So, after a hectic week at work it was time to regroup and get ready for a weekend away with two of my writing buddies from the Frinton Writers’ Group, Deborah and Lesley.
Individually we had been to a couple of other writing festivals but never to Winchester before. Its reputation preceded it and so it had a lot to live up to. Over the coming series of blogs you will be able to discover whether it delivered on that promise.
Today, I am concentrating on our journey, arrival and the town of Winchester itself as well as the nature of writing festivals. I am not a festival junkie. There are those who choose to go to as many as possible or the same one each year. Whilst I am sure the festival organisers love writers like that, I do not believe it particularly assists someone’s writing career to go to so many. Better to be choosy and strategic in which ones you go to and when.
My last writing conference was way back in 2005. I went to it hoping to learn new things about the craft of writing, make new writing friends and, if I was lucky, further my career. I was extremely fortunate. I made several good writing friends, many of whom I am still in contact with today. It also led to me signing a contract with my first agent a few months later.
This time around I was hoping to learn new things or maybe approach old techniques in a new way, enjoying spending time with my writing buddies and, if I was lucky, further my career by finding a new agent.
High aspirations I know but these get togethers are expensive and if you do not have a structured businesslike approach to what you want to get out of them you could find yourself out of pocket to the tune of several hundreds of pounds and not much to show for it.
Our journey down was well planned and uneventful although the journey for me was a little like the British TV show ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ where people trace their ancestry, as I travelled through the tube stop closest to where my Dad was born and later on the station closest to where my Mum was born. The only downside was having to stand between Waterloo and Winchester – who knew the train was going to be so busy mid-afternoon?
The student accommodation in a block on the campus was basic but not as basic as some I have stayed in and for a short stay it had everything you could need. The kitchen, shared between us and the floor below, was well appointed and surprisingly large.
For our first night, my friends and I decided to walk into town. We ate a lovely, light summer meal at Côte and enjoyed a bottle of house wine. We then went for a stroll. With its large range of varied and interesting shops – L.K. Bennett, Phase Eight and Hobbs to name but a few plus the attractions of the Cathedral and the Great Hall, we all agreed it would be a great place to spend a long weekend enjoying the shopping and the sightseeing. There are lots of little winding streets filled with more shops, restaurants and cafes. You would certainly not run out of choices if you wished to dine out here.
As we were walking back, we stumbled upon a performance by a choir. The door of the small church had been left ajar due to the heat and the uplifting sound of the voices was spilling out into the evening air, enticing us inside. We lingered in the doorway and enjoyed the performance for a few minutes before returning to our base for the weekend.
I have never been to this particular writing festival before. My impressions from the first day was that it was well organised, the people friendly and there was a varied and interesting itinerary of courses. It would, I hoped, be a time to refill the well of creativity and, hopefully, be inspired.
I will let you know how it went in my next few blogs.
If you would like to share your own thoughts about writing festivals, I would love to hear them so feel free to comment below on any positive or negative experiences you have had.