Sunderland Literature and Creative Writing Festival 2016 drew to a close last night.
I'm going to miss it, a lot.
This year is the first that there's been a Creative Writing side to the Sunderland Literature festival and I made the most of every single event that I could. These were as follows:
I met and chatted to local author Amanda Revell-Walton. Under the name Nancy Revell she's been given a six book deal to write about women who worked in the Sunderland shipyards during WW2. I bought her book, which she was there to talk about and we had a long chat about the soap I'm writing for The People's Friend magazine and how it's out with agents at the moment with a view to turning it into a novel.
Another local author and singer-songwriter Celia Bryce held a creative writing session. There were only three of us who turned up for this, so it was very intense, personal and we all learned a great deal. I was really chuffed when Celia told me my writing had a poetic quality afer I read out a piece I'd written in the session. I walked out of that session with a smile on my face as wide as the River Wear itself.
Alan Parkinson, a local crime writer who has sold over 6,000 (yes, 6,000) of his self-published novels on Amazon held a session at Shiney Row library. Alan gave an insight into his work, the self-publishing process (which he covered more extensively in other sessions) and talked about his experiences in getting published. When I turned up for the talk at the library, I was amazed to see Alan had such a good following of fans, even if they were rather mature ladies. But it turned out the ladies were in the library for the knit and natter session instead. Again, only three of us turned up to hear Alan's talk. This was my second session with only a handful of attendees. Where was everyone? Why wasn't everyone else in Sunderland as fired up and excited about LitWrit as me?
On the afternoon when a London agent and publisher were giving their words of wisdom to aspiring authors in a session held at Pop Recs, I was lying on my sofa with a horrible cold. I had to miss the very session I'd been looking forward to the most. I would have benefitted most from this session and regret having to miss it. Those who were there tell me it was great.
Flash Fiction in a Flash was fantastic and fun. Sarah Dobbs ran a session that had a large group of us writing flash fiction and thinking about our choice and use of words in a way we'd never done before. In the session, Sarah asked us to write a piece about Sunderland for a new project she's involved in called Seagull City. I wrote a piece in the session, polished it at home and emailed it to Sarah, as requested. When she emailed back to ask if she could read my work at the launch of Seagull City on Friday 4 November, I wanted to shout with joy. As I was writing in Sunderland central library at the time, and could do neither of those things, all I could do was smile and email her back.
Mel Gibson (no, not that one) gave a great talk on British Comics for Girls. I met and interviewed Mel while I was doing my journalism degree and I know that she's the UK expert on research into girls comics. The room was full of women of a certain age (just like me!) reliving their past via the medium of Mandy and Bunty. If you ever get a chance to hear Mel speak, you must, she's very entertaining and really knows her stuff.
Ideas: From First Thought to Final Draft was a fantastic, busy and well attended session held at the National Glass Centre and run by Writers Block, Middlesbrough. My head was buzzing with crazy, creative thoughts within minutes of the session starting and I came away with so many ideas for stories, for projects, for writing, that after I finish writing this blog post I'm going to start to try to make sense of.
Writing Crime Fiction was a chance to listen to crime writers Ann Cleeves and David Mark talk about their work. It was an inspiring and educational afternoon.
How not to be a Writer by Rob Young was a wonderful afternoon sesson at Sunderland University. Rob writes for TV and the stage as well as a myriad of other things including having spent this year as Sunderland University's writer in residence. He was helpful, informative, self-deprecating, honest and gave some of the best and most helpful information for writers I've ever heard. An inspiring session.
And finally, was the comedy writing workshop, a panel discussion on writing comedy for TV, sketch and stand up. There were four male comedians on the panel and although it was good, entertaining, and of course funny, I would have liked at least one woman to have been included on the panel. We can be funny too. The panel was followed by a comedy gig, a great end to the night and to the festival too.
Just two last things to mention are...
...the Sunderland University and Waterstones Short Story competition. The winner of this was announced as part of the LitWrit festival. Sadly, that winner wasn't me. I entered two stories, both of which were longlisted and one was highly commended.
...the Sunderland University Spectral Visions Press released a book called Wear'd Tales of supernatural stories about Sunderland. The launch date was October 31st 2016, during the LitWrit Festival. I'm proud to say I have a short story included in the book. You can read more about that here.
Well done to everyone involved in Sunderland LitWrit 2016. There's talk of more next year and I keep my fingers crossed that this will be the case. As Sunderland central library closes and moves into Sunderland Museum (where I am the communications and learning team volunteer), purse strings are tightened for all things art and creative around our city.
We need initiatives like LitWrit now more than ever before.
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