This month’s blog comes from Festival attendee Rebecca Tinnelly.
I am pretty lucky, certainly in writing terms. I have an agent (which still makes me grin like a fool whenever I write it) and I’m currently planning my second novel whilst my agent (queue grin) edits the first. Not bad, eh?
But, would I be in this position without the Winchester Writers’ Festival? Probably not.
Let me explain.
I first attended Winchester (as the cool kids call it) in 2015, shy, nervous and still recovering from the confidence-eradicating curse of post-natal depression and PTSD. But I was here, I had done it, written that book I always said I would write, carrying aloft the manuscript of my first novel. This was going to be it. I was going to find an agent who saw my potential and everyone was going to fall in love with this wonderful book I had written…
Queue the biggest shock of my life. Because nobody signed me, nobody even asked to read the entire manuscript and I learned that the publishing industry is damn hard to crack.
But what I got instead was so, so much better. I wasn’t given luck; I was given the foundations of a career. I discovered the groundings of good writing, teachers who were enthusiastic and wanted me to succeed, I made great friends and I learnt so much about the industry as a whole that my prospects sky rocketed.
I met Simon Hall, the teacher who became my mentor who thus became a good friend. I can’t recommend his writing course enough; it changed my perception of writing, gave me the confidence and the tools to write to my best ability. He’s still my first port of call on all writing problems and, if there are any places left on his course, do grab one with both hands. Just don’t panic too much if he throws chairs against the wall or breathes on your neck whilst your eyes are closed.
This year I returned to Winchester for the second time. Same book, completely rewritten (for the twelfth time) and I possessed not just confidence but a sense of reality. I kept an open mind. I came to learn, to seek advice on improving my craft, I accepted any criticism offered with open arms, only wincing very slightly when it was negative. And guess what? It paid off. In bucket loads.
The woman who could barely leave her house three years before stood up before a crowd of people and read her own work (That’s me.)
Largely helped by Kate Firth’s incredible performance workshop and Simon Hall egging me on to get up there and bloody well do it. (And if you’re planning on reading at the open mic – do! I recommend memorising as much of your piece as possible, it really does help you connect with your audience.)
I didn’t technically find my agent at Winchester, but I definitely found her because of Winchester. After the festival I rewrote the manuscript again and sent it off to a select few of the agents I had wanted to see at the festival but hadn’t been matched with for one-to-one appointments.
Four agents asked to see the book.
The next day I caught one of those dandelion fairies, the kind that you hold in the palm of your hand and make a wish. I wished for Kate Burke.
Was it the dandelion fairy? Or was it, perhaps, the vast amount of knowledge and experience I gained from Winchester that helped me out? Because guess what… Kate Burke at Diane Banks Associates signed me up. And I haven’t stopped grinning since, because she is awesome.
As, of course, is the Winchester Writer’s Festival.
Rebecca Tinnelly is most interested in writing about the darker side of society and family life, no doubt fuelled by the stories she was told by her stepmother, a consultant pathologist. After seven years in sales and marketing, most recently selling coffins, she waved goodbye to the office and now spends her time writing psychological suspense and, when not writing, bakes the odd cake or two.