There was so much on offer at the virtual Writers' Weekend

Here are some explanations of the sessions to help you understand the wealth of offerings that were available:


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. This is a golden opportunity to meet with an agent or editor for commercial feedback on your work.  Who knows?  They might want to see the full manuscript!  


Our one-hour talks are jam-packed with information and guidance, like a concentrated shot of writerly wisdom. There are 19 talks in all, covering all aspects of the craft and the business, across a variety of genres. Choose which ones best suit your needs at this point in your writing journey and book yourself on – or treat yourself to a recording of all 19 talks and enjoy the full gamut of what’s on offer.


The two-hour workshops provide a different experience, being hands-on, interactive sessions, that allow you to really dig into the subject. Our experienced facilitators will guide you through carefully constructed exercises, designed to deepen and expand your existing skills and understanding. There will also be the opportunity to ask questions and, time allowing, engage in some discussion before the sessions draw to a close. 


There’s something special about hearing a writer read their own words. It’s a uniquely personal and privileged experience, for both writer and audience. ‘All a Bard’ are our Friday and Saturday night Open Mic sessions, hosted by author Simon Hall. This is your chance to share your work with a supportive audience, to breathe life into your words by speaking them into the world, and to revel in the infinite variety of styles, subjects and stories of other performers. All from the comfort of your own screen!  


The live readings are a great opportunity to hear acclaimed authors reading from their own work. Best-selling fantasy author Jasper Fforde will read from his brand-new novel, The Constant Rabbit, on Thursday night, followed by a Q&A.  On Friday night, debut novelist Kate Bradley reads from her psychological thriller, To Keep You Safe, followed by acclaimed novelist Nick Barlay reading from his new book The Suicide of Eva Izsak, part memoir, part narrative of an unusual wartime suicide. 


Friday night’s Author/Agent/Publisher Panel discussion offers an insight into the dynamic between writer, agent and editor. The session will give an honest and practical overview of the publication process, with a chance for audience members to ask their own questions at the end.  Debut author JM Joseph, his literary agent Becky Bagnell, and his editor and publisher Lena McCauley from Hachette will track Jay’s journey from first idea to final script.  Jay will also read from his debut novel, Fire Boy.

The First Pages Pitching Panel is your chance to see the kind of opening paragraphs that get agents’ antennae quivering. Over the coming months we’ll be asking for willing volunteers to submit the first page of their manuscript (MG upwards) to our prodigious panellists; Laura Williams, Imogen Cooper and Hannah Weatherill.  Once the submission window is closed, five writers will be selected to receive public (and anonymous) supportive feedback from our trio of experts. The chosen writers will of course benefit from the personalised critique, but a session like this is great for the audience too, who can then revisit their own first pages with fresh eyes.


We know that for many writers, the best thing about a weekend like this is the sense of community and connection it can bring. It isn’t very often you have the chance to spend some dedicated time with so many people who understand the trials and joys of this most solitary of activities. Connecting with like-minded people is vital for creativity, which is of course especially difficult at the moment. Thankfully, technology can offer us a supportive and user-friendly way to get around this problem.

Braindate virtual chat rooms help you tap into the experiences and the wealth of knowledge found in the Writers’ Weekend community.  It’s an easy way to connect and learn from each other through conversations about things you care about. There are three different kinds of Braindates:  2-person one-on-one discussions, small group discussion of 4-5 people, and 4-5 person Writers’ Circle Braindates.  Post topics that you’d like to discuss and others will join, or join a discussion with a topic that has been proposed by another. 


Braindate software will also be used for hour-long Writers’ Circles,  dedicated peer-to-peer feedback sessions, during which groups of up to four people (possibly five with a facilitator), writing in the same genre, share a one-line summary plus the first 1000 words to the group and receive feedback from each other.  We believe that the richest experiences happen when participants are empowered to turn to their peers for authentic knowledge-sharing conversations. The kinds that leave them having learned something, shared something, and with new connections that will endure.

Hearing what other authors make of your work is of great value; they see things in your work that you might have missed yourself and ask questions that might not occur to the average reader. Writers’ Circles are beneficial to all involved, being a useful way to interrogate and improve your own writing and a wonderful gift to give your peers.

Writers' Weekend Winchester is a wonderful time to immerse yourself in the writing world, from brushing up on your craft to gaining valuable advice and insights from both experts and your fellow writers. And a virtual writing festival means you can join in from wherever you are – this is the perfect opportunity to develop as a writer. 'See' you there!
Melissa Addey
Author of historical fiction, running 'Marketing Your Books' session at the Writers' Weekend
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