2018 Festival Overview

A huge thank you to everyone who attended the 2018 University of Winchester Writers’ Festival on 15-17 June. We welcomed 300 emerging writers and 70 literary agents, editors, novelists, poets, script consultants and other industry experts for nearly fifty separate talks, readings and workshops across the campus.

The weekend began with an informal get-together on the Thursday evening in a local pub. More attendees arrived on Friday morning, ready for a prompt 9.30am start in their choice of one of eleven all-day courses, ranging from how to pitch to an agent (with Hellie Ogden or Hannah Shepherd) and edit your work (with Blue Pencil)  to genre workshops on memoir (with Cathy Galvin), script (with Lisa Evans), fantasy (with Ian Drury), YA fiction (with Patrice Lawrence), picture books (with Tracey Corderoy), ’emotional conflict’ (with Adrienne Dines) and independent publishing (with Scott Pack).

Once the workshops had finished, attendees were able to prepare for the evening’s open mic with performance poet Antosh Wojcik, find out about independent publishing with Myriad publisher Candida Lacey, or listen to a presentation on self-publishing from IngramSpark.

After an early dinner, the evening options included a fascinating talk on writing historical fiction by James Aitcheson, or a thought-provoking panel about cultural appropriation with Patrice Lawrence and Cathy Galvin, expertly chaired by Stephen Thompson.

This was followed by a two-hour open mic. Each writer had four minutes to wow the supportive audience, and all read their prose and poetry with tremendous verve. Bravo to everyone who took part.

Saturday, the Festival’s busiest day, began early with an inspirational keynote from novelist Patrick Gale, in conversation with Festival director Judith Heneghan. The queue at the book signing afterwards was testament to Patrick’s wit, grace and warmth – qualities that infuse all his work.

The rest of the day consisted of a choice of 31 talks on a vast range of subject matter from ‘Clandestine Scenes’ with forensic archaeologist Anna Chaussée to ‘Myth, Mystery and Magic’ with novelist Sarah Mussi, ‘Cooking Up a Picture Book’ with Andrew Weale and ‘Your Submission Letter’ with literary agent Felicity Trew. Attendees were also able to relax before dinner and listen to readings by poet Jacqueline Saphra or YA novelist and literary agent Chloe Seager, purchase books from P&G Wells  at the book fair and browse the other exhibitor stands.

Saturday dinner guests were treated to an entertaining and heartfelt talk by children’s novelist Helen Dennis, author of the Secret Breakers series. We were also delighted to welcome back Barbara Large, the Festival’s founder. The evening then concluded with the second of the Festival’s two open mics.

Throughout Friday and Saturday, Festival attendees had the chance to meet with top literary agents, commissioning editors and genre specialists for up to four one-to-one appointments. The experience can be intense for an emerging writer, but many attendees commented on feeling energised by these encounters, with constructive feedback and commercial insights to help them revise their work and many requests to see completed manuscripts. We have already heard about four new signings with agents and look forward to more good news in the coming months.

Sunday is always a calmer day at the Festival. With no one-to-one appointments, attendees participate in one of seven all-day workshops with a focus on new work – something to take away and develop in the weeks ahead. This year, workshops ranged from short stories with Claire Fuller and historical fiction with Judith Allnatt, to workshops on character dating, scripting your story, a sense of place, ‘Overcoming the Monster’ with Cliff McNish and poetry with Tami Haaland.

By 4pm on Sunday, another Festival had concluded. Special thanks go to our student hosts and volunteers, who worked tirelessly in the lead-up and throughout the weekend. We are also immensely grateful to all our speakers – too many to mention here – who supported us so expertly in the talks, workshops and over 700 individual appointments.

Here’s to a wonderful Festival, and another year of great writing!

With our best wishes,
Judith and Sara