So this seemed like a good time to invite my first guest blogger to contribute to BforB. Harry Bingham writes about the Festival of Writing at York which he initiated a couple of years ago and describes how it all began and where it's going. Next year's event will soon be upon us, from 25-27 March 2011 at York University and bookings are now being taken. Phone 0845 459 9560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org You can also book via the website at http://www.festivalofwriting.com/
Harry Bingham is a best-selling author of novels and non-fiction and author of Getting Published. His co-organiser is Kate Allan, author, agent and books industry publicist.
Guest Blogger Harry Bingham
We writers are crazy. About two years ago, a friend of mine asked if I’d be interested in setting up a festival of writing. Like a literary festival, only this one would be exclusively for writers … and instead of filling the event with media-celebrities, we’d bring along agents and publishers and top-selling authors to pass on their knowledge and know-how.
Like an idiot, I said yes.
So we started to research venues, and realised that we needed a place which could offer overnight accommodation for several hundred people. And a restaurant to feed them. And lecture halls which could hold anywhere from 30 to 800 people. And all on a campus which was pretty, but modern, and compact, and disability-friendly, and well-run. There just aren’t all that many places in the UK which could fit that brief, but the University of York ticked all the right boxes. But did we realise that our booking would involve a large deposit? And that we’d be on the hook for all the rest of the (even larger) amount of money, whether or not we sold the first ticket? And did we want to go ahead and make the booking?
Like an idiot, I said yes.
And I’m so pleased I did. There were quite a few nerve-wracking moments during the planning phase (would anyone come? would anyone come?) but the event was an absolute smash hit. We had some brilliant, brilliant speakers (my personal favourites: Katie Fforde for her warmth and general loveliness. Roger Ellory for the inspiration. Simon Trewin for telling it straight.)
We also had some wonderful agents and book doctors, who gave tough, realistic but constructive feedback to all and sundry.
Better still, the delegates who came were just wonderful. So warm, so enthusiastic, so keen to learn. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a weekend with so many people and so much buzz. It was exhausting, but inspiring.
And this year, it’s the same again, only bigger and better … and without the vague terror that no one is going to turn up. We’re pretty sure that the 2011 event will be a sell-out, so we’re encouraging everyone who’s interested to book as soon as they can.
Plus of course, the usual host of agents and publishers and book doctors, all there to help first-time writers get better.
Last year, our star pupil was Shelley Harris who ended the Festival with six agents trying to sign her up … and who got a very juicy two book deal from a major publisher not long afterwards. This year, who knows what’ll happen? I’m sure of only two things: the first is that the weekend will be wonderful. The second is that by Monday morning, I’ll be so tired I won’t get out of bed until teatime.
I hope to see you all there …