I attended my first Writers’ Conference many years ago when I first began writing in earnest. When I returned home, I told my husband what a fantastic time I’d had and how useful it was, and he asked if I was going again the next year. I remember saying, ‘Only if I can earn the money to pay from it from selling my writing.’
The conference had inspired me to get my work out there and yes, I’d earned enough from short story competitions to go back to Winchester the following year.
I’ve been addicted to such events ever since. I’ve been to the Winchester Conference many times, a regular attendee at the Writers Holiday both in Caerleon and at its new home at Fishguard. I’ve been to a couple of Avon courses, Ty Newydd and to Swanwick. They all have their own character but all buzz with that inspirational spark. They are great place to rub shoulders with big name authors and make new friends.
Twelve novels on (though I never found publishers for the first two) I have learnt a fair amount and, though I may find the appeal of the majority of the workshops rather basic, writer events are as important as ever because spending a week with others who are as passionate about writing as I am is essential to keep to me inspired and determined to keep at it, especially when the going gets tough and the pressures of everyday life insist on trying to take over.
In addition to these residential conferences, there are many festivals and one day events that help keep me on my toes.
Last month, I was down in Portsmouth for the Mystery Fest. It was a great day. The guest of honour was the wonderful Simon Brett. His Charles Paris novels have been firm favourites with me since the first one came out. I was heartbroken when he dropped the series and began writing another series. Though the good news is that after a fifteen-year break, Charles Paris is back! Simon gave an hilarious monologue – ‘Lines of Enquiry’ poking fun at all the clichés of the Police Procedural.
There were talks on Victorian Crime Writing, on the real-life investigations of Conan Doyle and another titled Bodies in the Library.
I also gave a presentation, ‘Research and the Crime Writer’, talking about how I do my research and, as my latest books are all travel mysteries, how the things that happen on my research ‘holidays’ help to feed the plot of each novel. I also talked about the vast repertoire of ‘experts’ I need to consult to ensure that everything that ends up in the novel is authentic.
The Mystery Fest included two panels. In the first, a group of authors were interviewed about their work and the importance of reviews by two reviewers. In a second panel, entitled ‘Single Offender or Serial Killer?’ five writers discussed the pros and cons of stand-alone novels compared with writing series novels. All in all, a brilliant day.
One of the great advantages of being a writer in Britain is that you are never that far from some kind of writing event. Don’t ask me which is my favourite. They are all different in their own way and which one I choose each year depends on what I need at the time. I love them all.
Do you have a favourite?