You guys are probably tired of me prattling on about the Winchester Writers’ Festival. Too bad – I’m gonna prattle a little longer.
This year was my first fest, and I was a student host as I’m on Winchester’s Creative & Critical Writing MA. This meant I assisted my assigned speakers (pictured above) with anything they needed: showing them where lunch was, getting them coffee, setting up equipment, etc. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement – there’s nothing better than working alongside a publishing agent or one of your mentors (as I did) and getting to know them and their work better.
Rewind to the beginning of this semester. Judith Heneghan, festival director and one of my former lecturers, instructed those in her Publishing Project module to have a strong social media presence, particularly on Twitter. Before this, I hadn’t really been much of a Twitter person, but I took her advice and made an account. Now, six months later, I’m teetering on the edge of 1,000 followers and I’ve got a strong writing support group, whether it’s published authors, kind literary agents, or fellow students like me looking to build a network before making their debut into the publishing world.
The festival allowed me to meet some of my favourite Twitter personalities, including Emma Rose Hollands and Rebecca Tinnelly. What’s funny is I knew these awesome ladies before I knew they were going to be at WinWriFest, and when I found out I’d be able to meet them in person, I nearly keeled over with excitement.
I sat down to have a drink with Emma in the Terrace Bar on Saturday afternoon and, despite having never met her before, we settled into comfortable conversation like old friends. Of course, we’d talked online and have since written a blog post together, but that doesn’t change the fact that, when I walked in, she was still technically a stranger to me.
And that’s what I find myself thinking about most when I reflect on the writers’ festival – how Twitter brings writers together online, and how events like the writers’ festival can bring them together in real life to do some real work.
Before coming to Winchester, I struggled to find writer friends outside my uni’s own English Department. Writing groups where I live are almost unheard of, and I didn’t have the money (or opportunity) to go to expensive conferences to learn more about the work I’m doing. Now I don’t have that problem – I’ve built countless connections within such a strong network, all thanks to Judith’s single piece of advice and my time at the festival.
I’d like to thank Judith once again for all her work on the festival; the speakers for taking the time out of their busy writing weekends to teach us more about our passion; and of course the University and City of Winchester for always making me feel at home among friends.