Writing festivals : 3 reasons to go (and a writing group)

Writing is one of the weirder occupations, fiction writing in particular.

Starting with the act of sitting for several hours, trying to conjure scenes of people never met. (Or perhaps they are already half known. Word by word appearing on the page like an etch-a-sketch.)

As every story-writer knows, throwing difficulties at characters is vital in gaining connection with the reader. Yet when I send them trials, I am also racked by the desire to protect these invented folk, have a cosy chat, give unsolicited advice:

‘I really wouldn’t do that. Not now at least. If you could only see what’s coming…’

With these fragile figments, I am in silent dialogue. It’s unusual work. Compelling. Completely solitary.

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I went to Winchester Writers’ Festival in June partly because I wanted to meet with editors but mainly because I was curious to see what other writers looked like. The festival was phenomenal. It was the first I hope, of many. Some things that intrigued me:

Hearing what other people are writing about

“Brief is life but love is long,” wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson, and what loves people brought to the writing desk:

Audacious science fiction, a children’s book with pages designed like computer screens, observational dialogue, brilliant, beautiful voices. So many off-beat fellow writing folk it was like meeting long-lost siblings, conversations starting in the middle.

The rawness of talking to an editor

I say more about this in another post (here) but if I could choose one reason why the entry fee to a literary festival is worth it, it’s this. There’s nothing like the rigour of an expert picking over your work and telling you what they think, right there, live. Daunting, yes, but I left with a grid of comments about my first chapter with specific prompts to keep on writing.

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Workshopping

Here in Oman I live far from any writers’ group (as far as I know). I write every day but sometimes I miss the ping pong of ideas tossed across a safe space. At Winchester there were ‘masterclasses’ led by creative writing tutors from the university – we asked questions, re-wrote, dissected and, most importantly, enjoyed each others’ work.

So inspired I felt, that I returned to Muscat with the intention of starting a writers’ group over here. Watch this space…and if you’re interested please do get in touch.

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