Thank you Winchester

Michelle Howes’ debut children’s novel, FEED, has just been published by Chicken House and Michelle has generously agreed to write a guest post this week about the significance of a one-to-one appointment at Winchester in 2011.

Michelle HowesIn 2011 I made a very important decision, one of the best I’ve ever made. I booked a place at the Winchester Writer’s Festival (or Conference, as it was then).

Filling out the form, I looked down the long list of agents, publishers and authors to book my three one-to-ones. One name stood out, Barry Cunningham, a big name in the world of children’s literature, and someone I’d admired. So you can imagine how pleased I was to get a one-to-one with him. I set to work polishing my three chapters and synopsis and sent them off.

On the day of the conference I was excited, although not entirely sure what to expect. I had a long journey from Nottingham, but arrived in plenty of time. The Keynote that year was delivered by Barry, and was a great start to the day. It was my first time at an event like Winchester and I can only describe the atmosphere as buzzing. Everyone was friendly and it was great to be surrounded by like-minded people for the first time.

I had a morning of brilliant talks and two one-to-ones. In the afternoon it was time for my meeting with Barry. Feeling a little anxious, I went in, the room full of people having their own appointments. Barry shook my hand and one of the first things he said to me was that he liked my chapters. I could quite easily have hugged him then and left, happy with that one single comment, but I sat down and we had our fifteen minutes. He was lovely and enthusiastic about my story and agreed for me to send him the whole manuscript.

FEEDThat day was the start on my long road to publication. After many rewrites and working closely with Barry’s team at Chicken House, my first book was published on 2 January 2014. It’s called FEED and it’s for children aged 10+ – a great adventure story about survival. Oh, and a few aliens are thrown in too!

To be published is an amazing feeling. Writers spend hours working alone, and having festivals like Winchester are so important. To talk to other writers and to hear their stories is wonderful. So thank you, Winchester – I hope to return for another visit soon.