On the 7th May 2017, I (and the Oldbury Writing Group) had the pleasure of attending the PowWow Festival of Writing for the third time. Yes, the third time. As always, the festival was held in the beer garden at the Prince of Wales pub in Moseley.
Over the years there have been literary agents, publishers, novelists, scriptwriters, etc. attending the festival. And every speaker has always shared such fascinating, encouraging, and informative advice. And this year was no different. Again, Steph Vidal-Hall facilitated the festival. The first to speak was Arifa Akbar, freelance journalist and deputy editor of Wasafiri magazine. She talked about the need for more diversity in publishing, and she shared her experiences of struggling to transition from a journalist to a writer. I was surprised to learn that journalists feel this way because to me a journalist is a writer. However, we writers often struggle to feel like ‘real’ writers, so of course, a journalist would feel the same crippling self-doubt.
Following Arifa was Roz Morris, ghost writer, fiction editor, author, and creative writing teacher. She talked about how you can make money out of writing, and she shared the story of how she became a ghost writer – she has ghostwritten for big-name authors and sold more than four million copies worldwide. She also discussed how she decided to self-publish her first novel because she wanted her books to be written in her style and not in the style of the books she had ghostwritten. During the end of her talk, she delighted us with a reading from her book My Memories of a Future Life.
After a lunch break, where I had a delicious chicken sandwich from Sainsbury’s (it was quite tasty), Jennifer Hewson, a literary agent from Rogers, Coleridge & White, took to the stage. She described life as a literary agent, explained the benefits of having an agent, and offered valuable advice to writers looking for literary agents, or for people wanting to become literary agents. I have to admit my pen never left the page during this talk. One advice she gave that stuck in my mind is that you need to find an agent that loves your work and will offer you the support and guidance that you need.
Following on from Jennifer was the ‘Whatever Happened to the Avant-Garde?’ slot. For this part of the festival, we had speakers Elizabeth-Jane Burnett (poet, academic, and curator), Stewart Home (known to be the most out-there writer on the planet), and Sam Mills (author) talk about their definition of avant-garde, the history, and their avant-garde writing. Before this festival, I didn’t know much about the avant-garde, so I found what the speakers had to say very intriguing. I was further impressed by Stewart reading a poem while standing on his head – it was amazing, seriously.
After a small break, the author of Brixton Rock, Alex Wheatle took to the stage. Sadly, he didn’t read while standing on his head, but he made us laugh while telling us about his writing journey – he, once, had only two women and a dog come to one of his book readings. It was encouraging to see how with perseverance you can make your dreams come true; you just have to be prepared to work hard, extremely hard.
Last, but not least, Joanne Harris, the author of 18 novels, including Chocolat, entertained us with talks about her writing career, her writing shed (she gives it a different personality each day), her writing process, and the importance of writers being paid for their work. Before the festival, I had never heard of Joanne Harris, but now I’m keen to read her books, oh, and see inside her shed. A writing shed, how wonderful would it be to have one.
As always I had a brilliant time at the PowWow Festival of Writing. My head buzzed with information – I almost suffered from information overload – and I felt so positive about my own writing career – I would love to one day be a guest speaker and share my own writing journey, but for now, I’ll continue to be one of the audience members. I would happily recommend this writing event to all writers, no matter what you write. I can’t wait for next year’s festival.
Keep writing, folks!