Inspiration, support and networking opportunities for emerging writers at University of Winchester Writers' Festival

25 Jun 2018
Four people standing together outside a building

Best-selling novelist Patrick Gale reflected on his life in writing at the opening keynote of the 38th University of Winchester Writers' Festival, in front of a packed house of book lovers and creative writers.

In conversation with Festival Director Judith Heneghan, Patrick offered an absorbing insight into how he approaches his work, revealing that he always writes the first draft of each book in longhand in a notebook. His keynote was followed by questions from the audience and a book signing.

"Patrick's keynote was an honest and very personal exploration of his craft and it was fascinating to find out more about how he develops the themes, places and characters that distinguish his work," said Judith Heneghan, who is also Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Patrick has written 15 novels, two collections of short stories, novellas and a biography of the writer Armistead Maupin. His sixteenth novel Take Nothing With You is due to be launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August. His recent TV screenplay, Man in an Orange Shirt, was commissioned as the centrepiece of the BBC's 2017 Gay Britannia season.

Speaking after his keynote, Patrick Gale commented: "I think writers' festivals like this one at Winchester are incredibly important. There aren't many of them and the idea of a festival that's just dedicated to emerging writers and sharing talent, tips, ideas and contacts, means that it's incredibly useful. What's so lovely here is that you can overhear people just talking and you realise that as much work is done between the sessions over coffee as in the sessions themselves."

Over the course of the three-day Festival, writers had the opportunity to network one-to-one with around 70 industry professionals for advice and expertise, as well as take part in 17 themed all-day workshops and over 30 talks, panels and presentations aimed at new and experienced writers.

Judith Heneghan added: "We have already heard of several attendees signing with agents as a result of this year's Festival, which is great news."

This year, the University welcomed back creative writing graduate and author Claire Fuller, who shared her tips on how best writers can use Twitter for research and promotion. Winner of the Royal Academy/Pin Drop short story prize, Claire also led a one-day workshop on honing short story writing skills.

Prize-winning children's author Helen Dennis inspired attendees with her after-dinner talk on Saturday: Helen met her first editor at Winchester and has gone on to huge success with her series Secret Breakers and River of Ink. Other highlights included author James Aitcheson on the processes of researching and writing historical fiction and the Festival open mic session.

Each year the Festival offers 10 scholarship places to young writers aged 18-25, allowing them to attend for free. This year also saw the launch of a scholarship sponsored by the Hampshire-based Lindsay Literary Agency, for a talented 'under-represented' writer of children's or Young Adult fiction.

Next year's University of Winchester Writers' Festival takes place on 14-16 June 2019.

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