Winchester Festival by Chip Tolson

UnknownDay long workshops, hour-long lectures and a flurry of ‘One to Ones’ were the order of the day aided by fine weather enhancing the chance to mingle al fresco to chat, commiserate, encourage and enjoy a not inexpensive weekend.

The Festival, in previous years The Winchester Writers Conference, stems from the University of Winchester’s Creative Writing faculty. It draws to England’s ancient capital a cross-section of all ages, writers, publishers and agents covering a multitude of genres.

Much debate centred round the merits and strengths of the digital incursion into the traditional practices of the publishing industry.

I attended Orna Ross’s workshop Successful Author Publishing. Orna, a published author with Penguin, is the founder of The Alliance of Independent Authors (www.allianceindependentauthors.org). In 2011 Orna took back her rights from Penguin so that she could take control of her ongoing publishing ventures making use of the digital technology of the last few years. She founded ALLi in 2012.

The Alliance is a not for profit organisation providing writers with support and contacts to enable them to be their own creative director for their publishing project. The course covered the options, processes, costs and benefits of taking your book from inspiration to publication on an independent basis and laid great emphasis on the vital need for good editing to ensure the quality of any independent project, indeed for all published work.

Discussion ranged over the comparative merits of the traditional (Agent/Publisher) and independent routes, also hybrids of the two. What may suit one writer will not suit all. It is an individual choice, but it is clear that the independent route exists and is strong. For my part as an ‘emerging writer’ in my seventies I realise I am not the ideal Agent/Publisher candidate; I need to set my path along the independent route.

After breakfast on the last day of the Festival I took time out to wander across the road into West Hill Cemetery, its summer grass strewn with wild flowers grown long amongst the graves, where butterflies sunned themselves on headstones before flickering flight away about their brief lives. Many Great War graves of young men much the same age as the majority of the delegates to the Writers’ Festival across the way rest amongst the late city folk of Winchester; graves of men brought home from named battlefields injured only to die days, weeks or months later of their wounds.

A single wild orchid grew through the long grass close by the war graves adding its spirit to the peace and tranquillity of the English summer day holding the cemetery in its gentle grasp.

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