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23rd Winchester Writers' Conference


‘Finding the words’ - The 23rd Annual Writers’ Conference in Winchester, UK

The biggest of the annual British writers’ events took place on 28-29 June in Winchester. Hundreds of enthusiastic writers from many countries attended a weekend conference preceded by mini-courses, with week-long workshops to follow.

The Conference organiser, Barbara Large OBE, at the WritersServices Stand

The Conference organiser, Barbara Large OBE, at the WritersServices Stand

As a speaker at the conference, I was struck by the writers’ immense determination to get published. The UK market is typical of international publishing at the moment in that the big publishing houses are cutting their lists, abandoning mid-list to concentrate on what are seen as ‘big books’. But these writers are still focused on finding their way into print. Many want the verification of their status as writers that getting published bestows.  Others have a non-fiction book written or mapped out, and are keen to find a publisher.

Agents who spoke at the workshops were mobbed and I spent most of the day besieged by eager writers for ‘one-to-ones’ – fifteen-minute individual consultations – which in my case were about how best to get published. Given the tough climate, my advice focused on getting the work into the best possible shape before submitting it, but then in most cases to try to find an agent to sell it. Submissions to publishers direct are difficult and there’s no guarantee that the work is being looked at by anyone other than a junior assistant. Much the same is true of agents, so it’s important to look carefully at their submission guidelines (see our agents listings).

Some writers wanted something very individual or had a specific market for their work which they could reach themselves. I advised them to think about self-publishing and to look at the pages of free information about what’s involved on the WritersServices Self-publishing site. Now that Print on Demand can be used to keep the cost down, this way of getting into print has become a cheaper and more easily-available option.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm of everyone I spoke to and their determination to make it through the slush-pile and get their work published.


Beryl Bainbridge, the Honorary Patron of the conference, inspired us all with her opening address, which was an eloquent and frank account of the development of her own writing career. She said that if she had been sending the manuscript of her first novel in to Duckworth now it would probably never have been published. She urged fiction writers ‘not to give up, to persevere to achieve the joy of storytelling.’ Encouraging all writers, she said that ‘finding the words can often mean finding ourselves’. Beryl Bainbridge at the Annual Writers' Conference

Beryl Bainbridge at the Annual Writers' Conference

© Chris Holifield 2003


For further information:

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Avoiding rejection

Finding an agent

UK agents’ listings

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WritersServices Self-publishing