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Annual Writers' Conference report


Annual Writers' Conference in Winchester

The 24th Annual Writers’ Conference in Winchester, England over the weekend of 25th/26th June had a record number of attendees for the many sessions over the weekend and the workshops before and after. The venue, King Alfred College, has just been rather grandly renamed University College, Winchester and gained the ability to award its own degrees.

The conference started with a plenary session. After an introduction from the conference director a number of former attendees spoke up, rather like those offering born-again testimony, on how they had got their books into print. Over 70 authors have got their work published in a mainstream way after attending previous annual writers’ conferences.

The plenary address was given by Kevin Crossley-Holland, poet and writer, well-known for his twelfth century Arthur Caldecott children’s series, which has now sold over a million copies in 21 languages. In a genuinely inspiring and extremely elegant speech, he enthused the audience with his vision of the author’s life, whilst at the same time giving a great deal of excellent advice.

Crossley-Holland said that as a child he had read the popular children’s history book Our Island Story a hundred times, and that in England we are all caught up in layers of the past, of stories. Writers need to answer the questions who? what?, when? and why? Novels address issues but don’t answer them – if anything they complicate things still further.

He felt that ‘lightness of touch almost invariably delights a reader’. Describing his own approach to getting down to the writing, he said that he wrote in the morning, on the principle that the day deteriorates. Showing an awesome ability to concentrate and retain things in his head, he writes in longhand with a fountain pen.

He recommended that writers should revise and revise and revise. ‘To be serious writers we must be disciplined, and make sacrifices. Try to treat writing as some of us treat prayer… as part of a daily process. Lay yourself on the line. Let there be light!’

Kevin Crossley-Holland inspired everyone present to move on to the day's sessions with renewed enthusiasm for their chosen calling as writers.

© Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage. 2004