Friday, 19 June 2015

The 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference: Do it Yourself

Writing can be personal yet public, controversial yet ignored, meaningful yet forgotten- basically, it can be anything you damn want it to be. But despite the lack of boundaries and rules, we all still need a little help and guidance along the way and that’s exactly what the 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference was about. Not telling you what to do and when to do it, but offering advice to make the most out of the ideas and the talent that we ourselves have.

After filling our boots with hot drinks and biscuits(because obviously), we were welcomed by New Writing North chief executive, Claire Malcolm, who then passed onto acclaimed novelist, Meg Rosoff. Speaking about the trials and tribulations of her life so far, she took us on her imperfect journey of what adulthood is actually like. From working in jobs that she hated – and being fired from most, if not all of them – to moving to London where she met her husband, to finally, at the age of 45, sitting down and writing her first ever novel, Meg was fantastic. One of the main things I just loved about her talk, was that she didnt sugar coat anything. One of my favourite things she said was:

"When I was younger I thought being an adult meant you went from a job, to an even better job, lived in a house, and then moved into an even better house, had a crappy boyfriend, and then found the love of your life, had kids and settled down. Yeah no, that's not how adulthood quite is."

We all have an idea in our head about the moment that you 'become' an adult, and immediately have your shit together. I'm waiting for that to happen right about now but funnily enough, nope, looking around, shit still everywhere...

Witty and truthful, Meg's speech was one of my favourite parts of the day, inspiring us all to just forget what we think we ‘should’ be doing, and just write what we want to.

We then moved onto the How to Stand Out in a Digital Age panel event, which featured Ben Willis, head of digital publicity at Transworld; Costa-shortlisted author and social media expert Nikesh Shukla; vlogger and Hotkey Books digital coordinator Sanne Vliegenthart, whose YouTube book vlog, Books and Quills, has over 124,000 subscribers; and blogger Simon Savidge, who runs the influential book blog, Savidge Reads. Talking about the influence social media and blogging now has on the book buying public, as well as their views on the publishing industry in the technologically engaged 21st century; it was so interesting to hear their views, exploring how the digital age has transformed the industry.

It kind of scared me just how centred around social media the talk was though. I have a kindle, I love social media but if ever the moment comes when books are no longer printed, I want to LEAVE THIS PLANET because that is simply not ok. OK.

There were a number of workshops, with each person choosing two to attend. As someone who has blogged for a while now and who uses social media far too much than is healthy, I chose to go along to ‘Websites and blogging’ and ‘Develop your online presence’. I really feel that the writing and the content you produce is, obviously, the most important thing however it was really great to explore how powerful social media can be in engaging your own audience. In an informal and relaxed manner, both sessions were fantastic in explaining to those both starting out in the world of social media and blogging, and those more experienced, the dos and don’ts of all things digital.

Now, I think the final session of the day might just have pipped Meg Rosoff to the post, for my favourite part of the event. It was a close call(because Meg is just awesome!) but the ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not’ panel was just so good. The panel consisted of experts within the publishing industry, including Francesca Main, editorial director of Picador ( who recently edited the best-selling The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton!), Rachael Kerr, the editor-at-large at Unbound; Anna James, book news and media editor of publishing industry bible The Bookseller and books editor of Elle magazine; and Jo Unwin, literary agent whose clients include Nina Stibbe and Jenny Colgan. I really did love listening to them talk about the industry, about books they’ve loved and those they think we will love over the next year or so.

I have already ordered two of the books that Anna James in particular, raved about – The Bees by Laline Paull and How to be both by Ali Harris which I am currently reading and loving. I have a list as long as my arm now of ALL THE BOOKS I am going to read this year, and I cannot even begin to explain the self restraint I'm having to endure to not find myself in Waterstones buying every single one of them right this very second.

The 2015 Newcastle Writing Conference’s theme this year was ‘Do It Yourself’ and, after attending this event, I feel inspired and motivated to do just that.

This post was originally published on Cuckoo Review.


  1. This looks like a fantastic event, I wish I'd have known about it, was it free?

    1. It was really great! No, not sure what the full price was but I got a discounted ticket of £16 through New Writing North's Cuckoo Review scheme. x


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