Winchester Writers’ Festival 2017

simon-hall-photoI was recommended to attend the Winchester Writers’ Festival by the author, Simon Hall. Some of Simon’s books are reviewed on this site: The Balance of Guilt at and The Dark Horizon at I took his advice and attended the festival this year. I am glad I did.

West-Downs-0The Winchester Writers’ Festival runs over a long weekend in the middle of June. Those who attend on the Friday and Saturday have the opportunity to meet with 2 agents, editors or publishers on each of those days. There is no extra charge for doing so, but do book early to secure time with your preferred professionals.

I stayed at the en-suite student accomodation on the West Downs Campus. It was basic, west downs insidebut clean. The walk to and from the main university campus is up and down a steep hill, so I was glad a shuttle bus was provided for delegates at the beginning and end of the day.

The quality of the courses was high. On Friday I took a long course called How To Thrill and How to Kill, led by the author William RyanWilliam Ryan. William was called to the English bar after university in Dublin, then worked as a lawyer in the City. His novels, including The The Constant SoldierConstant Soldier are set in 1930s Stalinist Russia and have been shortlisted for the Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award, the CWA New Blood Dagger, the Irish Fiction Award and twice for the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award. 

I also had the oppotunity to meet with an editor and an agent, the latter being Sarah Manning of The Bent Agency. She has asked to see me full manuscript. Now that is an exciting experience!

After dinner on Friday, Mslexia Magazine hosted a panel discussions with independent publishers. That was most interesting. It seems to me important that these members of the literary world should be supported.

winchester university diningThe catering at The Winchester Writers’ Festival is certainly better than average for mass catering. However, the quality of provision for those with mobility issues was poor. The dining room was up a long flight of stairs and the lift was not working while the festival was on. Some of the events were held in rooms where disabled access was not available.

On Saturday morning Lemn Sissay gave the Keynote Address. I had never heard him speak before, but I was very impressed. His talk was inspiring. Later in the day, I attended a series of talks on how to approach agents. How to write a Synopsis, The Agent and Submission Letter and The Agent’s Eye View. These talks were short but extremely useful. I also met with Linda Bennett of Salt Publishing and Jack Ramm of the Eve White Agency. lemnsissay

There was a Festival Dinner on the Saturday night which I attended with my friend and fellow author, Allison Symes. I enjoyed the evening greatly, but was sorry that my time at Winchester Writers’ Festival was draring to an end. This experience was extremely useful for enhancing my confidence as an author. i would highly recommend that aspiring writers consider attending the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

Valerie Penny






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