Event Report: The National Association of Writers’ Groups annual writing festival - NAWGfest 2016

Room with a view! – my home for the weekend.
‘On the weekend after the August Bank Holiday, both NAWG members and like-minded writers with a broad spectrum of abilities, get together for an exceptional weekend, focussed on improving their writing. 
It's a memorable weekend, which includes the use of: a fitness suite, a heated swimming pool, and workshops in state of the art classrooms. Meals created by a top chef and excellent en-suite facilities with showers.’ – NAWG committee. 

If you’re not familiar with NAWG, it stands for National Association of Writers’ Groups. Many groups across the UK are part of the organisation that offers support and publicity for the groups or individual members, critiques and discounts on various courses throughout the year, monthly newsletter which members are invited to submit to. They also run competitions both open to the public and members only. The members only competition winners are announced during the festival weekend, and this year my 11 year old had a story shortlisted in the children’s writing category.
Welcome bag, crammed full of writerly information with free copies of Writers Forum and The Writing Magazine, and in my case, a much needed campus map!
There were many writers from across the country attending, some for the whole weekend, or for the various shorter packages on offer, allowing them to attend workshops and the Gala dinner on the Saturday night.
The weekend comprised of the all-important, refreshments and cake on the Friday afternoon/early evening as delegates arrive. Followed by an evening meal and after dinner talk. Last year Lord Julian Fellows came along, who is also now the President of the organisation, but sadly couldn’t make this year’s event, but writer, Joyce Worsfold gave a humorous and poignant talk on her writing journey and read passages from one of her books, A Fistful of Marigolds.
‘Go on, I Dare You!’ – Talk by writer and member of NAWG – Joyce Worsfeld.
There’s plenty of time to network and socialise with other writers over the weekend, from all different stages of their journey, from those writing for pleasure to published authors and those in between! Saturday and Sunday for the most part, is made up of workshops that are booked in advance. This year I mainly booked in with children’s writer, Steve Bowkett. Some I attended covered subjects such as Ghost Stories, Idea Generating and even Self-Hypnosis for Writers, which came with a very soothing and helpful disc to listen to at home, to help me tap into my subconscious for ideas and keep the creative process going.
The futuristic looking corridors of my accommodation!
On Saturday afternoon we had a talk and discussion called ‘Murder Investigation’ with an ex-police officer, Stuart Gibbon, who now works as a consultant for writers. The talk provided some interesting insights into the world of policing and how it can be used in writing, with details on forensics too. 
 ‘Murder Investigation’ with Stuart Gibbon
Keynote speaker at the Gala dinner on Saturday night was children’s writer, Gervase Phinn, who presented the awards, including one for my son who was in the top four in the Writing by Children category, beating my mother, who wasn’t shortlisted in the Writing for Children section! Gervase gave an entertaining and light hearted talk called 'The Limits Of My Language', about misunderstanding and unintentional humour.
Gervase Phinn giving his talk ‘The Limits of My Language’.
Gala dinner pudding, hmm!
Throughout the weekend, there are also readings from writers attending the festival, and a marketplace set up with signed copies of books that can be purchased.  There’s also the opportunity to attend the AGM on the Sunday, so you can have a say in how the organisation is run, or make suggestions. This is quite fascinating to see how the committee are selected and how they organise such events as NAWGfest, which is held on the first weekend each September.
The vegetarian options for the Gala dinner.
This was my third year at NAWGfest, and each year I’ve made some lovely and supportive friends, and caught up with old friends. The sort of support network offered to those attending is invaluable, and for some, this is their only time each year when they get to spend lots of time with other writers.
There’s plenty of facilities on sight, with the option of going swimming, thinking time in coffee shops or quiet time to write in various places of the ground of Warwick University. 
Plenty of space for writing in peace back at my room.
NAWGfest brings together a diverse range of writers who nurture each other and understand the hard and often an emotional rollercoaster ride if a journey each of us is on. There’s nothing quite like the company of other writers!
My son’s certificate and trophy for being shortlisted in the top four
There’s such a diverse range attending each year from short story writers, to published novelists, there’s lots to learn and enriching experiences. As it’s not just children’s writers attending, it’s fascinating to hear other experiences and writing processes, and the overlaps within genres.
I can thoroughly recommend attending NAWGfest if you get the chance, I am definitely going back for my fourth year September 2017!

Emma Finlayson-Palmer has won numerous short story competitions, has had stories published in magazines such as Anorak magazine for children, written two MG novels, started many more and is mother to a multitude. She is also the host of #ukteenchat on Twitter, a chat for writers of children’s fiction. A SCBWI member since 2014, based in the West Midlands and currently working on a book for 5-8 year olds and being mentored by Tamsyn Murray.


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