Had a brilliant weekend at the York Festival of Writing.

Haven’t been to a writers’ conference for, um, thirty years. And this weekend truly had a festival attitude about it – thanks, in no small part, to the witty Harry Bingham, whose outfit masterminded it last year and this (see Writers’ Workshop).

I was lucky enough to be awarded not two but three one-to-ones by dint of having been among the first fifty applicants for places (keen or what?). My consultations were definitely fruitful and I feel grateful to all the editors and agents who bothered to attend and help us, whether we are already published or still moving towards it. They respected any experience and knowledge we had and still gave valuable input. Great. Thanks to all, but especially to Julia Churchill, Beverley Birch and Kathryn Price who spoke with me.

It’s invidious to point to any particular presentations as being excellent – I only went to one workshop in each block, after all. But I will mention three anyway. To not do so looks mean.

1 I loved listening to the children’s panel of Jane Smith, Nicola Morgan, Kathryn Price of Cornerstones, Michael Ford (I think his name was – he of Working Partners anyway) and Julia Churchill of the Greenhouse agency. That’s where my greatest note-taking took place.

2 Then there was Nicola Morgan’s session on writing for children and young people (wisdom goes down so much better with wit).

3 And Harry Bingham’s Prose Lab – as an editor, I had a wry grin and also a deep think. Even editors aren’t perfect when assessing whether a paragraph should go in or out (especially their own favourite ones).

Little gems I picked up on?

Well, there was Nicola Morgan’s” safety net” idea on what you can and can’t put in children’s books for different ages; Julia Churchill’s love of her slush pile; Harry Bingham’s declaration that agents love the hustle and bustle of the deal, whereas editors love the slower process of arranging words – hence the need to target the right people first; David Nobbs’ description of us writing things that never happened to people who never existed; and Jane Holland saying the back story is like a boring voice-over: drip it in slowly.

And if I weren’t writing for children, I’d be sitting here dreaming of being Elizabeth Haynes working with Vicky Blunden of Myriad Editions. Oh well… we can’t win all the time. So cheers, and here’s to the next one.



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