SPECIAL FEATURE Organising the Winchester Writers' Weekend


“I love conferences” is something SCBWI member Georgina Lippiett never thought she’d say. But that was before she discovered what the writing community could make of them. Having cut her teeth helping to organise the SCBWI-BI conference, this year she's involved in bringing about the Winchester Writers' Weekend.


It’s a joy to spend a long weekend in the company of fellow writers, with our insights and ideas and passion and hang-ups and beautiful genius. I find it impossible not to be swept up in the enthusiasm and inspiration that buzzes around us when we get together.


Two years ago, I offered to help organise the SCBWI conference. It was both terrifying and electrifying, with all the thrill of being an attendee, but amped up all the way to eleven. So I was thrilled to be asked to help organise the Winchester Writers’ Weekend, which lands in June.


The Writers’ Weekend was born out of the Winchester Writers’ Festival. When the University of Winchester sadly decided they could no longer fund the annual event, many of us feared it was the end for an institution that had been bringing writers together for fifty years. But we were reckoning without the fearless festival director, Sara Gangai. She stepped in and created the Writers’ Weekend. Sara is a force of nature and when the pandemic hit, she managed what no-one thought possible - staging the entire weekend online and finding a way to retain all the magic we love about face-to-face events.


One of the things I’m most excited about is helping to facilitate the Writers’ Circles. They start up in May (it’s much more than just a weekend!) and the virtual format lends itself beautifully to weekly meet-ups. I’m a bit of a fan of writing groups; they’ve made a huge difference to my own writing, helping me build the confidence to share my work and giving me a safe space in which to experiment with voice, style and subject matter. To give that kind of support to others in return is equally valuable. When every reader is a writer and every writer a reader, you really do find your critical thinking skills are honed and polished in a way you just can’t do in splendid isolation. I’m eager to help facilitate this for other writers, especially, of course, those writing for children!


I’m also part of the team reading and assessing entries for the scholarships and competitions. This includes the Writing for Children competition as well as four complete scholarships for writers aged 18 to 24, generously funded by Monica Wood. For me, reading other people’s work is a privilege. Every page equates to hours of blood, sweat and tears, so it’s both humbling and inspiring to be allowed to see the final outcome.


When it comes to the weekend itself, I’ll be hosting an ‘in conversation’ with Lissa Evans event. Lissa writes for both children and adults and I can’t wait to hear her take on how she manages to make full use of her characters to further the plot, develop a sense of place and avoid bare-faced exposition. Being able to talk to authors about their experiences, techniques and devices is fascinating, and with questions from the audience, who knows where the conversation will go?


Throughout the weekend I’ll be one of the many moderators helping to manage the ‘virtual rooms’. I’m no tech geek, so it’s a relief the software is simple to use (and there’s backup for anyone that needs it), and provides the interaction that’s so important to a writers’ event. Even better, I can moderate in my PJs!

One of the Writers' Weekend highlights will be keynote Chris Riddell.

 Having a chance to connect with published authors is such a treat (especially my kid lit heroes!) but it’s the sense of community with writers of all kinds that I’m really looking forward to; from the slow-burners to the prolific, the ambitious to the hobbyists, the agents to the publishers, the crime writers to the children’s writers, it’s the diversity that really inspires and energises me. None of us is an island. Our writing is richer, fuller and more nourishing when we connect with others. And I for one can’t wait to start building new bridges and finding out where they lead me. 

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon is one of the weekend's keynotes.


The 2021 Winchester Writers’ Weekend runs from 24th to 27th June. The keynote speakers are Chris Riddell, whose new re-imagining of Through the Looking Glass comes out just before the Writers’ Weekend, and Diana Gabaldon, the author of the popular 'Outlander' series. The programme includes talks, one-to-one appointments, readings, panels, writing circles, group chats and so much more. For all the details go to Writers Weekend – from inspiration to publication.

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