Last month I went to the PowWow Festival of Writing. Again, I went with my writing group, and we had a brilliant time. However, the weather wasn’t great, but thankfully we were under the heated marquee to keep off the chill and hail.
The event started with a panel discussion with Kate Pemberton (Ambit), Carly Holmes (Lampeter Review), and Trini Decombe (Streetcake). During the discussion, the three panellists told us about the magazines that they worked for, what they looked for in a submission, what a writer can gain from submitting to them, and their thoughts on the literary magazine. The one thing they all agreed upon is that a new voice and original ideas are key to success.
This was then followed by a talk from nature writer Rob Cowen. He shared his experiences of how he weaves in parts of his life into his nature writing. He also talked about how he started his writing career writing for newspapers before he found success with his nature book.
Throughout the day, the writer Dan Powell read out his short stories. His stories had great twists and even Morse code.
There was also a chat from the Head of the BBC Writersroom and Claire Bennett, a core writer for the show Doctors. I found this talk very interesting, especially as I’m looking to start writing plays for the stage and radio. Claire shared her journey of how she became a writer for TV, which began with a writing course at Birmingham University. The audience was told what TV and radio shows is best to watch or listen to if you wanted to get into script writing, such as Peaky Blinders and Happy Valley. Again, they said that the key to success is being original and finding your own voice, instead of copying other writers.
A talk from Georgina Bruce and David Savill then followed. David is an author who also runs a Masters in Creative Writing at St Mary’s University, London. Georgina is a writer who has had many of her short stories published, and she is a creative writing teacher. They both discussed the pros and cons of teaching creative writing. Georgina shared her experiences of doing an MA in creative writing. She felt that not all creative writing teachers know how to teach creativity. What I got from this was that getting a qualification isn’t necessary unless you plan to teach, and I can assure you I have no plans to do that. They did mention that writing groups can have just the same positive effect as doing a course, and I definitely have to agree with them.
After a tea break, Dan Powell read out more of his stories. Courttia Newland, who is a playwright, novelist, short story writer, and creative writing teacher, then followed him. He said that a teacher once told him that he would be a novelist, but at the time he laughed off the idea because he wanted to be a rapper. He never thought anyone would want to hear his stories, but he has been proven wrong.
Ending the event was the author Ros Barber. Her debut novel, The Marlowe Papers, won the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Author’s Club Best First Novel award. She talked about her experiences as a published author. She also shared how she writes whatever she wants to write because she doesn’t want to be put in a box. We also had the pleasure of listening to her read out parts from her debut novel and her second novel, Devotion.
The one thing I noticed with this year’s event was that many of the authors, even though successful, still needed a day job. It is disheartening to see that many authors can’t fully support themselves with their writing, but it is good to see what it truly is like to be a writer. And the fact that that hasn’t put me off trying shows that I am heading in the right direction.
I really did enjoy my time at the festival, and again, I learnt so much that I felt my head would explode. It’s definitely an event that every writer should go to. I can’t wait for next year’s festival.
Keep writing, folks!