Friday 7 September, 4.57pm
“What have I done? What have I done? This is going to be the worst weekend ever.”
Sunday 9 September, 5.25pm
“Why does it have to end? I’m not ready for it to end. That was the best weekend ever.”
A lot can happen in three days.
There may be some reading this who will know exactly what I mean. For everyone else, I am referring, of course, to the Festival of Writing, run by the lovely and frighteningly organised people at The Writers' Workshop.
At 9am on Friday morning, I embarked upon my first long-distance train journey, headed for the beautiful city of York. Having boarded the correct train and identified my seat with minimal imitation of a deer caught the headlights of an oncoming car, I was feeling very sensible and grown-up. Passing the time with self-satisfaction and tourist-level interest in the scenery flying by, I barely felt the ripple of trepidation about the festivities ahead.
Fast forward to the University of York campus, where lines of people are snaking back from the registration desk and voices bounce around the hall and strangers smile timidly at each other and old friends race to greet each other. It’s all going on at once and I’m having flashbacks to Freshers’ Week. I just want to lie down till it goes away.
The horror of facing an entire room full of strangers would fill a thousand pages on its own. When that subsides it begins to settle on me…this is a writing festival. I’m surrounded by writers, real writers, and agents, and publishers, and people who are experts on everything and in every way smarter and funnier and more exciting than me.
Then I have a lie down and remind myself that I am not actually thirteen years old.
Fast forward another few hours, and I’ve already met some people who I am sure will become life-long friends. I’ve shared stories and conversations with wonderful writers. I’ve heard brave souls read their work aloud for the entire festival to hear, and applauded them all. I’ve made so many great memories and it’s only the first night.
Any attempt to list the highlights from Saturday’s workshops and keynote addresses would be pointless. I might as well just post the entire programme. How would I even choose? In one hour-long workshop a fully-formed character came to life from nothing more than a pair of letters and a number. In another I was taught about suspense by a writer I respect and admire. Later, I had the ultimate light-bulb moment when I discovered exactly what kind of writer I am and always have been. Add to this some well-placed Jurassic Park references, a character motivated largely by prawns and some serious celebrity spotting and you have the tip of an iceberg made entirely of highlights.
I made a weary and weak attempt to summarise the weekend on Twitter, describing it as “superb, intense, emotional, inspirational.” It was all of those things and much more, but someone else helped us say it much better in three short phrases. “I do. I do. I can.”
If you don’t know what that means, I only have one thing left to say…Festival of Writing 2013.