Julian Fellowes gives inspirational talk for writers at the Winchester Fest

Hi gang,

Just about recovered from leading workshops at the Winchester Writers Conference at the end of last month.  It’s a terrific conference, and I’m very lucky to have been invited again this year to be one of the workshop leaders, so that’s in no way a complaint.  But OMG it really did knacker me – for me, read everyone who attended and/or took workshops.  Everyone who attends comes away totally inspired, but also needing a week on a beach with the brain in a darkened room in recover position afterwards.

There’s always an amazing mix of writers across the spread of genres, so whatever kind of writing a wannabe wants help with, they’ll be able to find it there, from crime novels to stories for children, writing scripts for film/radio, to my own poetry workshops.  And there are also useful sessions with publishers and agents, experts in harnessing new technology like e-books, to how to bring your work to a wider audience.  Naturally some of the sessions were packed because so many people believe writing a novel is the pathway to enormous financial success, which makes all the novelists I know hoot with laughter.  Certainly there’s little likelihood of any poet getting rich through writing collections of poetry; I still need a day job despite my 5 collections, but poetry has allowed me to travel all over the world and visit some places I would not have otherwise have visited.  Most writers have to keep plugging away for years to make a living and achieve any kind of recognition, even if they have an agent.

Julian Fellowes

Julian Fellowes was a key-note speaker at the Winchester Conference and had some very interesting things to say about this.  He advised by all means take advice from ‘how to’ books; they will give you advice on how to do it based on what has already been successful and what has gone before.  But at the same time, he said, you must remain true to your vision, that special unique thing that makes what you do special, and that you should retain your belief in your own talent, which is very sound advice to any aspiring writer.

Luck is an enormous element, he added, saying there are many people who have great talent but have never had a break.  And TENACITY is essential, advising that writers should do something every day to move themselves forward – write a letter, make a phone call, or write something.  He did this for 10 years before it started to bear fruit, so be tenacious…original talent by itself is not enough.

He said you must write books that you want to read, write scripts for TV shows or films that you want to see – there is no catch-all. People asking you for advice are asking you to take responsibility for their lives, but it’s unrealistic to think that someone else will do all the work for you.  The person for whom your career is of paramount importance is you.  You have to be thinking how you can move things forward, even if you have a brilliant agent.    And sometimes even if you a publisher/agent, the advice they give you will be just plain wrong.  For example, when Julian had written ‘Snobs’, his agent advised him to ‘put it in the dustbin and write something for grown-ups’.  So he has enormous gleeful pride at reporting the novel is now a best-seller in 47 countries, and emphasizes that sometimes you’re right and the agent’s just plain wrong.

Hopefully, I’ll be asked back to do more work with the Winchester Conference next year, and I cannot recommend it too highly for all you writers out there wanting to take things further.  In the meantime, however, there’s always Loose Muse to keep you going.  The next LM event is on 10 July featuring Kadija Sesay and Vivienne Verme, with Special Guest Monica Hand, all talented writers offering you the best of what they have.  So hope to see you there to

Share the passion, share the joy.

Love – Agnes

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