2020 Writers' Weekend Round-up

Last July, we celebrated the inaugural Writers’ Weekend. Initially planned as an in-person event, we quickly transitioned to a virtual format when the pandemic struck, spending many long days and nights researching and identifying virtual event software, developing our event platform, and training 67 speakers, 20 exhibitors and hundreds of attendees on how to comfortably interact with the software. While festivals and events across the UK, and the world, decided to cancel, we were one of the first to attempt an online event of this magnitude in the UK. And from the feedback that we received, it was a huge success!

The virtual element really came into its own, allowing writers to connect with each other from all over the world, from the comfort of their own homes. Across four days we had over 420 one-to-one appointments, 67 speakers giving 36 talks and workshops, and over 50 Braindates and Writers Circles, as well as our ever-popular Open Mics with MC extraordinaire, Simon Hall.

 

We heard Eoin Colfer speak about his route to publication and the magic to be found in relationships; with your agent, your publisher and, of course, your characters.

Lissa Evans shared her thoughts on writing, the importance of finding the process that works best for you (even if it looks odd to others!), the devilish art of creating good comedy and the unexpected gems you discover when you submerge yourself in research.

Jacqueline Saphra’s workshop turned us on to ecopoetry and the power to be found in considering our relationship with the natural world. Sue Wallman, J.M. Joseph, Skylark, Sarah Mussi, Patrice Lawrence, Helen Dennis, Chitra Soundar, Barry Timms, Judy Waite, Annabelle Sami and Lucy Christopher, all shared tips, insights and advice for aspiring children’s writers.

And those writing for adults had a huge array of talks and workshops to choose from. Speakers such as Adrienne Dines, Nick Barlay, Claire Fuller, Judith Heneghan, Simon Hall, Catherine Menon, Susmita Bhattacharya, Joel Richardson and Mary Chamberlain, focused on the craft-based elements of making our writing the very best it can be.

But, as many authors reminded us over the weekend, writing the novel is only the first stage in the process of getting your book on the shelves. So, our Attendees also had the chance to hoover up the industry-insider knowledge shared with us by speakers such as Scott Pack, (who published a whole book online during the course of the session!), Kate Burke, Melissa Addey, Laura Williams, Arabella Stein, John Baker, Kathryn Taussig, and dream-team Jo Fletcher and Ian Drury.

We were thrilled to have three Scholarship winners with us, and are so grateful to Becky Bagnell of the Lindsey Literary Agency and Monica Wood for providing them with the opportunity to take part. In addition, attendee donations funded bursaries to enable six writers to participate in the ‘Weekend’.

We were also delighted with the high-quality and huge volume of competition entries, the judges certainly had their work cut out for them!

The writing community really came out in force to show their support for the weekend and for each other and we couldn’t be more delighted. Many thanks to all of the speakers, attendees, exhibitors and sponsors who supported the Writers’ Weekend.  We are planning a great programme for 2021 and we hope to have your support again!

Here are just a few of the comments that we’ve received from attendees:

 Just emailing you to let you know that I have now signed with Joanna Swainson of Hardman & Swainson after my one-to-one with her at the Writers’ Weekend. It’s just the first step on a long road to (hopefully) publication, and I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful festival and the one-to-ones, which opened up this opportunity for me.James Pierson

I really enjoyed the conversation and the questions – and I also took part in an interesting Braindate. It was a pleasure to be part of such a well organised and good-humoured event! Lissa Evans

The Virtual Writers Weekend was brilliant – thank you so so much for making it happen and for being such wonderful hosts – technologically as well as in the warmth of your welcome each day. Before the event you were always available for nervous techy people like me constantly ringing you up, and you prepped us so well that the technology, for me anyway, always worked so that after the first session I felt completely confident that I would be there attending all my booked talks, the brain dates and the one-to-ones.

I’d heard about the Winchester Writers’ Festival but never attended, and I thought the standard of all the talks was excellent given by such high calibre writers who could really put across their expertise. It went way beyond my expectations and I think I learned more in two days that I have in many other writing scenarios, and I’ve done many courses plus an MA in creative writing! My one-to-ones with agents was very good too – three out of the four have asked me to send the whole MS of my novel. They were very helpful re. pitching and wonderfully affirming about my writing. So I finished the weekend on a high. I’m now looking forward to watching/listening to all the talks I didn’t attend. –  Harriet Grace

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