To download a PDF of the Mslexicon 2019 programme, click here. To view the sessions available to day ticket holders on Saturday 13 July, download the Day Ticket programme here.



WORKSHOP: Writing prose monologues (10am – 12pm)

Margaret Wilkinson

Critically acclaimed playwright, short story author and creative writing tutor Margaret Wilkinson will introduce you to the craft of writing prose monologues – to make your fiction voicier, pacier and more intense. Taking inspiration from dramatic writing, she will take you through a series of exercises that will use the monologue form to create deeply empathic characters with distinctive voices, inner lives and uncomfortable secrets. 

The spoken voice is probably the most obvious feature of the prose monologue, a sense that the main character is actually talking directly and intimately to the reader – but is this character telling the truth? Is she hiding something from herself, or others? 

This workshop is the distillation of Margaret’s four-part monologue workshop series on Mslexia Max, which is a primer for writers entering our Women’s Monologue Competition, launching June 2019.

WORKSHOP: ­­­­Short story masterclass (10am – 12pm)

Jane Rogers

The award-winning novelist, playwright and short story author Jane Rogers, who has taught creative writing at university level for many years, will lead this workshop on creating a short story that will grab the reader from the very first line. The exercises will include examining some powerful fictional openings and analysing what makes them work; and considering where the best place is to start a story – is cutting your first paragraph always the best advice? Then you’ll write an unputdownable opening of your own. 

Economy is one key characteristic of a great short story, but setting can be equally important. Jane will also look at ways of evoking dramatic and atmospheric settings with the minimum of description. Come prepared to write!

WORKSHOP: Dealing with your internal critic (10am – 12pm)

Rosie Garland

Rosie Garland is an acclaimed novelist, poet and singer – but she is still intimately acquainted with her inner critic. So if you have ever completed a short story, only to feel like throwing it in the bin, or found yourself apologising when asked to read it aloud, this is the workshop for you. Do you lie awake at night thinking your novel might be completely unpublishable, or sit in front of a screen unable to type a single word? 

It’s all very well to say ‘just do it’ – but what happens when you can’t? Welcome to the world of the internal critic.

This informal and supportive workshop delves into the root of the problem. Rosie will lead a discussion about Imposter Syndrome, encourage you to share experiences – and most important of all, explore strategies for dealing with your own internal critic, so that it never gets the upper hand again. 

WORKSHOP: How to write a synopsis (10am – 12pm)

Debbie Taylor

The synopsis of a novel or memoir is probably the most challenging piece of text a writer ever has to tackle. Mslexia’s Editor Debbie Taylor interviewed over 30 literary agents to develop this workshop, in which she offers a foolproof step-by-step method to take the pain out of writing this daunting challenge.

In a series of practical exercises she will help you identify what your book is really about, and explain how to communicate this to an agent or editor. 

How long should the synopsis be? How many of your characters should you include? How much of the plot should you explain? What about the denouement? What about subplots? Debbie will demystify the entire process and leave you with all the ingredients you need to write your own synopsis. 

N.B. This workshop is designed for people who have already written a draft of their book, or who have planned out the plot and characters in some detail. 

TALK: Writing for children: Middle Grade and YA
Linda Strachan
PANEL: Publishing trends 1: Middle Grade and YA
with Julia Churchill & Thérèse Coen (10am – 12.15pm)TALK: We are very privileged to offer this talk by Linda Strachan, who is the award-winning author of over 70 books for children, and also the author of the seminal handbook Writing for Children. Linda’s extensive experience of writing for children aged from 8 to 18 makes her the perfect person to speak on this topic. She will discuss the wide variety of ways to approach older children, exploring the possibilities, the joy and the challenges in writing Middle Grade and Young Adult books.

PANEL: Fantasy and magic realism, diverse voices and settings, gritty contemporary plots with hard-hitting messages, classic stories reconceived for a modern audience… What are the current trends in Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction at the moment – and what’s on the horizon for the future? Find out what’s on the wishlists of two specialist agents working in this field.

TALK: Plot and pace: how to write a page-turner
Alison Hennessey
PANEL: Opening pages: how to get our attention
with Jo Unwin, Elise Dillsworth & Clare Alexander (10am – 12.15pm)TALK: Penguin, Random House and Bloomsbury editor Alison Hennessey, with a host of bestselling novels under her belt, will share her insights into the key elements involved in plotting and structuring a compelling novel. From flashbacks to cliff-hangers, sub-plots to plot twists, multiple timelines and multiple narrators, how can you ensure your book is as riveting as possible? Alison will highlight common pitfalls and help you identify key areas to focus on in your writing and rewriting process. 

PANEL: Literary agents receive hundreds of submissions every week – so how do you make yours stand out? Our trio of agents will guide you through the best way to ensure that your first sentence, page and chapter hook them and leave them wanting more. Clare Alexander is chair of Aitken Alexander Associates, a major literary agency based in London; Elise Dillsworth set up her own agency in 2012; Jo Unwin runs JULA, a dynamic agency that represents bestselling and début authors.

PANEL: Publishing trends 2: narrative non-fiction (10.15am – 11.45am)

with Kerry Hudson, Zoë King & Sarah Such

Narrative non-fiction or creative non-fiction are terms used to describe texts written with the creativity of a novel but based on real-life events and characters. Although this genre of writing can include elements of memoir and personal anecdotes, it usually also addresses one or more wider issues, such as philosophy, mental health, social class. 

The genre has gained enormously in popularity in recent years, with the publication of books such as Helen McDonald’s memoir H is for Hawk, about mourning, depression, and the training of a bird of prey; and Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun, about her personal battle with alcoholism. 

In this panel discussion, two leading agents who specialise in representing narrative non-fiction will discuss current trends in the genre with novelist Kerry Hudson, whose first sortie into the non-fiction genre, Lowborn, came out this summer.   




WORKSHOP: Fiery flash fiction (2pm – 4pm)

Meg Pokrass

Meg Pokrass was the judge of Mslexia’s 2019 Women’s Flash Fiction Competition and is the editor of our new Flash Challenge series in the magazine. Her writing workshops are very hands-on, inspirational, and aim to nudge you off your usual creative tramlines. She says that learning to write flash fiction is like becoming a mad scientist – you need to experiment to create something that works. 

From being a minority genre practiced by a small group of aficionadas, flash is fast becoming a mainstream form – in print, online and in performance. These days, there are hundreds of publications inviting flash submissions, many of which prefer them over traditional-length stories. 

Meg’s prompt-driven workshop will help you create strong openings and endings, use sensory information and specific detail, explore conflict, and develop an inventive structure. She’ll also advise on where to submit your finished flashes of genius. 

(This workshop will be repeated on Sunday AM)

WORKSHOP: Psychoanalysing your characters (2pm – 4pm)

Arabel Charlaff

We are excited to offer this ground-breaking workshop by Arabel Charlaff, who combines her work as a psychotherapist with her writing experience to help you plumb the emotional depths of your fictional characters. Arabel will explore with you that fundamental question, posed by both psychoanalysts and writers: why do we behave as we do?  

Psychoanalysis offers a wealth of developmental narratives, a variety of perspectives from which we can examine the story of character formation. Arabel’s workshop will introduce you to basic psychoanalytic theory in order to help you explore your characters’ inner worlds. How might their early experiences shape their expectations and assumptions in later life? What’s the difference between conscious and unconscious motivation? And how can writers construct coherent and convincing emotional histories for their characters? 

(This workshop will be repeated on Sunday AM)

WORKSHOP: Which idea should I write? (2pm – 4pm)

Stephanie Butland

As well as being an established author of two memoirs and five novels since 2010, Stephanie Butland is one of only 40 Master Trainers in de Bono thinking methods worldwide. Psychologist Edward de Bono invented the term ‘lateral thinking’ and revolutionised approaches to problem solving. Stephanie is an expert in thinking skills and creativity and unique in her ability to apply her insights to writing – and to life. 

So if you are buzzing with story possibilities, but unable to settle to anything, this is the workshop for you. Maybe you get a little way into a novel or short story, then lose confidence in your idea? Or plan out a complete novel in detail, only to lose interest in it as soon as you start writing? 

Stephanie will help you sort through your ideas, learn how to analyse and develop them – or perhaps even generate new ones – and finally strengthen and commit! 

WORKSHOP: Revealing and concealing in fiction (2pm – 4pm)

Margaret Wilkinson

Margaret Wilkinson has been inspiring postgraduate creative writing students – and readers of Mslexia – for two decades, with her perceptive insights and mind-expanding writing exercises. In her regular columns for the magazine, she has been analysing the skills of notable ‘short story heroes’ and monologue writers and has become convinced that good writing depends on achieving the right balance between revealing and concealing information. 

In this workshop, Margaret will teach you how to withhold information in a short story – and explain why you should. 

Using contemporary examples as inspiration, she’ll create a series of writing exercises designed to help you master the tantalising arts of withholding, omitting, delaying, concealing, hinting and misleading… The trick is to tease and tempt the reader, without annoying and alienating them. The result, if you get the balance right, will be more active, engaging and exciting prose. 

TALK 1: Memoir and fiction: what’s the difference?
Maggie Gee
TALK 2: Turning interviews into narrative non-fiction
Kerry Hudson (2pm – 4.15pm)TALK 1: Novelist Maggie Gee will talk about writing her acclaimed memoir My Animal Life – about becoming a writer, and being part of a generation of women who forgot about their bodies and often ‘forgot’ to have children. Her previous books were fiction, so was it a relief to tell a ready-made story – or a challenge to find a fresh format? Maggie will describe how she discovered lost memories, how she exorcised some ghosts – and how she dealt with her real-life family and friends afterwards. 

TALK 2: In this friendly fun workshop Kerry Hudson will share everything she learned from interviewing people for her book Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns – including how to put people at ease, what questions to ask (and when to stay quiet), how to capture the tone, character and setting of your meeting – and how to weave it all into a compelling narrative that does the story justice while serving the overall intention for the work. Could you do it too?

PANEL 1: Cultural appropriation (what not to do)
with Emma Paterson & Thérèse Cohen
PANEL 2: Rookie mistakes (how to avoid them)
with Laura Williams, Julie Fergusson & Diana Beaumont (2pm – 4.15pm)PANEL 1: What exactly is cultural appropriation? And what should writers bear in mind when trying to create fictional worlds that include diverse characters, themes and settings? With some publishers employing ‘sensitivity readers’ to monitor manuscripts for stereotypes, biases and problematic language, our guest agents will discuss whether certain subject matter is now off limits for some writers – and how far we should go in vetting our own work. 

PANEL 2: Our panel of seasoned literary agents describe the main rookie mistakes they see time after time in the thousands of manuscript submissions they receive every year. What tropes and clichés make them switch off? What avoidable gaffes make them sigh and press delete? And what can you do ensure your book submission is professional and appropriate and makes them sit up and take your work seriously?

PANEL: Publishing trends 3: Adult fiction (2.15pm – 3.45pm)

with Clare Alexander, Charlotte Robertson & Sarah Such

Back in 2000 Mslexia consulted a panel of literary agents and editors about the Next Big Thing in adult fiction, and they correctly predicted dark themes in chick-lit, historical fiction based around lesser-known true-life characters, and stories in foreign settings. In 2004 a different panel correctly predicted the emergence of issue-based memoir, cosy and/or historical crime fiction, and diverse authorial voices. Now a new panel of top experts will repeat the exercise for Mslexicon in 2019. 

How does a literary agent keep her finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist? How do they balance the search for the Next Big Thing with publishers’ penchant for producing clones of successful titles? Our three top agents will discuss the current trends in adult fiction writing, and tell us what they’d love to see next in their in-boxes.

DROP-IN PANEL: Reading Round (6pm – 7pm)

Jane Rogers

Good writers start by being good readers. In this intimate reading circle, award-winning author Jane Rogers will introduce the skill of analytic reading. 

Among all the other things in her life, Jane has been working for the Royal Literary Fund’s ‘Reading Round’ scheme, which has been rolled out across more than 40 towns and cities in the past four years. Reading Round is a discussion of a piece of text led by a practicing writer. The writer brings copies of a short story she has chosen, reads it aloud and analyses with the group the techniques that make that story powerful or gripping, funny or sad, dramatic or sleep-inducing. 

Jane believes this is a brilliant way to encourage writers to think about what makes a story work, and help them identify the nuts and bolts of fiction. Above all, it’s sociable and it’s fun!

(No booking necessary, but numbers limited to 15 people. First come, first in!)

ICEBREAKER: Open-mic performance salon (8pm – late)

All welcome

Try out your performance skills with professional equipment for a supportive drop-in audience of fellow writers – or choose a quiet time and practise your patter and reading with just a full-length mirror for company.

(No booking necessary)

DROP-IN PANEL: ‘Agony Aunt’ Agents (8.30pm – 10pm)

with Jenny Savill, Lina Langlee & Thérèse Coen

An informal drop-in panel session, offering direct access to the wisdom and experience of three top agents covering a wide range of literary genres. Bring your burning questions, queries and concerns – on pretty much anything book-related. 

(No booking necessary)

SPECIAL GUEST: In Conversation with… Jackie Kay (8.30pm – 10pm)

We’re thrilled to present this intimate ‘In conversation…’ event with the multi-award-winning novelist, poet, short-story writer, memoirist and all-round force of nature that is Jackie Kay. 

Jackie selected the poems and short stories on the theme of ‘death’ for Issue 2 of Mslexia, judged of our Women’s Short Story Competition in 2011 and last year was one of five leading women prose writers commissioned to create broadcast-length monologues for the magazine in the run-up to our 20th Anniversary in March 2019. The Scots Makar (poet laureate) will talk about monologue and voice, short and long fiction, and how poetry infuses her prose – and we’ll be asking her to read some of her work in progress. Bring your books along to be signed, and your questions to be answered, at this informal event. 

(No booking necessary)


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