Monday, 9 November 2015

NAWG Festival of Writing

I started writing this blog piece back in September just after I attended the NAWG (National Association of Writers’ Groups) Festival of Writing at Warwick. September ended up being ridiculously busy, as did October, so here we are in November, better late than never!

This year’s festival on the 4-6th September in Warwick University was started/opened with an inspirational talk from Oscar winning writer and director Lord Julian Fellowes and his wife Lady Emma. Julian is probably most famous for his film Gosford Park and TV series Downton Abbey. We also had the chance to sit and chat with Lord Julian and his wife over tea and cakes, frightfully british and modern Downton but very casual and friendly. Lord Julian’s main advice was that you need persistence to get published, then we were left with this quote: 

"Writing can be a solitary affair and the opportunity that the association (NAWG) offers, of comparing experiences and views is invaluable. We loved being among fellow writers who are climbing the same mountain."

During the evening there was an after dinner talk (the dinner I should add is fantastic, as are all of the meals throughout the weekend) by children’s author and hypnotherapist Steve Bowkett. Steve told us all about the Adventures as a Visiting Author, showing us in a humorous way the perils and highpoints of going into schools to give talks and workshops.

Throughout the weekend there are many bookable workshops with a wide variety of different authors, this year they included Della Galton, Tim Wilson/Jude Morgan, Paul Dodgson, Marvin Close, Aimee Bell, Julie Bokowiec, Steve Bowkett, Veronica Heley, James Nash, Adam Strickson and Talli Rowland.

Saturday morning for me was spent with author Tim Wilson/Jude Morgan, who writes historical fiction. We looked at ways to generate ideas and keeping the momentum going in your novel. With tricks to keep on track and invaluable advice on how to get past the dreaded blank screen! Which I have already started to put into practise when working on my novel or short stories.

In between workshops the weekend provides you with the wonderful opportunity to not only eat nice food, but socialise and network with other writers at all different stages of the writing journey. Networking provides time to share ideas and experiences with like-minded individuals. Sometimes you can feel very isolated when it’s just you and the notebook or laptop. This is why it’s often a good idea to join writing groups or organisations such as NAWG.

There was a talk by writer of women’s fiction, Talli Rowland on How Do Writers Know What’s Best for Them? Exploring both self-publishing and traditional publishing, as Talli has had great success with both. This was really eye opening and interesting for me as I have no idea where it comes to self-publishing, so a very useful talk.

Saturday afternoon was spent with short story powerhouse, Della Galton. Della is a fantastic tutor and very encouraging, she also does writing workshops for Woman’s Weekly. She went into great depth on how to write and sell short stories. Everybody attending the workshop created a usable opening to a short story, I’ve since progressed and turned mine into a full first draft. Need to come back to that one!

One of the highlights of the festival is the Awards ceremony and Gala Dinner on the Saturday night. There is the option of attending just for this part, but I prefer to have the whole weekend for the full experience.

Writers get to don their posh attire and eat food prepared by top chefs, drink and be merry whilst being entertained by the hilarious escapades of writer Lynne Hackles. This was followed up by the results of the members’ only NAWG competition.

The evening always ends on a high with the after dinner sparkles, with performances by writers attending the festival. Poetry, plays and works of fiction were performed.

I was back with Tim Wilson/Jude Morgan on Sunday morning, this time looking at research. An extremely useful and informative session.

The last workshop of the weekend was with writer, composer, radio producer and teacher, Paul Dodgson. Focusing on Writing from Life – Truth and Fiction, and exploring the lines between fact and fiction within memoir writing, and just how good our memories actually are.

There are so many fantastic workshops there is just too many to choose from and it’s very hard each year to pick a handful of the bookable ones. Over all, the festival was another wonderful weekend of writing and being with other writers, which I shall be encouraging others to book up for next year. I’ve already booked up for NAWG Festival of Writing 2016, hope to see you there!