Wednesday 4 July 2012

Weekend at Winchester - part 2

Last week I was just about to have lunch. A wide selection of salads, with donuts or Danish pastries for pudding, if you're wondering. I sat next to romance writer Allie Spencer's mum. I've not met Allie, but she is a previous winner of the Joan Hessayan Award - I can look for her name on the trophy, when I get it back. Despite the dreadful weather that hit so many places over that weekend, Winchester luck produced sufficient sunshine for the familiar sight of attendees sitting on steps and terraces during the breaks. Sitting on them is one thing - climbing them to go from one session to the next is quite another matter. Most of my sessions seemed to involved a long walk and a stiff climb. The first after lunch was no exception, when Lorna Fergusson from Fictionfire looked at opening lines and what made a memorable one. I'm big on opening lines - probably something to do with the American Title contest where one of the elimination rounds was based on your first line. Concentrates the mind quite a bit. I learned a lot from that contest.

John Appleton's hour on What Works and Why went by very fast, looking at ingredients that might catch the eye of an agent or editor - good, professional presentation was a given - but a successful manuscript has to sell itself to every department in a publishing house - something about it has to be distinctive and capable of being summed up as succinctly as possible.(In other words, the dreaded elevator pitch.)  The author needs to make sure that any special credentials for writing that particular story are front and centre in the covering letter. Everyone hated writing a synopsis, but John reassured us that making an effort to produce a good one, not too long, but comprehensive, was not time wasted, as they were read.

My next and last session of the day was just a few doors along the corridor, but before that it was afternoon tea break. And if I wanted tea - yes, you've guessed it - over to The Stripe, and up and down those steps again. I arrived to find a mini mutiny - the urns had run out and there was no cake. Happily the caterers  soon redeemed themselves with replenished tea supplies and large trays of cake of every kind. I'm still regretting that I didn't snaffle a piece of the cherry sponge as well as the fruit cake. A quick inspection of the bookstall confirmed that the pile of copies of Never Coming Home was decreasing. During the day I'd had such a lot of good feedback about my few minutes at the Plenary and now people were buying the book! If you were one of them, I hope you enjoy it. And please tell your friends.

The final session was with Sally Tickner, from Publishing Gateway, talking about creating an author platform - building a brand, developing your social networks - and more about book trailers. I'm going to have to have a go at that. Fascinating stuff, and in the audience I also met Lou, who is one of the Choc-lit tasting panel. We established that she'd not test-read one of my books - the panel get the submissions anonymously - but she might well be given one of mine in the future. Lou was a finalist in one of the competitions for children's fiction and was off at the end of the session to the awards ceremony, which I believe involved a well deserved glass of wine. The results are now up on the conference website and Lou was amongst the highly commended. Hurrah!

I went off to town, in search of some dinner.

I had a really good time. The sessions I attended were my choices out of a huge range of options that cover everything from poetry to screen writing. Deciding is hard, as I invariably want to do at least two things at the same time - and I don't have Alan Titchmarsh's ability to be in two places at once :) Many one-to one interviews took place. The upstairs room in The Stripe was buzzing throughout the day. Will a new writer be discovered as a result of the 32nd Winchester Writers' conference? Will there be more than one?

I hope so.


  1. I must read your book soon. Congrats by the way. I missed Winchester this year. I really missed those fabulous sessions. They are excellent. Thank you for the fill-in. I am a good friend of Allie's. Her mum is delightful.

    1. Hi Carol - I won't rub it in, but it was a very good conference. Hope you might make it next year.

  2. It sounds like everyone had a very productive and enjoyable time. I wish I could have been there. It's made me look forward to the RNA Conference even more.

  3. Hi Susan
    Winchester always has a great 'buzz' - and the RNA conference is the same. It's going to be a great weekend.