What I learned on my (alco)holidays

The weekend before last, I went to the York Festival of Writing – http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/festivals/index.shtml (EDIT – just noticed they have mentioned me on there, thanks guys!) I had booked it sometime last year before I had an agent and before all the book-deal excitement. So I felt something of a fraud when, under gentle writerly probing, I had to admit I, ahem, was going to be published next year. Luckily no one threw cheese at me. (There was quite a lot of cheese for some reason.) So here’s what I learned at York, which by the way is a FANTASTIC event. I had so much fun, learned so much, and got the kick up the bottom I needed to get on with my scary edits.

I learned:

That ducks and geese do a lot of poo. They also make a lot of noise when you are trying to sleep. In fact, for anyone past the age of 22, sleeping in a university campus isn’t ideal. Narrow beds, too bright, too noisy.  But don’t let that put you off, it is a mere stumbling distance from the bar, and surely you used to sleep in this kind of room every night for years, often with someone else there too (how?)?

That writers are very lovely and kind – no one snubbed me when I had to reveal I was going to be published and had also been shortlisted for the live Authonomy reading. And the Festival opening.  People were very kind about stopping to say they’d liked my piece and I really appreciated that. I also appreciated the chocs and wine, thanks, festival organisers!

That when the clocks go back and you stay up to 2.30am still have to get up at 8, it is not fun.  It just isn’t.

That someone has already written my book – one down-side of submitting bits of my to-be fourth book was that I found out someone has already written one with the same title. Set in the same place. With a very similar story. Balls.

That it is quick to get to York. Indeed the train is somewhat TOO quick if you have tons and tons of edits to do and no time because of all the drinking, I mean, learning.

How to do research – I found out some very useful tips from CWA Chair (now ex-officio) Tom Harper, including how to use libraries, how to track down experts, and how to put your notes in nice tidy binders (I will never do this, I can tell).

That you get lots of free books- I went home with nine more books than I left with, plus two magazines, the chocs, and the wine. Since we already had a gas leak caused by excessive books, this was not a bonne idée. Since then I also bought the books of lovely writers I met – Emma Darwin, Julia Crouch, and Elizabeth Haynes.

That it takes guts to read out or send your work in the first place. I was lucky enough to be selected for the Authonomy Live readings, and I would really recommend this to anyone. It helped me get over my nerves, and everyone was so kind. Plus, people know who you are and come to say hi. I also had a couple of agents approach me, so if you are looking for one this is ideal. My top tip for not being scared is to be so busy you forget you’re doing it until 30 minutes before, when people start asking have you practiced. Easy!

How to create pace and tension – two great workshops on pace both in thrillers and women’s fiction, by Adrian Magson and Julie Cohen. Julie has a host of brilliant ideas, including a trick with Post-Its, over at her blog – http://www.julie-cohen.com/blog/
Writers know how to drink! I think I was the last person out of the bar on Saturday night, shepherded away by men in high-vis armbands (no, I don’t know why). And all the agents and publishers and authors and organisers were so kind to us wannabe writers. Totally willing to chat and help out. Amazing, really.  

So see you there next year, yes? I’ll be in the bar iwth the £2.50 gin and tonics. Not unconnected to the above fact, that.

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