The Writers' Weekend has new owners!
After ten years as the Event Manager and then Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Writers’ Weekend, and keeping it going through a pandemic(!), Sara Gangai has decided to retire from the Writers’ Weekend to focus on her new business, Shared Memories (details below).
She has cherished her time helping writers hone their skills, meet other writers and, for many, gain publication. Sara says, ‘I have loved meeting so many talented and passionate writers and am proud of the tiny part that I have played in their writing journey, but I believe that now is a good time for new leadership that will bring fresh energy and enthusiasm to the event. I would like to thank the many attendees, literary agents, commissioning editors and authors that have supported the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Writers’ Weekend over the years. I think that the founder of the Winchester Writers’ Festival, Barbara Large, would be thrilled that the seed that she planted over 40+ years ago has continued to grow and flourish and has remained one of the top festivals for writers in the UK!’
After searching for the perfect new owners, Sara is delighted to announce that Sarah Post and Elane Retford of I AM in Print will take over as co-directors! The new event will be named The I AM Writing Festival and will be held from 10 – 12 June IN-PERSON at the University of Winchester with virtual elements beginning on 4 June!
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A bit about Sarah and Elane
Elane and Sarah have ‘words’ to thank for their friendship after being forced to sit in alphabetical order on the first day of secondary school. Elane remembers marvelling that Sarah was really cool and how lucky she was to be next to her. Sarah recalls a girl who wouldn’t stop talking, and has been trying to get a word in edgeways ever since.
More than thirty years later, words played a significant role in their lives again. While attempting a co-authored novel*, they set up I AM in print immediately after their third delegate visit to the Winchester Writers’ Festival. Feeling freshly inspired, they wanted to continue learning about the publishing world and to share this knowledge with as many people as possible.
‘We’ve created dream jobs for ourselves.’ Sarah says. ‘Who wouldn’t enjoy being able to read and promote books, and chat with authors, agents and publishers for motivation and writing advice?’
Now in their third year of business, they have hosted multiple virtual events, have amassed thousands of worldwide writerly connections and a very large contacts book filled with agent, publisher and author details. They recognised a need to connect writers with agents directly for manuscript advice and setup #Agent121 in 2019 before virtual events became the norm! They host weekly agent sessions online for writers to obtain feedback on their submission packages when they most need it, as well as quarterly #Agent121 Weekends. There will be plenty of opportunities for agent feedback at the I AM Writing Festival both virtually, for ease of accessibility, and in person.
“We love talking to and cheering on writers from around the world,’ Sarah continues, ‘and YES, we are proud to say that agent representation has been made a number of times through our room.”
The pair are now beyond thrilled to announce they are taking over as owners and directors of the former Winchester Writers’ Festival and Virtual Writers’ Weekend as Sara Gangai hands over the baton after over a decade of running the annual event. Elane and Sarah recognise that Sara is a tough act to follow and are grateful for all her support and advice as they work towards hosting the festival in 2022. Having started their publishing venture as writers themselves (*there’s that book again) they want everyone to feel assured that the event will be in safe hands as they take it forwards.
“We are honoured to continue the good work of Sara Gangai, Judith Heneghan and Barbara Large and can’t wait to get started”, says Elane before adding, “Having attended this festival as both delegates and exhibitors we understand what it means to writers and what they want to get out of their time at the event. And we will do our very best to ensure everyone leaves the festival inspired by some of the best professionals the industry has to offer.”
The full programme is yet to be announced but it will take place physically, at its home, The University of Winchester from Friday 10 to Sunday 12 June 2022, with a virtual element occurring from 4 June. They have already made a start on what promises to be an incredible lineup sparking lots of literary conversation, so make a note of the dates in your diary now and the new name: The I AM Writing Festival. Register for the I AM in print newsletter to be first to know what’s happening and get ready to select your festival package as bookings go live in the Spring!
*The official line is that Elane and Sarah are not in print as of yet, because of the work involved with I AM in print! However, in truth, even if they did make time to finish their book, what literary agent would be brave enough to take them on?!
Sara Gangai’s new venture is a small business that interviews and video-records individuals to capture their personal memories. Sara has an MA in Regional and Local History and Archaeology from the University of Winchester and has always had a passion to meet new people and hear their stories. She believes that everyone has a unique story within them and it is important that these recollections are captured for posterity before they are lost.
She says, ‘If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that nothing can be taken for granted. We think that we’ll have all the time in the world to visit with relatives and share family stories. But in reality, it hasn’t been so easy. The result is that older family members have felt lonely and isolated, and important memories are being lost. I hope to remedy the situation with Shared Memories and give people of any age an opportunity to talk about their past so that they’re captured for future generations.’
Sara is in the early stages of the new company, but you can be assured that she will provide the highest level of service and professionalism, just as she has done for the Writers’ Weekend.
Some of the services she intends to deliver:
- Personal Histories
- Living Wills or Last Wishes
- Anniversary or Birthday Tributes
- Memorial Tributes
- Grandma’s Recipes – we film while Grandma/pa makes favourite family recipes!
- Business or Career Histories
- House, Village or School Histories
To learn more as she gets up and running:
Please spread the word to your friends and family and follow Sara on
Twitter: @MemoriesShared and Facebook
And if you’d kindly write a testimonial on her LinkedIn page about your experiences at the Winchester Writers’ Festival/Writers’ Weekend, it would be greatly appreciated!
Writing a novel? Struggling to edit your manuscript? Interested in developing a plot line?
Eager to find an agent or publisher?
The Virtual Writers’ Weekend is for writers working at all levels and in every genre who want to improve their writing, get their manuscript published, and network with agents, published authors, and other writers in a friendly and supportive environment.
The 2021 Virtual Writers' Weekend was held from 24-27 June with record attendance!
See what attendees had to say and scroll down for a short round-up on this year's event!
And that’s a wrap!
The 2021 Writers’ Weekend was host to a record number of attendees from 23 countries, including New Zealand, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, France, all over the USA and Canada, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Romania, and of course, England!
We enjoyed 18 talks on the craft of writing, keynotes by the delightful Diana Gabaldon and incredible illustrator Chris Riddell, plus over 600 one-to-one appointments with 33 top literary agents, publishers and author mentors. Attendees met each other for small-group Braindate discussions on interesting topics, such as the highs and lows of the submission process and self-publishing. A number of speakers also offered their expertise in Braindates, and some took the opportunity to form writing groups by genre or location.
Our exceptional speakers included bestselling and award-winning novelists Robert Fabbri, Kate Mosse, Lissa Evans, Tracey Corderoy, MG Leonard, Derek Miller, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Reshma Ruia, Helen Fields, induststry specialists Ness Wood, Jo Fletcher, Ian Drury, Ella Kahn, Megan Carroll, Laura Williams, Denise Baden, Candy Gourlay, Kira-Anne Pelican and Adrienne Dines. The programme is overflowing with ways to learn, discuss, ask questions, be inspired and entertained, and meet others.
The highlight for many were the one-to-one sessions with the many literary agents and publishers that attended to give supportive commercial feedback on manuscripts. For a list of the agents and publishers attending, see our Speaker page and click on ‘Virtual One-to-One Mentors’.
And we must also mention the fabulous evening events, including Success Story Author Readings given by nine debut authors that found success, in part, by attending the Writers’ Weekend, a panel led by best-selling author Kate Mosse and including author Abi Dare and literary agent Lucy Morris to help women to discover and develop their writing talent, plus an informative panel given by professional editors at Reedsy.com.
Competition winners were announced on Friday evening and can be viewed on the Competition Winners page.
The Expo was buzzing with the opportunity to have a virtual chat with exhibitors and take advantage of special discounts offered to attendees. Check out our Exhibitors page to see them all!
It was wonderful to see old friends and make new ones at the Writers’ Weekend and as recordings are now available, attendees can enjoy the talks throughout the summer.
We hope that those that attended this year enjoyed the Weekend and we hope to see you next year!
2021 Keynote Speakers
Best-selling author of the Outlander series
Award-winning illustrator and author of books for children
Fans of Diana’s hugely popular Outlander series were delighted to hear her talk that mixed her writing process, readings from her upcoming ninth book in the series, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, and answering questions from the audience (Apparently, Lizzie is a mushroom! Who knew?)
Illustrator, author and political cartoonist, Chris presented a fascinating talk about his inspirations and writing process, whilst sketching throughout! It was a rare glimpse into his shed at the bottom of his garden. He illustrated his entire talk enthralling the audience with his drawing skills and had us all in hysterics!