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NAWG 2004


A weekend well spent

'Why go to writer's conferences?' was the question I posed to a dozen people attending the annual get together of the National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG).

Some said ‘the workshops’ and the two I attended were informative and entertaining. Braver souls said they were looking forward to some feedback on their work during the one-to-one sessions. The real professionals claimed they wanted to see how they had fared in the competitions.

These are certainly valid reasons to give up a weekend and head to Durham. The tutors are eminently qualified, thoroughly approachable and the consensus was that they were fair but firm in their appraisals of our efforts. There was a lot of learning going on.

However, most people I quizzed added that they also came along to meet and make friends among fellow writers.

This was a wonderfully cosy gathering of friends old and new. The timetabling and layout allowed space to sit and talk while regularly surrounded by edible temptations. Writing is a lonely business and we need to emerge from our writing spaces to swap notes, share stories of success or rejections, give and receive encouragement and perhaps pick up a few ideas

The location itself is superb. Mario Petrucci’s words had to compete with a sunbathed overview of Durham Cathedral while he read from his latest collections. To accompany all the intellectual nurturing, the caterers at St Aidan’s College ensured that bodily needs were not ignored. Institutional food will never win prizes but every meal merited a 'highly commended' although the coffee was not quite of the strength to sustain the lonely nights of writing till next year's gathering.

The NAWG was founded in 1995 and has over 130 affiliated groups which provides the critical mass to organise an annual get-together in Durham in the late summer. One drawback of being a national organisation is that, sadly, only a handful of the prizewinners were able to enjoy their moment of glory at the presentation after the gala dinner.