About a month ago I was chatting to my Mum on the phone and she mentioned she had been to Winchester for the day. While she was there she had seen a banner about a writers’ festival once she was home she looked it up online. She suggested I did the same and if I was interested my parents would pay for my place as my birthday present this year.

I had heard of the Winchester Writers’ Festival but I hadn’t clocked that it was in June. I went online, had a look, it looked brilliant and I decided I would like to go on the Friday and Saturday. Then I looked at the prices and realised that this was an incredibly generous birthday present! Especially as it’s not a birthday resulting in my age ending in a 0 or 5 his year. I text my Mum and said “Yes please!!” and “Thank you very much, it’s a very generous present!”. The next day I looked at the brochure thoroughly, deciding which master class and talks I would like to attend and then deciding who I would like to meet at the one to one meetings that were part of the two days I was applying to attend. I wrote down names of agents who are interested in the genre of the book I have just finished and noted lecturers and authors who were offering to critique work. After writing numbers in preference order next to the names, scribbling some out and changing them around, after researching some of the people online, I felt ready to book.

Once I had booked I was surprised by the very quick response and very happy to see I had my top choices for everything. Now I just needed to get my book finished so I could send off submissions to the agents and expert I had selected to critique my work. If I met the deadline they would read my work before we meet.

This bit was tough. With this new deadline I had to tighten my editing schedule. In some ways I think this was good to keep me focused, but I do wonder whether it meant I didn’t leave enough time between edits for my brain to switch off from it. I’m sure my eyes could have done with being a bit fresher when I did the second edit. Also, since sending off the submissions an idea has popped into my head for a couple of scenes to develop one of my characters further, but it doesn’t matter. I’m sure there will be numerous changes to make to it after the festival, once I have received all the feedback.

As I have mentioned previously in my blog, I struggled to write the synopsis and I found the covering letter challenging too, until I remembered one of the agents I am meeting had a fantastic outline of expectations for the covering letter on his website. Using this I put my letter together, making each one specific to the person I was sending it to. I proof read the letter, synopsis and first three chapters of my book numerous times and then popped them all in an envelope and sent it, recorded delivery, to the organiser of the festival. There was no way I was letting all that hard work get lost in the post, especially as our printer is a law unto itself. Just printing out the whole lot, checking all lines were legible, that blank pages hadn’t been inserted at random, checking the formatting hadn’t changed by itself, was exhausting! Fortunately my husband was on hand, taking on the role of IT support, for much of this.

When I initially sent it I was very excited and a bit nervous, thinking, what if they love it and think I could actually be an author, what if they hate it and tell me I just shouldn’t bother writing (I’m sure they’d be kinder with their word choice) but now that has gone. I’m realistic. I don’t think either of those things is going to happen. What this festival is about for me is to learn. If an agent was interested in working with me then, fantastic, yes please! But what I’m going for is the feedback on my writing so I can develop it and my ideas. I want to know more about the industry. Hear realistic experiences of published authors. Are the word counts I read about for different categories of books really that important? We all know JK Rowling and Lee Child are doing ok for themselves but how many authors can afford to do this as a full time job? I hear that lecturing is a common job alongside writing but what qualifications do you need to lecture in creative writing? Why does my spell check keep changing ‘writing’ to ‘wiring’? Is it suggesting being an electrician would be a safer career route? Not for the people whose homes I work on, that’s for sure! Most of these are questions I hope to get answers to at the festival, either from the formal talks or by chatting to others attending.

I’m really looking forward to it and wish it was sooner. I have a notepad, pen and folder ready to take with me and my brain has been emptied of any useful knowledge by having two children, so it is time to fill it up again!

If anyone else is going and wants to say “hello” on Twitter, it would be lovely to hear from you!

I don’t know if there are still places but here are the details if others are interested.