Monday, September 16, 2013

FoW13 - the day after the weekend before

I did warn you I might not be able to live blog the festie this year. And so it came to pass. I quite literally was on the run the whole weekend and could never grab enough time to turn on my netbook for anything other than Powerpoint presentations for my workshops.

So herewith a brisk round-up to the best of my ability. The photos might suggest that my course and workshops consisted of me making other people do all the work. Reality is that it was only when they were scribbling that I had the opportunity to take any pix. The photos might appear a bit same-y as a result, but I'm going to post them anyway as I think/hope it will be nice for people to spot themselves and others.

Day 1. Friday begins with a minor panic when trains out of Kings Cross are all delayed or cancelled. Twitter was awash with panicking writers on their way to York. But, hey, we made it.

And so straight into the self-edit mini course, with a lovely group of enthusiastic and engaged writers.

There was just enough time to pick up my room key and drop off my bags, then I raced through the driving rain (unlike the glorious sunshine of previous years) to the Roger Kirk Centre for drink, food, drink, chat, drink, hugs.

WW photo

Julie Cohen and Nicola Morgan showing how it's done.
 The Friday Night Live competition, where seven brave souls read 500 words of their WIPs to 3 'judges' and an audience of 400 was won by Gabrielle Kent.

 WW photo

 Day 2. Saturday begins with a keynote address by Adele Parks. Among her pearls of wisdom was an example of the perfect elevator pitch, which I referred to over and over again in my 1-1s.

Then it was straight on to the prose microscope workshop. This was one I stepped into at the last minute to replace (as if I could) a workshop that would have been run by the fabulous Emma Darwin, who had to pull out at the last minute. This was a smaller group, maybe twenty or so. (They even had tables to lean on.) I do like the fact that so many people used pen and paper for the exercises.

Ten minutes later, I was chairing the thriller/crime genre panel with industry experts David Haviland (author and agent with Andrew Lownie), Alison Hennessey (senior crime editor at Harvill Secker) and Suzie Doore (editorial director at Hodder and Stoughton).

At least the sun was shining today.

Straight after lunch, an hour of 1-1s was followed by a rammed workshop for exploring the magic of Psychic Distance. If you missed it, do check out Emma Darwin's blog. Actually, check out Emma's blog anyway. It's packed with writerly insights into PD and much, much more.

Then another hour of 1-1s, a quick dash to my room to shower and change for the gala dinner.

Some of the wonderful Cloudies who were there. L-R: John Taylor (Johnonceupon), Neil Evans, Katherine Hetzel (Squidge), Sophie Jonas-Hill (Tenacityflux), Mandy Berriman (Skylark) and Imran Siddiq (Flickimp). Don't they scrub up well?
Anouska Huggins and Isabel Rogers with essential props
Inevitably, the absence of Harry Bingham was keenly felt though not everyone knew the reason why he wasn't there this year. It was up to me to get up on stage, welcome everyone and introduce Harry's virtual contribution to FoW13 - a video that left everyone sniffling. You can see the reason why here. (Warning: have a box of tissues close by.)

While on stage, I also tried to link people together so the net wouldn't be rattling for weeks after with people regretting they hadn't linked up. Stand up the WordClouders, Tweeters, online self-edit course grads and contributors to Stories for Homes. This also gave me the opportunity to thank the awesome Writers' Workshop Dream Team: Laura, Nikki, Deborah and Lydia for their mega organisational skills. They made it look easy. It's not. My bad though for not publicly thanking Susan Franklin, Mark Clementson and Ellen Hanns for running the 1-1s with their usual iron-hand-in-velvet-glove-ness. I hope they know how much they're appreciated for their efficiency, warmth, support and unflappability.

Kate Johnson (johkat) was the very popular winner of the Opening Chapter competition.

No caption necessary.
William Angelo (Athelstone)
Nikki Holt, Katherine Hetzel and Hannah Kaner. proving it's possible to be both glamorous and a writer (and/or organisational tour-de-force, in the case of Nikki).
Day 3. And so to Sunday. Rain and gale force winds lashed York as I raced over the walkway for two hours of 1-1s, followed by lunch, followed by the final workshop of the weekend: Dialogue. The lecture hall was packed. Brains should theoretically have been fried by a combination of hangovers and too much information crammed into too short a time, but the reverse turned out to be true. Fresh as a whole field of springtime daisies, the dialogue between us all perfectly illustrated the workshop's theme. You all rock!

The closing address was by S.J Bolton. I was too far away to get a decent photo of her but this was one of the slides she used. I posted it on Twitter and we all agreed it was a faithful representation of what a rejection looks like to those of us with thinner skins than are good for us. Sharon Bolton is known for her gripping horror novels. To me, that slide looks like horror flash fiction.

I went over to the Blackwell's book stall, where the staff had done their usual sterling job of - um - selling books throughout the weekend, hoping my suitcase would be lighter on the way home. And, whoop-de-whoop, they told me they had sold out of both Nirvana Bites and Trading Tatiana. Just as well both will be coming out as e-books.

And then, all too soon, it was over. Just over fifty hours that felt like weeks, months even. Inside our literary bubble for the weekend, time stretched as we crammed in so much information, so many experiences, such a maelstrom of insights, hugs, laughter and tears. (Yes, there were some of those too.) And a fair bit of alcohol.

Goodbye then #FoW13. You've been a blast. Thank you, thank you, thank you to each and everyone of you. You're all stars. Forward to FoW14.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Festival of Writing. York 2013

It's all happening. Over the coming weekend, I'll be in York, running a 4 hour mini course, 3 workshops, 24 Book Doctor sessions, chairing a genre panel and dispensing lots of writerly warmth.

I was pretty rubbish at my attempts to live blog the festival last year, but you can get a flavour here. (Scroll down.) Then, of course, there's the Festie 2012 book, available here. Given that my schedule this year is even more packed than last time, I make no promises to live blog but I'll do my best. If you can't make it to York and would like to find another way to improve your writing, you might be interested in the 6 week online self-edit course I run with Emma Darwin. Next one starts 22nd October.

See you when I see you. Oh, and if you're on Twitter, the hashtag is #FoW13.