Selling (Writing) Dreams…

Chipping Norton Literary FestivalAs I was driving into Oxfordshire this morning, heading for the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (exciting!), they played one of my favourite songs on the radio – Jessie by Joshua Kadison (OK, I know it’s a bit cheesy and Joshua really could do with a haircut but it’s in my top ten, so there!).

One of the lines (ahem, not that I know them all off by heart, or anything..) is “Jessie, you can always sell any dream to me.”

And it made me think: as much as I love literary festivals, that’s precisely what they’re doing: selling dreams.

Now, of course, lots of ‘readers’ (as opposed to ‘reader-writers’), attend festivals, to hear their favourite authors speak and to meet them at the obligatory post-talk book signing. I’ve done that too, dozens of times and that’s all fair enough. That’s not really what I mean. Literary festivals appeal to writers too (most festivals offer writing workshops these days) and that’s where the ‘selling dreams’ bit comes in.

I went to two workshops today: ‘Creating Tension’ and ‘Write Great Dialogue’. I’ll tell you more about them in my next post (see what I did there?!).

They were good, I enjoyed them and learned something, as I always do. They were well attended too – probably 20 people in each – and when we did some 5 minute writing exercises, people (mostly men, I noticed!) were clamouring to read out their work.

The writer-tutors were gushing and enthusiastic in their praise. “Fantastic!” “Brilliant! “Really well done!”

Those writers – or wannabe writers – probably went home feeling ten feet tall and the writer-authors were also probably pretty pleased with themselves at the end of the session. After all, they’d been admired, they’d sat at the front of the class, delivering their words of wisdom and the subtext was, “Follow our advice and you, too, could be published authors like us.”

Everyone felt good. A win-win situation.

But as I sat there, I couldn’t help but imagine all the wannabe writers who hadn’t taken the day off to enjoy themselves at a festival. Who were, at that very moment, sitting at their computers, or in front of a notepad, actually writing, the hard way. The way it really is: alone, with no-one on the sidelines, cheering you on. And for longer than five minutes…

PS: In case you were wondering, the winner of my Poldark book giveaway was Sherri Turner.

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13 Responses to Selling (Writing) Dreams…

  1. Ninette says:

    I’m reading your blog post while sitting in an apartment in Brooklyn New York – just so you know that your’e read all over the world, not trying to show off or anything. I find writing alone difficult. It’s a hard slog and getting feedback and sharing stuff that you’ve written is a great way to boost confidence and keep going, (providing the feedback isn’t too negative). I think that’s why I’ve become addicted to online courses. I’m unable to attend most of the festivals on offer in the UK for logistical reasons and cannot attend any writing clubs etc. At the moment I’m in between courses and missing that contact I get from a tutor and know I will HAVE to sign up for something when I get back home next Thursday. Any ideas?

  2. Ninette, I agree, it’s great to get feedback and feel part of a community – I think that’s why people enjoy workshops at festivals, for example (I do!). How long are you home for and where will you be based? Stratford Literary Festival is on next week and into next weekend. Probably too late/too far for you though…http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-masterclasses/partners/stratford-literary-festival

  3. Ninette says:

    When I get back home it will be to Italy and no chance of signing up for anything there! I’ll be looking at another online course. The residential courses are very expensive, even to attend for a day. I finished my Writer’s Bureau Course last month…now I’m getting edgy…I hope to be in the UK for longer periods at the end of 2105 and into 2016…

    • Ninette, sorry am being completely dense. For some reason (although of course, I know that you live in Italy!!) I thought you were coming back to the UK for a visit or a longer stay. Are there no ex-pats writers’ groups (even on-line?) in Italy? I’m sure you’ve explored all avenues but it seems a shame. Perhaps someone could recommend another on-line course to Ninette…?

  4. Hi Helen, I’m reading this sitting at my kitchen table after an hour and a half of edits and rewriting on my work in progress. I’m very lucky, I belong to a good critique group, and have forged friendships with several writers over the years, who I can ask for advice and help via email. I suppose you could say, I’ve built my own support network.

    I’d like to go to more festivals and conventions, but time, money and logistics prevent me from most of them these days. They are great places to meet other writers, and catch up on news. I also love a good workshop, and believe mostly that the tutors are trying to help me, or show me something I might not have considered before. I love to have fun with my writing too, and workshops are a way of experimenting.

    I enjoyed the song, and your post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Thanks, Maria. I too do, really, believe that the tutors are trying to help us but you could look on festivals and their accompanying workshops as yet another excuse for procrastination! You can never stop learning, of course but I think, once you get to a certain level (ie: you’re not a complete beginner) it’s time to put pen to paper..! I could go on workshops or courses forever though. I love them!

  5. rosgemmell says:

    I enjoy workshops and conferences but, you’re right, it’s more difficult when we have to get on with that writing at home. That’s why I need deadlines!

  6. Wendy Clarke says:

    I like talks but I’m rubbish at workshops. When I’m told to write something to order, I just freeze! Give me my home and my own computer any day.

  7. I know what you mean, Wendy. There are some people in my class like that, so I never make the writing exercises last more than a few minutes – and no one is forced to read out! (some people love them though and are really good at them!)

  8. Kate Hogan says:

    I love ‘Jessie’, too – makes me want to cry. Every now and then I have a play on my guitar and Jessie is one of my favourite songs to sing (no idea what anyone listening thinks!) I’ve only been to a writer’s workshop once. I was far too shy to read my work and quite exhausted afterwards so I guess I’m one of those lonely, no-one cheering on the sidelines types. But I think you’re right about many of these big events ‘selling dreams’ but I guess for some people the inspiration is what carries them forward to maybe realise the dreams they’ve bought. Good wishes KH

  9. Thanks, Kate, glad it’s not just me (actually, I did almost cry when I heard it in the car on Sunday!! What is it about that song, eh?!!)

  10. Kate Hogan says:

    I think it captures that sense of willingness to drop everything and run back to the possibility of the love we felt we’d lost, whatever the consequences and however foolish we know we’re being. Very poignant…KH

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