York Writing Festival

I’ve recently returned from an excellent weekend at the Festival of Writing Conference, York. It was inspiring, informative and stimulating, with some excellent speakers, and it was good to talk to people who were writing something other than romantic fiction. It began with a networking session where everyone had the chance to get to know a few of the 250 delegates by chatting to them in a relaxed way over a glass of wine. Most enjoyable. Later that evening some brave souls read an extract from their work in progress which was then commented on by a member of a panel, and later the audience voted. Scary stuff.

One of my favourite talks was given by Tom Tivnan, features editor of the Bookseller who spoke about the state of the publishing industry, looking at how we arrived at the current situation and the challenge presented by online retailers and ebooks. Most interesting and thought-provoking. Donna Condon from Piatkus spoke about what she was looking for, warning how difficult it is to get published so your work has to be original and perfectly presented. She managed to do this without being too doom and gloom. Quite an achievement. Emma Darwin had us all trying out different writer’s voices, which was fun and very useful. Jean Fullerton, seen right with Kate Allen one of the organisers, gave an excellent talk on Show don't Tell.

Other speakers included literary agent Carole Blake, Lyn Vernham from Choc Lit, Jane Holland from Embrace, Ed Handyside from Myrmidon Books, Beverley Birch from Hodder Childrens, Patrick-Janson Smith from Harper Collins, Louise Allan, Penny Legg, Julia Churchill and many others. As always I wanted to go to two talks at once, but on the whole felt I made good choices.

David Nobbs (Reggie Perrin and A Bit of a Do) launched the conference with an inspiring and entertaining talk on the ups and downs of his writing life. He told us frankly about his failures as well as his successes, punctuated with many tips on how to avoid those mistakes ourselves. Well into his 70s he is still writing novels and clearly loving every minute.

We were given the usual goodie bag, plus more books at the gala dinner. Here is Christine Courtney (Trade Winds) enjoying a browse.  

Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen (televised as the Young Victoria) drew the short straw by being the last speaker on Sunday afternoon. Many people had by then left in order to catch their train, which was a pity as only half the delegates were left to hear her. Nevertheless, I’m glad I didn’t miss her talk as she was an interesting and accomplished speaker. I’m now thoroughly enjoying reading this fascinating biography, which of course I got her to sign.

Would I go again to the York Festival? I will indeed. Extremely well organised by Harry Bingham, it attracts some of the top names in the business, both published and aspiring writers of all types, and even the food was good.


  1. Lovely to chat at York, Freda, and really good to hear that there was enough going on for it to be useful to a very successful novelist like yourself.

  2. I saw you there but didn't get a chance to say hello. It was that kind of event! Great stuff. Inspiring and exhausting.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Freda. I couldn't be there so it's nice to hear what went on.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was good to catch up with friends, meet new people and keep a finger on the pulse of the industry. Sorry I missed you, Sally.