Liking Minds at the Winchester Writers’ Festival

photo by Alex Carter

Photo by Alex Carter

A perk of doing my MA at the University of Winchester is that I had the opportunity to be a student host at this year’s Winchester Writers’ Festival. My duties were to look after two session leaders and in return I got to see the keynote and sit in on my speakers’ sessions, not to mention lunch, with tangerine and coffee pudding. Well, I did mention it, I had to; it was so good!

Beforehand I was terrified. Stupidly so. I thought I ought to prepare an elevator pitch to market myself effectively, even though my novel is less than half written. I forgot that people are human beings. I also forgot that these days I am barely ever intimidated.

The start of the day was wonderful, Sebastian Faulks was everything you want from a keynote. He was very warm, had fascinating anecdotes and said exciting things, like allowing your characters to contradict themselves. Check out @JennySavill1 ‘s #sebastianfaulks tweets for a great summary of his gems.

Jenny Savill from Andrew Nurnberg was my first speaker. She was, of course, lovely and encouraging, talking about there being a potential market for my clumsily explained story (I still haven’t nailed my elevator chatter). My second speaker was Paul Bryers, who had been one of my lecturers so I knew he wouldn’t be scary and it was brilliant to catch up with him. He was in high spirits, having just finished writing a novel the day before!

I don’t want to give away my speaker’s intellectual property because that would be unethical and if you get the chance to hear either of them talk, please do!

So just tiny tasters:

Jenny’s session was ‘Think you’re Ready to Submit to an Agent’. She gave lots of excellent tips on what to do before sending your manuscript off. I’ve made a checklist from what she said. A jewel for me was about starting action as late as possible. Very resonant!

Then lunch. And. That. Pudding.

Paul’s session was ‘Making a Drama Out of a Crisis’, looking at ways in to factually-based historical fiction. It was great to hear his film maker and novelist perspectives and I love that he says the story must come first; truth is flexible.

Both speakers answered all sorts of questions from attendees, honestly and expertly.

In between, I bumped into MA friends at various stages of their dissertations, some more frantic than me and others I’m incredibly jealous of (already editing!). I also saw other friends, some that I hadn’t seen for years, some that are becoming new writing buddies. And met new people. I love new people; they’re so unexplored. All of them with that shared passion; that drive to write.

Thanks to Judith Heneghan for this fantastic opportunity. Next year I’ve promised myself a fully paid-up ticket and I’ll be touting my completed novel. Dear readers, book yourselves on and I’ll see you there!

Kath Whiting
@kathdwhiting
MA Creative & Critical Writing
Also posted on http://kathwhiting.blogspot.co.uk/

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Roma Tearne: 2015 Winchester Reading Series

Roma TearneWe were delighted to welcome Roma Tearne to the Winchester Reading Series at the University of Winchester, on 24 March. Roma is a Sri Lankan born novelist, artist and filmmaker who left the island in the 1960s at the start of the civil war and now lives in Oxford.

This huge personality gripped our attention from the moment she began to speak. She quickly built up a relationship with us, as she does so cleverly in her novels, sharing her ideas and explaining how she weaves her stories around them. She kept us enthralled for over an hour as she drew us into her life as a writer.

I managed to read Mosquito, her debut novel, before the evening. This remarkable book captures the tragedy and violence of civil war and its terrible effect on the characters who experience it. But it is not only a story about war; it deals with love and loss as the relationship between the protagonists is torn apart. There are no speculative assumptions about characters in this book. These are felt experiences. I found the sharing of them profoundly moving. However, it is through the poetry of her writing that the strong sense of Sri Lanka is best portrayed. Her pen and her artist’s brush combine, as she recreates its vibrant colours and rhythms, to allow our senses to feast on them.

Roma has her feet firmly planted on the ground. Although she delighted us with her anecdotes about presenting her work around the world and getting published, she emphasised the difficulties too. Refusing to be dictated to and pigeonholed by publishers, she has had to fight her way to preserve her identity and become the writer she wants to be. She made it very plain to us that success is not easy in this profession and we must be prepared to fight very hard for it.

The Last PierI would like to recommend Roma’s latest novel, The Last Pier, to be launched in April. It is set against the Second World War. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Ann Radley

Claire Fuller: 2015 Winchester Reading Series

Claire FullerBefore Claire Fuller was a writer, she was an artist, a sculptor. No surprise that her first novel is full of exquisite detail, captured by an eye trained to observe, then reflect back to others what she perceives. Early ringing endorsements from The Sunday Times (‘Extraordinary – from the opening sentence it is gripping’), The Times (‘Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairy-tale’), as well as being selected by Amazon as one of their most exciting debuts of the month, have marked her as an author to watch.

Most might consider the prospect of spending time in a cabin in the woods as an idyll; a place to daydream in peace and quiet. However, Claire Fuller’s ‘die Hutte’ in Our Endless Numbered Days is anything but tranquil. Peggy Hillcoat’s adolescence is unusual, terrifying. Luckily for Fuller, her protagonist’s experience is not in any way biographical, though fragments of her own life, alongside that of her children’s, her husband’s, plus various friends, have been patch-worked together to form believable characters and situations. A writing assignment from the MA course on Critical and Creative Writing (University of Winchester) provided the inspiration for what would eventually turn into her first book. As well as the professional guidance received through attending the course, Claire draws invaluable encouragement from a writing group she attends, as well as huge support from the wider writing community represented within Twitter.  Continue reading

Marcus Sedgwick – Coming to the 2015 Winchester Reading Series

We are delighted to announce that Marcus Sedgwick will be speaking at the University of Winchester as part of the Winchester Reading Series.  Best known for writing children’s and YA books he also writes for adults and illustrates some of his own books.

Marcus Ghosts of Heavenhas won the Blue Peter Book Award, the Booktrust Teenage Prize and the Printz Award.  In addition he has received numerous nominations, including the Carnegie Medal, the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the Guardian Children’s Fiction prize.  His latest novel, The Ghosts of Heaven, was published in October last year and he has a new novella, Killing the Dead, coming out next month for World Book Day.

If you would like to hear Marcus discussing his work and answering questions from the audience,  please come to room SAB001 at the University of Winchester on Tuesday 24th February.  This is a free event and will run from 6.00 – 7.30pm.

For more information about Marcus, including  take a look at his website.