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Friday, 2 July 2010

Winchester Writers Conference

Imagine if you will, a massive exam hall, lofty, lit by fluorescent strip-lighting, and containing 60 small square desks set out in rows. Now put a nervous writer in front of each one, holding a sheaf of paper or a dog-eared manuscript. Behind each desk sits an agent, an editor or other industry professional. For fifteen minutes they talk - or should I say shout, before the chairs scrape back, the writers reluctantly leave and are replaced by another eager batch.

The noise is the first thing that strikes you, as exam halls are usually silent. The noise is deafening as everyone tries to make themselves heard against the other 59 conversations. Outside, there are a team of counsellors waiting, for those who get given a hard time by the agent they were sure would love their novel.

But this is a serious business, both for the writers and the agents. Books do find their way to publication here - since last year seven writers have been published. I talked to one man whose opening pages I had admired in a workshop, and he was delighted to report that an agent has asked for his complete script.

Over the weekend I met a lot of other writers and at least a third of the people I introduced myself to said they were working on an urban fantasy novel featuring vampires! I naturally thought that Stephanie Meyer must have something to do with it, but no, all claimed they were working on theirs since before Stephanie Meyer. I also met quite a few crime enthusiasts including one lady who told me the best way to cosh people is to use a few hundred pound coins swung in a sock. I met very few other historical novelists, which was a shame, but I did meet with Judith Allnatt who was lovely and gave me good advice about my second novel . Her book, A Mile of River is now on my bedside table.

The workshops I attended were excellent, and as a way of thanking those writers whose workshops I enjoyed. the illustrations here are of their books. The writers are Julia Bryant (Shape and sharpen your novel), Debby Holt (Character) and Alison Habens (Fairy Tale and Story) Even when you have been published there is still a lot to learn from other writers who have been at it longer than I have. My quote of the weekend (if I couldonly remember her exact words) is from Alison Habens, who said that writing has to be transparent, so that the reader looks through it to the real life behind.


  1. Thanks for this post, Dee. It's always good to be reminded how much we can learn from other writers. In that context (and speaking of historical writers) do you follow Emma Darwin's blog over at This Itch of Writing? It's excellent and frequently puts into words the problems all of us face (and sometimes provides solutions as her words help you think more clearly.)

  2. Hello Alis,How's it going? Yes I follow Emma Darwin - she's excellent. Her posts are always really thoughtful and must take up a lot of her time. Thanks for popping by.

  3. I missed Wwinchester altogether, which is ridiculous as it's not far from here. It sounds wonderful. Perhaps we could meet up there next year, Dee?'

  4. That's a great idea - should we try and muster a few more?

  5. A whole stall, Dee - why not?

    (Verification word: unable. Not a good omen for a writing day.)

  6. Why not? we could hire a stall and hawk our wares about.

  7. Sorry about the double message (now three). My computer wouldn't register that I'd posted a comment, and then two appeared.