Monday, 12 April 2010

Diary of 2010 Festival Of Writing

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.

22 comments:

Julie Cohen said...

It was great to meet you Fionnuala and I hope to see you again soon. I hope you've recovered from the cheap chardonnay and I certainly don't recall a thing about being evicted from the building! I must have gone to bed before that. Ahem. ;-)

Helen said...

Hi Fionnuala, I'm still recovering from the weekend myself - I had to use a lot of eye-liner yesterday to cover up the red bits. It was a feast of sessions and lovely to meet you and all the writers there. Helenx

Helen said...

PS: Did I tell you I found myself in a 'horror' writing workshop by mistake? There were only 3 of us and we then embarked on an hour of excruciating writing exercises - I was rubbish and mostly sat there twisting my pen! The other two writers were brilliant, one of whom I've taught in the past (v proud of her) and it was a humbling experience. Hx

The Virtual Victorian said...

Five hours drive! But, oh, it all sounds so wonderful! I am deeply deeply envious...

The Virtual Victorian said...

Ha ha, Helen - I once went to a business conference, just to meet my husband for lunch. I was told he was in a particular room, rushed in, sat down... and found myself in middle of ongoing (and most boring) discussion on earth in which he played no part at all. So embarrassed and sat there getting more and more agitated for what seemed like hours. Why oh why didn't I just get up and leave?

Roderic Vincent said...

Thanks for the update, Fionnuala. I'll have to get there next year. Glad you enjoyed it.

Emma Darwin said...

Finnuala, it was lovely to see you there - good to know you enjoyed it so much. I certainly did, though I'm now absolutely shattered.

Leila said...

thanks for posting - I wish I could have gone!

Emily Gale said...

Sounds wonderful. For the sheer inspiration alone it's worth going to these things - I'm still full of excitement and nervous energy about new writing projects after my visit to the Adelaide writers' festival in early March. Thanks for this report!

Gillian McDade said...

Thanks for sharing with us, Fi! A literary festival is something I've never been to (hides in shame).

Karen said...

I attended the Winchester Writing Festival a few years ago, and absolutely loved it - you really do come away fired up. No Chardonnay though - or Sauvignon come to that ...

Glad you had a good pitching session :o)

Susannah Rickards said...

It sounds such fun. Glad you had a fabulous time F. Hope I can join you there next year.

Sally Zigmond said...

Sorry t0o have missed you, Fionnuala--and how did I miss you Helen? I would have loved to have had a chat. You won't remember but we exchanged phone calls and emails many years ago; you may be pleased to hear that the novel you were instrumental in improving is finally published and was launched on the day the Festival opened! Which was why I was late and buzzing on adrenalin all weekend.

Bigger name badges next time, please organisers! My eyes are rubbish.

liz fenwick said...

It was a brilliant weekend in so many ways - still buzzing days later. They did have Sauv Blac but it wasn't the house wine so you had to ask - discerning veterans of conferences know to ask....
lx

Fionnuala Kearney said...

Liz - not when I asked!!! Had you got there before me?! x

liz fenwick said...

yes :-)

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn said...

Hi Fionnuala
I was at the Festival too and came away equally exhausted, but somehow hadn't managed quite the exciting time you had. Perhaps it was my own fault - I didn't arrive until the Saturday, so missed the speed networking. I really enjoyed some of the workshops - Jeremy Sheldon was excellent on 'show don't tell' - but my one-to-ones were a let down. David Smith couldn't make it, and Zoe King hadn't received any of the material. I agree with the person who asked for bigger name badges - it was hard to tell who was who. I certainly wish I'd discovered you, Fionnuala - I could have helped with the Chardonnay!

Debi said...

If we work very hard at it, I reckon we might just recover in time for next year ...

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Brilliant journal, Fionnuala - I could almost believe I'd been there. Glad it was so good.
Susiex

Anonymous said...

why not:)

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