‘Mum,’ said my daughter, a few days after this year’s Festival. ‘You should go and do some writing.’
It takes a while, I find, to settle down after such an exhilarating and all-consuming experience as the University of Winchester Writers’ Festival. This year, my first as Director, was filled with new challenges, wonderful people and what seemed at times to be one long, intricate and utterly fascinating conversation about writing.
Everything finally came together over the weekend of 20-22nd June: a warm, sunny and quite brilliant three days shared with fellow writers from all over the UK and the world. What struck me over and over again was how the Festival is a community to which everyone contributes with tremendous talent, generosity and goodwill: the emerging writers, the agents and editors, the experienced authors, the volunteers, the hosts and the stall holders, the sponsors, the bookshop and the University’s own conference and catering staff. The mood was joyful and intensely creative.
Then, everyone goes home. So what do they take with them? Contacts, often, and new writing friendships. Notepads and heads overflowing with ideas. Energy, knowledge, ways forward, I hope. Seeds.
I’m working on a book about seeds at the moment and during my research I’ve learned that some seeds don’t germinate for months, years, or even decades. They wait until conditions are just right. Well, I believe conditions are just right, which is fortunate as it certainly wouldn’t do to sit around for decades, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for my muse.
The Festival’s job is to renew, support and sustain writers with laughter and talking, sharing, critiquing, celebrating and learning. Then comes the writing. My daughter is right. Everyone must find their time to be still, to sit at a desk (or on a train or in a shed or up a tree) and make the words come. For me the time is now, in the few weeks before teaching resumes and the exciting journey towards next year’s Festival begins.
I hope you’re finding your time, too. If you’ve written anything during or since the Festival that you’d like to share, do send a sample (no more than 100 words) and I’ll post it over the summer on our website.