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Is Splashing Out for a Writing Weekend Good Value For Aspiring Writers?

May 19th, 2017

It is coming to that time of the year when we, as writers, start reading about residential writing courses – Festivals, Schools and Weekends. Are they worth it? Some appear to be quite expensive. Will I gain anything for my writing? Who goes? And, aren’t they mainly recreational? What exactly do you get out of it?

If you are new to the game choosing represents a rather daunting prospect. They are varied in what they offer, but I can assure you that some are with experienced, professional tutors and they will work you very hard. So, how will you find the right one for you?

I went to my first Writing Festival in 2002 – the NAWG Festival of Writing at Durham University. And now, thirteen years later, I have two novels published and I am the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Association of Writers Groups (NAWG) and heavily involved with the planning of their annual writing festivals, which has been re-branded NAWGFest 2017.

What I have achieved must say something for attending a writing festival as a novice writer.

I saw the advertisement in Writing Magazine and wondered if this could be the extra push that I needed, being halfway through my first novel, but not exactly sure what I was doing. I went along very apprehensively and mingled with the other delegates. I’d been a late booking and so my workshops were not exactly what I wanted and the one-to-one was of a genre that I had no intention of following. I’d written a piece and sent it ahead of me and when the time came the one-to-one was a disaster, with me tongue tied and apologetic. I rang home to my husband amid floods of tears.

Nevertheless, friendly conversation around the table at dinner time, with like-minded people, instantly made me feel less of a fool and there you have it. I found that the company of other writers was invaluable to get on in my chosen endeavours, because writing can be a very isolated business. I came away from the festival calling myself a writer and that gave me great encouragement and all I needed to get to where I am now.

So, quoting from my own experience, writing festivals and weekends are great ways to boost your self-confidence and indeed give you the essential learning to improve your writing.

Look carefully at what is on offer, and be prepared to work hard as well as play hard. First-class professional tutors offering you the benefit of their own achievements and experience are always worth looking out for in the festival programme and at least one award-winning, top-selling author to brush shoulders with, makes all the difference to what you get out of the event.

Recommendations from both delegates and tutors can be invaluable and happy tutors make good ones. A quote from a tutor at NAWG’s 2015 festival reads: ‘I want to say how great the atmosphere was, and the feedback I was getting from participants with regard to their general experience at the (2015 NAWG) festival was really great. Indeed, I always find that the measure of a really successful conference event is the quality of the out-of-session conversations you have with people – and this year it was exceptional. I felt that people were really being challenged, inspired and interrogating their practice.’

This completely endorses my opinion that atmosphere and general socialising plays a great part in the experience. Finally, from a delegate to the organisers at the same event: ‘You must be very proud to be able to present such an outstanding group of course leaders and speakers. The warmth of the welcome and the quality of the courses made the whole event most memorable.’ Favouring the hard work and learning part, as being essential.

So, there you have it – choose well.

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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