I’ve just returned from the Festival of Writing (FOW15) which is held annually in York and run by 'The Writer’s Workshop’. The extended weekend was part of the prize for the ‘Criminal Minds’ Competition.
The weekend ran from the 4th September to the 6th and was fully catered. The food was excellent and although the accommodation was basic (halls of residence), it was sufficient, and all rooms had an ensuite.
A festival for introverts
I arrived late at the festival- navigation is not my specialty- but I didn’t feel as intimidated as I imagined I would, walking into the packed lecture hall. I found the seminars and workshops at the festival very useful (and plentiful) even though by the end of the weekend I had information overload. I learnt some new self-editing techniques, the actual process of submission and I met some agents. I think this is the biggest draw of writing festivals, especially for writers who don't 'know' people in the industry. It’s the possibility that you might be ‘discovered’.
An opportunity to get noticed
The Festival of Writing runs competitions throughout the weekend (I can't comment on whether other festivals do this), and if you're inclined to enter them, have the guts to stand up on stage and read your work out, you can really stamp your mark on an agent’s memory. We were introduced to a handful of published authors, signed up after winning some of these competitions (first chapter, best pitch etc.)
Was it worth it?
Attending the festival has certainly made me feel more confident about the submissions process. Now that I know Agents get roughly 4000 manuscripts a year, and have to squeeze reading them in with their day-to-day work, I feel less anxious about waiting. If they don’t respond immediately to you, it might have nothing to do with your writing but rather timing. Agents are only people, flawed like the rest of us and they have ‘bad’ days too.
I came away from the festival with new friends, a few pounds to lose (the food really was good!) and the feeling that anything is possible (with hard work, and flexibility). Writing can be a lonely life, but if nothing else, these festivals prove that you are never actually alone.