PHEEBS ATTENDS THREE EVENTS - TWO WRITERS' WORKSHOPS AND A TALK ABOUT BREXIT

To be fair, I can probably blitz the whole of this day in one blog post. Not because I’m rushing through it all, but because I didn’t go to so many events.

I started with a fantastic workshop by the brilliant literary agent Jo Unwin. She talked to us writers all about how to get noticed when submitting a manuscript to agents – hence the title ‘How to Sparkle in the Slush’. It was incredibly useful; and I believe that everyone thoroughly enjoyed it since her advice was easy to relate to, and to put into practice, and by the end we all felt reassured on how best to approach an agent: with respect, confidence and politeness.

The most refreshing thing about the workshop was how Jo assumed that each member of the audience was currently working on a literary project. Far from being presumptuous, I felt that we were all grateful for the chance to practise and seek guidance on our own individual pieces, and without needing to convert advice for general writing to apply to our specific writing.

It felt quite unusual, since most writing workshop hosts assume their attendants write, but don’t usually address the idea that each is writing a specific piece at that moment in time. For those who are doing this, the attention given to it is invaluable.

One of my favourite moments was being asked to write a ten-word pitch for our own works. It meant we could hear what she thought was good (and so to replicate it in our submissions to agents), and what to avoid (and therefore not touch with a bargepole during our submissions to agents).

I next had another writing workshop (‘Crafting Character’ ) with novelist Emily Barr and it was just as good; it was doubly nice since I recognised a lot of the audience as authors from the previous workshop, or authorial friends from elsewhere in the festival. 

Emily structured it so that first we covered eight crucial points to remember when creating or writing about a character, to make them more realistic, relatable and successful. We were also asked to write about some characters in similar situations to those in some example book extracts. This was great fun, and for each exercise completed in the workshop, two or so people read out their produced work. 

The only moment of panic that I experienced was when we were asked to write about a character doing something bad but for a good reason. Being a melodramatic and morbid teenager, I immediately went for grotesque murder; only to find that those who read out their pieces had gone for comedically presented mild vandalism. All I could think was ‘don’t pick on me, don’t pick on me; don’t ruin your preconceptions: I am not a sweet little girl’.

Luckily for my own piece of mind, I asked my neighbour and she’d decided to write about murder too; so I wasn’t the only one, and I could rest assured that I was not a lonely psychopath.

The final event of the day was aptly named ‘Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now?’.

I am not yet politically minded and my knowledge is woefully inadequate, but this was valuable for me to hear what us kids will be facing in future (so now I can educate the rest of my form group on it, whether they want to be or not – they’ll thank me later).  Ian Dunt expressed his very informative and informed opinions in a considered argument, with despair-invoking honesty. The points were incredibly well-made, and it’s just a shame that I get easily hypnotised by law-speak, such as about trade deals and contracts. My dad, who I pulled from a working day to attend this one with me, before taking me back home, found it fascinating start to finish and recommended it highly.

In conclusion, a perfect weekend with good company, charming venues, and the most fantastic events that entertain, educate and move even the stoniest of hearts. Thank you, ChipLitFest 2017, and bring on ChipLitFest 2018!

If you want to read Pheebs' review of Emily Barr's The One Memory of Flora Banks, click here.