2021 Writers' Weekend Programme

The Weekend is now over. Please join our e-newsletter mailing list for the most up-to-date announcements.

Sunday, 16 May - Monday, 5 July

Writers’ Circles

Virtual writing groups for peer feedback. Writers are grouped by genre, but at mixed levels, with up to five others. Writers’ Circles kick-off with a virtual session on how to run an effective writing group, on Sunday, 16 May at 3:00pm BST, led by author and lecturer Judith Heneghan. Groups share work and meet online weekly, using our easy-to-use software. The Writers’ Circles end with each person receiving a one-to-one with a literary agent or author mentor. For more information, visit the ‘What’s It All About‘ page.

Monday, 21 - Friday, 25 June

Reedsy FREE 30-minute one-to-one editorial sessions

Available only with Weekend, Saturday or Sunday package.

Reedsy is a marketplace connecting authors and publishers with the world’s leading publishing talent — from editors and proofreaders to cover designers, illustrators, ghostwriters and literary translators. So far, over 20,000 authors have trusted Reedsy to find the perfect editors for their book. To choose the perfect editor for you, read about their professional editors that will be giving one-to-ones at the Writers’ Weekend in the Expo Speakers tab on the Speakers page.

Thursday, 24 June

1:00  – 10:00 pm

Braindate Group Chats

Post a topic you’d like to discuss and a time on the Group Chat Forum or join a topic that is already posted. Meet others to share ideas, ask questions, and build connections in a small group. For details and suggestions on how to get the most out of these virtual chat rooms, visit the What’s it All About? page.

1:00 – 5:00 pm
and 6:00 – 7:15 pm

One-to-Ones

Video-conference one-to-one appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors and author mentors

Please read!  One-to-ones are 15-minute appointments with specialists who will offer constructive criticism to work-in-progress, discuss publishing/marketing possibilities and give advice on writing difficulties.  Specialists read your submissions before the ‘Weekend’ so that your appointment with them is effective.  It is recommended that you carefully read each speaker/agent  biography on our Speakers page, note availability, consider what each speaker is or is not looking for, and research their website before deciding who you’d like to meet. 

7:00 – 8:00 pm

How to Revise Your Manuscript and Query Letter: Tips from Reedsy Editors

If you’re looking to secure a book deal, you must first know how to write the perfect query letter, when it’s best to submit that query, and how to polish your manuscript to best appeal to agents and publishers. In this panel, Reedsy co-founder Ricardo Fayet was joined by two experienced editors who will share their ultimate revision tips and give you the inside scoop on querying agents:

  • Scott Pack, former HarperCollins Publisher
  • Victoria Hughes-Williams, former Senior Commissioning Editor at Pan Macmillan


Friday, 25 June

1:00 – 5:00 pm
and 6:00 – 7:15 pm

One-to-Ones

Video-conference one-to-one appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors and author mentors

1:00 – 10:00 pm

Braindate Group Chats

Post a topic you’d like to discuss and a time on the Group Chat Forum or join a topic that is already posted. Meet others to share ideas, ask questions, and build connections in a small group.

1:00 – 6:00 pm

Writers’ Weekend Expo

Take a virtual stroll down our Expo Avenue and dip into the exhibitor stands, ranging from self-publishers, editing services, and our official bookseller, to literary gifts!

7:00 – 10:00 pm

Success Story Readings – live author readings

Sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy readings by authors that have found publishing success as a result of attending the Writers’ Festival/Writers’ Weekend. 

Ilona Bannister – When I Ran Away
Gigi Stanislawski, a New Yorker married to a middle-class British banker, thought that moving to London and having a baby would release her from the grief of her past. But in reality, she feels isolated, raw, and alone as she comes face-to-face with the anguish of her brother’s death on 9/11 and her rage at the unspoken pain of motherhood. She walks out on her husband and children one morning and sits alone in a grubby hotel room, smoking, watching reality TV, and wondering how she will ever find the strength to return to her family. Startlingly honest and shot through with unexpected humour, When I Ran Away is a novel about love – for our partners, our children, our mothers and ourselves – pushed to its outer limits.

Tammye Huf – A More Perfect Union
Henry O’Toole sails to America in 1848 to escape famine in Ireland, only to find anti-Irish prejudice awaiting him. Determined never to starve again, he changes his surname to Taylor and heads south to Virginia, seeking work as a travelling blacksmith. Sarah is a slave. Torn from her family and sold to Jubilee Plantation, she must navigate the hierarchy of her fellow slaves, the whims of her white masters, and now the attentions of the mysterious blacksmith. Inspired by the true story of the author’s great-great-grandparents, this is an epic tale of love and courage, desperation and determination.

Jason Mann – The Echoing Shore
How deep would you go to hide the truth?
A lifeboat is lost off Cornwall’s wild Atlantic coast, killing the entire crew. The cause is never fully explained. Ten years later – Kate Tregillis, the editor of a struggling local newspaper who walked away from a high-flying career in London, becomes obsessed with solving the longstanding mystery. The investigations spark a backlash of violence, hate and threats in the insular fishing community of St Branok. At stake is the future of her newspaper, her love for a man who has his own secrets – and even her very life.

Amanda Campbell – Leave Well Alone
‘That bone-chilling winter’s day when my brother returned home for good was when I first contemplated murdering my mother…’
How far would you go to protect your family?
When Eva’s brother Ben announces he has found their mother, Eva is determined to have nothing to do with the woman who abandoned them eighteen years ago to a traumatic childhood in foster care. Eva is happy now, in a loving relationship with rich and dependable Jim, and she is pregnant. Nothing can change Eva’s mind. But when her baby is born with a serious hereditary illness, she is forced to confront both her mother and her past. Eva begins to find forgiveness. But as old secrets and layers of deceit emerge, she makes a shocking discovery on a USB, leaving her fearing for her baby’s, husband’s, and her own life.

Kate Bradley – What I Did
Lisa is running.
She has taken her child, Jack, and she has run from his father.
Lisa thinks she’s safe.
She’s found a remote house where no one will be able to find them.
Lisa is about to wake up in her worst nightmare.
And now she must face what she’s tried to escape.
Risking everything to protect her little boy, Lisa knows that in order to survive she will have to fight, but it’s hard to face someone you loved, especially someone you still love, who knows who you really are – and what you are really capable of.
Family is everything. What would you do to protect it?

Louise Fein – People Like Us
1930’s Leipzig. Hetty is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it. Until Walter changes everything. The boy who saved her life. A Jew. Anti-semitism is growing by the day. Neighbours, friends, family members are turning on one another. Hetty is falling in love with a man she has been taught to hate and she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Will she risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself?

Catherine Randall – The White Phoenix
The White Phoenix is a children’s historical novel set in London, 1666. After her father’s sudden death, 13-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother take over The White Phoenix – the family bookshop by St Paul’s Cathedral. But women aren’t supposed to run businesses, England is at war with France and everywhere there are dark rumours. As fear of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice and blackmail to protect the bookshop she loves. When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have?

Annie Garthwaite – Cecily
“Rebellion?”
The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips.
She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise. You are CECILY.
But when the King who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the blood and exhilaration of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.

Hazel Prior – Away With The Penguins
Away with the Penguins tells the story of Veronica McCreedy, a curmudgeonly eighty-five-year-old millionairess whose life is completely transformed by a decision – to travel to Antarctica to see some penguins. She foists herself on a group of scientists studying the penguins in a remote island field base. There, the tragic events of her past begin to unfold, but kindness brings healing. Part historical drama, part environmental writing, the story has been described as quirky and uplifting. It became a Christmas number one ebook best-seller and was selected for both Radio 2’s Book Club and Richard and Judy’s Book Club.

Saturday, 26 June

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

One-to-Ones

Video-conference one-to-one appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors and author mentors

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Braindate Group Chats

Post a topic you’d like to discuss and a time on the Group Chat Forum or join a topic that is already posted. Meet others to share ideas, ask questions, and build connections in a small group.

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Writers’ Weekend Expo

Take a virtual stroll down our Expo Avenue and dip into the exhibitor stands, ranging from self-publishers, editing services, and our official bookseller, to literary gifts! Check out who will be there on the Exhibitors page.

11:00 am – 12:00

Ask Matador About Self-Publishing

Hannah, Jonathan and Megan from Matador Publishing were on-hand to answer any questions you have about the self-publishing process and it if is the right choice for you.

12:00 – 1:00 pm

Ask an Agent Drop-in Session

Clare Wallace of the Darley Anderson Children’s Book Agency answered your questions about submitting, cover letters, contracts, the agenting process, and everything else you want to know. Read about Clare by clicking on the Expo Speaker tab on the Speakers page.

Virtual Saturday Talks with Q&A

1:15 - 2:15 pm

How to Make Your Submission Stand Out from the Crowd

Jo Fletcher, publisher, and Ian Drury, literary agent
Literary agents receive hundreds of submissions each week. Jo and Ian guided us through the key steps to give your script the best chance of being read. From cover letter to the Elevator Pitch, they revealed what agents and publishers are looking for.
Robert Fabbri

Researching Your Novel and Fleshing Out Characters

Robert Fabbri, author of historical fiction
Author of the bestselling Vespasian series, Robert Fabbri shared his research process when beginning a new novel and explained how he fleshes out historical figures to bring them alive for the modern reader but remain credible products of their society.

Creative Collaboration: The Agent-Author Relationship

Ella Diamond Kahn, literary agent, and Sharon Gosling, author
In this talk, Ella & her client Sharon Gosling discussed their working relationship to give you a better understanding of the relationship between authors and agents. They explored what is expected of new authors and what they should expect in return, the benefits of having an agent and the importance of having a good connection between author and agent in order to make the most of it, and what an agent looks for in an author.


2:30 - 3:30 pm

**The Top Ten Common Mistakes Found in Submissions and How to Correct Them

Literary agents Megan Carroll, Watson Little Ltd and Laura Williams, Greene & Heaton
Megan and Laura shared their top commonly-found bugbears when reading cover letters and manuscript submissions and explained why they are a distraction to an agent and how the mistakes can be avoided. A great insight into an agent's mind!
MG Leonard

Plotting and Pacing

MG Leonard, children's author
Award-winning writer MG Leonard, author of Beetle Boy, and co-author of the best-selling Adventures on Trains series, is a master of plot and pacing. She discussed the importance of getting a balance between action, emotion, empathy and humour throughout the course of a complete story. This talk is suitable for writers of both adult and children’s fiction.
Adrienne Dines

Creating Conflict - How to, When to, and Why You Should

Adrienne Dines, author
Creating the kind of credible conflicts that drive stories is a task for any storyteller. You want to feel the characters are doing their fair share of the hard work. In this talk, Adrienne considered different types of conflict and how you can use them to keep everyone (un)happy!


3:45 - 4:45 pm

Tracey Corderoy

Cooking Up a Great Picture Book: the ingredients that make a picture book magical

Tracey Corderoy, children's author
Author of numerous popular picture books, Tracey discussed writing in rhyme and prose, and take you right through the creative process from generating ideas, through planning and creation, collaborating with illustrators, editors and agents and finally launching your freshly published story in creative and memorable ways. This talk was followed by Q&A.
Derek Miller

Negotiating Our Complex Relationships with Genres

Derek Miller, novelist
In order to write across genres it is important to understand that they are theorized things; forms of writing that ostensibly hold together what we’ve been discussing since Aristotle talked about comedy and tragedy as being separate and distinct. But even knowing what they are doesn’t answer what they do.

Derek used examples from his novels, He discussed how to make use of genres, but also how to make sure that genre limitations don’t limit your imagination. He also differentiated how the book industry — the agents, editors, booksellers, critics — thinks about a writer’s relationship to genre and what that will mean for you. Finally, he discussed genre from the reader’s perspective because, in the end, writers and readers must connect and genres are one of the mediating forces in our lives that both connect and separate us from one another. Derek’s talk was followed by Q&A.

7:00 – 8:00 pm

Diana Gabaldon

**Virtual Keynote Address:    Diana Gabaldon 

Best-selling author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon has built an empire out of novels that merge the genres of historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure and fantasy and have been adapted into a hugely popular television series…and it all started by accident.

Diana spoke live about her inspiration for the novels, how she merges multiple genres and creates characters that people all over the world love to follow over a series and across media. She might even give you a glimpse into her ninth novel in the series Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone. Her talk was followed by Q&A.

8:30 – 10:30 pm

‘All a Bard!’ Virtual Open Mic with MC Simon Hall

Attendees and speakers were invited to read extracts (no longer than four minutes) from their published or unpublished short stories, novels, poems or plays to an international audience!  

Sunday, 27 June

9:00 am – 1:00 pm

One-to-Ones

Video-conference one-to-one appointments with literary agents, commissioning editors and author mentors

11:00 am – 12:00

Ask Matador About Self-Publishing

Hannah, Jonathan and Megan from Matador Publishing were on-hand to answer any questions you have about the self-publishing process and it if is the right choice for you.

12:00 – 1:00 pm

‘Ask an Agent’ – Blake Friedmann

A drop-in session with Juliet Pickering and Samuel Hodder of Blake Friedmann Literary Agency in which they answered authors’ submission and publishing queries and gave advice on the process of finding an agent and becoming published. 

1:00 – 2:00 pm

Chris Riddell
Through the Looking Glass

**Virtual Keynote address:  Chris Riddell

Defying the Tyranny of the Blank Page – Chris Riddell’s Strategies for Fostering Creativity

Multi-award-winning author, illustrator, former children’s laureate and political cartoonist for The Observer, Chris Riddell guided us through his daily routine and showcased a breadth of his impressive artwork, using examples from his own sketchbooks and notebooks which have helped him create ideas and projects.

Chris discussed how curating these sketchbooks has helped him get beyond the creative block that can beset even the most determined of writers and artists. Chris has illustrated a brand new edition of the famous children’s book, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (Macmillan Children’s Books), and he demonstrated his process of working closely with a text to gain a personal perspective on reinventing a well-known and adored classic.

For more information about Chris, please visit the Speakers page.


Virtual Sunday Talks with Q&A

2:15 - 3:15 pm

Reshma Ruia

Multi-Cultural Storytelling

Reshma Ruia, author and poet
This one-hour talk will focus on writing about various cultures and different genders with empathy and sensitivity. Reshma will draw upon her own writing and give other examples to show how a writer can use his or her imagination and research to build an authentic world that the reader can relate to or discover afresh. It is all too easy to revert to cultural stereotypes and over-simplification and she will suggest ways in which one can avoid this and also not fall into the trap of cultural appropriation. The talk was followed by a Q &A.

'It's Not Just a Description' - using the character's world to tell the story

Lissa Evans, author of novels for both adults and children, in conversation with Georgina Lippiett
Its all too easy to think of scene description as something additional to story and character – a colourful filler, perhaps, like a slice of beetroot in a ham sandwich, but irrelevant to the overall shape of the narrative. It should, however, be far more than that. This talk will be about how description can further the story, by filtering experiences through the eyes of our characters and allowing the reader to make inferences that can move the plot forward without clunky exposition. Not so much a slice of beetroot, but the mustard that binds it all together... This talk was followed by Q&A.
Helen Fields

Putting the Grey into Black and White

Helen Fields, author of crime/thrillers
How to inject those moments when a reader catches their breath and says ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming’. Helen showed writers how this can be achieved when characters change directions (or sides); the plot changes direction or speed; and characters’ motivations change or suddenly become clear. Helen explained how to plan for and execute the "twists" so often talked about in crime book blurbs.


3:30 - 4:30 pm

Madeleine Milburn

The Perfect Pitch: how to pitch upmarket / book club fiction to an agent

Madeleine Milburn, literary agent
Knowing when your novel is ready to submit to an agent, finding the appropriate agent to submit to, and what to include in a submission package to make sure it grabs an agent’s attention will be the goal of this talk. Using case studies of successful submissions, and how an agent might pitch to a publisher, you’ll be armed with the techniques you need to make your book stand out as different, unique, and marketable. The talk was followed by Q&A.

Miranda Malins

Re-Imagining the Past - How to research and write compelling historical fiction

Miranda Malins, writer and historian
Can fiction truly bring the past to life? How does writing fiction compare with writing history and where do the two meet? And how do you go about the research process? Dr Miranda Malins tackled these questions as she described how she recreated Oliver Cromwell's Protectoral court of the 1650s in her debut novel The Puritan Princess. She explained how and why she moved from writing history to fiction, how historical research techniques can inform fiction writers, and what the overlaps and distinctions are between both genres.

Attendees found out how to mine the historical record to reveal the hidden gems that bring a novel to life; and how not to be constrained, but inspired by history so the mountain of research you see in front of you no longer seems insurmountable. The right approach to research, planning and writing can equip you not only to take your readers on an enjoyable, immersive journey back-in-time but to change their perspective, challenging them to overturn their assumptions about both past and present. This talk was followed by Q&A.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Myth-Making: Using Myths and Legends in Your Writing

Kiran Millwood Hargrave, award-winning author of novels for both children and adults
In this talk, author Kiran Millwood Hargrave explained how she uses myths and legends as the basis for her own books, and explored the challenges and joys of repurposing such tales for your own stories, from plot structure to cultural considerations. She offered recommended reading, and lead a short exercise demonstrating a technique she uses in her own work.


4:45 - 5:45 pm

Ness Wood

The Importance of Book Cover Design

Ness Wood, award-winning book designer and art director
Ness spoke about cover design and how a good design can have an impact on book sales. She discussed how you should consider the aims of your book cover and how to attract your audience through your cover design. This is especially important for those that are considering self-publishing but is a topic relevant to all writers. Ness spoke mainly from her experience with children’s books to older teenage fiction, but her insight can benefit any genre.
Candy Gourlay

The Art of Being Discovered - What authors need to know about social media

Candy Gourlay, children's author and early adopter of digital platforms
What does an author have to do to get discovered on Social Media? How do you serve your true fans? How do you make new ones? What do you have to do to get your social media "friends" and "followers" to actually buy your book? How can you build a platform without the time suck? Author, journalist, early adopter of digital platforms, and blogger, Candy shared ideas answered questions.
Kira-Anne Pelican

**Using Psychology to Create Compelling Fictional Characters

Kira-Anne Pelican, writer, educator and script consultant
Have ideas about your character-in-development to hand and be prepared to put them through their paces in this one-hour talk. We'll look at how the Big Five personality dimensions and their thirty facets can be used to create complex, nuanced and memorable characters. Attendees learned: * Why rounded or complex characters are best understood through the Big Five dimensions * How these influence your character's behaviour, relationships, motivations, beliefs, emotional experience of the world as well as their dialogue * Why some characters are more memorable than others.

4:00 – 8:00 pm

Braindate Group Chats

For details on these virtual chat rooms, visit the What’s it All About? page.

7:00 – 8:00 pm

 

Helping Creative Women to Discover and Develop Their Talents
Kate Mosse, Abi Daré and Lucy Morris

No 1 international bestselling author and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction,  Kate Mosse; author Abi Daré and Curtis Brown Literary Agent Lucy Morris offered tips on the writing and publishing process. From carving out time to write, ideas to get the creative juices flowing and the best way to secure representation you’ll be inspired to follow your writing dreams.

Kate, Abi and Lucy are all judges for the Women’s Prize Trust’s new talent development programme Discoveries, powered by NatWest and Curtis Brown. The unique programme offers aspiring female authors of all ages and backgrounds practical support and encouragement at the beginning of their creative journeys to develop their craft, increase their confidence and improve their financial management skills.

** Included in the Taster-View Package

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