they had a chance to pitch and discuss their work. Though this opportunity was a big draw to the conference (and my one today went very well) I do feel that they are not and should not be the main attraction of the festival. The opportunity to network, to immerse oneself in a sea of like minded people is in itself completely uplifting and inspirational – something I desperately needed before York.
After a really good buffet lunch, the afternoon offered a further key note address in the form of ‘Confessions from...’ featuring literary agent Simon Trewin and publisher Barry Cunningham - both of whom provided humorous insights into their busy lives. They were also surprisingly generous and approachable afterwards. Don't tell anyone but I am a little bit in love with ST who is a tiny bit gorgeous.
Throughout the whole day the workshops available were varied and plentiful. I attended one on ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ given by Jeremy Sheldon and ‘Creating Character by Julie Cohen (Do pop over to Julie’s website where she has a nine part section on her blog about character arc which is brilliant) Did I learn anything? Absolutely...The craft of writing is my chosen apprenticeship and I was reminded throughout this entire weekend that I’m constantly learning.
Learning though IS exhausting and I confess that by late afternoon the pvc mattress with sticking out springs and bonking geese beckoned. I needed a kip before the evening festivities began. And all I have to say about the gala dinner where everyone made an effort to dress up is that alas they still served the Chardonnay.I still drank it and I would still be there if I and a few others hadn’t been asked ever so politely to leave the building! Fellow evictees, I will not name and shame, but you know who you are.
Sunday 11th April
Feeling queasy – no idea why. I could only manage a slice of toast and two paracetamol before joining Julie Cohen’s workshop ‘More than Shoes and Shopping’ She had the most wonderful visual slides to accompany the title. Red shoes galore to match my eyes. Brilliant workshop- I love Julie’s friendly delivery and again she too is so generous with her time and advice. I had another 'one to one' which was really useful but unfortunately, in order to accommodate the long drive home, I had to duck out early from the festival just before lunch.
The drive back was long which gave me lots of time to reflect. I really enjoyed the weekend. It was busy and full on, quite exhausting but extremely useful on lots of fronts. It did have a price tag attached to it but to be honest, we were really well fed, the setting was lovely and the quality of workshops and industry people available to us was, in my opinion, more than worth it. Only complaint is the Chardonnay. I’m a sauvignon girl myself. Note to Writers Workshop – supply of sauvignon needed for next year. It’s simply a kinder grape...
PS: Thanks to Liz Fenwick for the piccies! And to Emma Darwin for her boundless energy and positivity. I want whatever batteries she's on.