Last week I got to spend the whole day amongst my fellow creative types at Winchester's 38th Writers' Festival.
It would have been great to spend the whole weekend there, taking full advantage, but I just had neither the bandwidth nor the finances to make that happen. Maybe next year!
What's it all about?
Writing! Publishing! Editing! Marketing!
The festival programme was packed with informative sessions led by proven, knowledgeable speakers. Three days of workshops, panels, discussions, readings, and networking.
While I had to step out of two of the talks I attended for 1-2-1 appointments, I thoroughly enjoyed attending Jacquelina Saphra's interactive talk on poetry, hearing Hanna Jameson talk about writing tips, as well as learning about commercial women's fiction from Sareeta Domingo and short story structure from Susmita Bhattacharya. They were all really interesting sessions, and I also got to meet other writers and make some friends.
The open mic night was a wonderfully intimate place to read pieces, and people from all walks of life read novel excerpts, flash fiction, poetry, and even script snippets (scrippets?). I read a few of my more politically motivated poems to enthusiastic applause. The added benefit of it being entirely for and by writers was that you also got more helpful feedback after reading.
Winchester Writers' Festival also offered 1-2-1 sessions with industry professionals. Some of these were purely to workshop a piece submitted in advance, but there were also a lot of literary agents handing out offers. I pitched one of my works, and received some really great feedback that will help me improve future drafts.
THE PRICE. HOLY CATS THE PRICE.
And this is frankly endemic in writing festivals/conferences/conventions.
As someone who has done events management and budgeting, I feel like the steep prices could be undercut, and still have a good event. But I also get the feeling that the fact that there is no other event like the Winchester Writers' Festival anywhere near Hampshire does allow them to hold their delegates hostage.
While they do have about ten scholarship slots that receive free cost of attendance plus accommodation, and a small bursary fund (I qualified for one of those bursaries), it still leaves a lot of people with a searing hole in their wallets.
We need events like these that are affordable because otherwise the writing and publishing world turns into this classist community where your own bank account is gatekeeping you out of it.
That's why today I'm at the much more reasonably priced TLC Writers' Day at the Free Word Centre in London. I'll be writing about this event for my next blog post!