Despite missing the opening workshop on the Friday evening due to horrendous traffic on the M5 - a particular blow as I had hoped to use some of Steve Bowkett's creativity tips in my sixthform creative writing class - the weekend was full of fantastic ideas, fascinating people and lots of laughter (oh and I won a copy of Linda Lewis' "The Writer's Treasury of Ideas" in the raffle!).
Despite Friday's disappointment I nevertheless took part in a range of different workshops and took away bags of goodies that I can use in class.
Highlights included a 2 part workshop on writing crime fiction by the author and musicologist Roz Southey, who took us through the different types of crime novel, gave hints and tips about how to write them and patiently answered even my silliest questions.
On the technical side, Pippa Hennessy, hosted a terrific workshop on how to create an eBook. It's remarkably simple (or so it seems!) and I will use what I learnt to help Hertford Writers Circle convert our forthcoming anthology to digital format. I'm also going to put a few of my own short stories up here as a practise exercise in the near future.
For a bit of variety, I also attended talks and classes by the playwright and author Marvin Close. Marvin has written stageplays, a non-fiction story about Football and Apartheid and writes extensively for TV and Radio including stints on Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Like all of the tutors and guest speakers, Marvin was incredibly friendly and approachable as well as extremely open about the realities of his profession.
There was entertainment in the form of Simon Brett. In addition to a workshop on comedy writing that unfortunately clashed with another talk that I was attending on crime writing, he kept us roaring with laughter with his brilliantly funny one-man show lampooning the myriad clichés of the police procedural. Playing multiple parts - each with their own voice - he left us laughing and also mentally tallying just how many of them we are guilty of...
Gervase is a former teacher, headteacher and OFSTED inspector as well as being the writer of many comedy books, mostly about schools and the wonderful pupils he's met over the years.
He had us in absolute hysterics and as a teacher myself I loved his vividly portrayed anecdotes, read from the little black note book that he carries everywhere. If you ever get a chance to hear Gervase speak, do it, it was one of the most entertaining half-hours I've ever enjoyed.
After presenting the numerous writing prizes won by NAWG members over the previous year he stayed and chatted whilst he signed copies of his various books (I got a copy of his autobiography for my Mum!)
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The evening finished (for most of us) with the annual sparkle - an opportunity for attendees to read out or perform some of our own work. We were treated to poems, comedy skits and even a bit of rap!
I wasn't expecting this and hadn't brought anything, nevertheless the wonders of a smartphone and online storage meant that I was able to call up a short story written for Hertford Writers' Circle's Christmas celebration and share it with delegates.
I traipsed off to bed about 12:30, however rumours abound that more wine was located and some hardy souls made it to 4 am... you know who you are!