To download a PDF of the Mslexicon 2019 programme, click here.  To view the sessions available to day ticket holders on Sunday 14 July, download the Day Ticket programme here.



WORKSHOP: Fiery flash fiction (10am – 12pm)

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 and inventive structure. She’ll also advise on where to submit your finished flashes of genius. 

(This workshop is also available on Saturday PM) 

WORKSHOP: Psychoanalysing your characters (10am – 12pm)

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 difference between conscious and unconscious motivation? And how can writers construct coherent and convincing emotional histories for their characters?

(This workshop is also available on Saturday PM) 

WORKSHOP: When to press ‘send’ (10am – 12pm) – SOLD OUT

Jenny Savill

Jenny Savill has been working as a literary agent with ANA (Andrew Nurnberg Associates) for over 16 years, and has seen every kind of submission: the good, the bad and the downright ugly. It’s unusual for a literary agent to run a workshop, so we’re delighted that Jenny has offered this practical interactive two-hour session to help you decide when your precious manuscript is ready to send out into the world. 

Is it enough to have reread every chapter until you know every word off by heart? Almost certainly not, according to Jenny. Before you press ‘send’, Jenny will show you how to pause, take a breath, and properly assess whether your manuscript is fit for submission. She’ll provide you with a detailed checklist of things to consider – and attend to – to give your book the best possible chance of attracting an agent. Using individual and group exercises, Jenny will focus on drafting your cover letter, pitch and synopsis. 

WORKSHOP: Point of view: Who’s telling your story? (10am – 12pm)

Jane Rogers

Imagine the story of Little Red Riding Hood, as told by the wolf. She might mention her starving pups, her own famished state, and the recent murder of her mate by huntsmen. She might talk about how her natural prey has been decimated by farmers and foresters. We might start to feel empathy for her… 

In this workshop about narrative voice, the award-winning novelist, playwright and short story author Jane Rogers, will look at writing in first, second and third person, and explain how a shift in point of view can radically alter a story. Deciding on what point of view to use is arguably the most important decision a writer takes before embarking on a new story. But what if you have two leading characters, rather than one? Or multiple first-person viewpoints? How do you shift point of view between scenes? What effect does that have on your reader’s sympathies?

Using a series of exercises employing different points of view, Jane will help you explore what is gained and what is lost by using each voice.

TALK 1: Discovering your voice as a writer?
Margaret Wilkinson
TALK 2: Performance skills for writers
Rosie Garland 
(10am – 12.15pm)TALK 1: Margaret Wilkinson has been teaching voice in fiction for many years. But what exactly is a writerly voice? Do you have one? If not, what techniques can you use to discover one? If so, how can you enhance it? The short story is the perfect vehicle for experimenting with and developing your own unique style, your fingerprints on the page. Looking at contemporary stories, this one-hour talk will probe the mystery of how different voices are evoked – so you can do it too.TALK 2: If you’re nervous about performing, or want to improve your ability to keep your audience gripped, this informal talk by award-winning writer and performer Rosie Garland will look at how all writers – of fiction, non-fiction or poetry – can improve their readings and presentations. Whether you’re performing at a launch reading or open mic event, Rosie will offer insights and strategies to build up your confidence and make your words sizzle.(This talk will be repeated Sunday PM)
PANEL: Indie publishing in the North (10.15am – 11.45am)

with Sarah Cleave from Comma Press, Sara Hunt from Saraband & Tara Tobler from And Other Stories

There has never been a better time to be published by an independent (indie) publisher. With big corporate publishers becoming increasingly risk averse in their choice of titles, much of the best adventurous, diverse and idiosyncratic writing is being published by the indie press sector – and titles from indie presses are crowding onto the literary prize lists. The 2nd Edition of Mslexia’s own Indie Press Guide lists over 340 independent book publishers, championing every kind of writing – and you don’t need to have an agent to submit. 

Among those making serious waves is the Northern Fiction Alliance, a group of 11 leading independents based in the North of England, all committed to showcasing voices from outside London. We’re proud to welcome representatives from three of those publishers at this panel event, ready to answer your questions about how they work – and how they can work for you.

PANEL: How to pitch your book (10am – 11.45pm)

with Jo Unwin, Laura Williams & Lina Langlee

Whether you have the germ of an idea, a work in progress, or a finished manuscript, at some point you’ll need to answer the question, ‘What is it about?’. Often that’s the hardest question for a writer to answer; because we are so caught up in our work, with all its characters and subplots and deeper meanings, that it’s impossible to see the wood for the trees. But if you can’t sum up your book in 100 words, how will you ever induce an agent or editor to pick up the manuscript? 

This panel discussion, with three leading agents specialising in every genre from romance to crime to non-fiction, is your chance to find out more about the pitching process, and take part in an open session where you can pitch your current project for constructive feedback on its strengths and weaknesses. Often it’s not the writing in your book that’s at fault, or your plot idea, but the way you’re describing them in your pitch. Listen and learn!




WORKSHOP: Why is my protagonist boring? (2pm – 3pm)

Jane Rogers

Virginia Woolf claimed that a good story begins with ‘the little old lady on the train’. In most fiction, character is key. But we often find that the admirable heroic protagonist we want readers to root for and identify with pales to insignificance beside the fascinatingly flawed baddie we want them to dislike. 

Novelist and short story writer Jane Rogers’ own character creations include a 19th Century evangelist, a idealistic young environmentalist, a vengeful daughter and a confused and crotchety old woman, and she has been teaching creative writing at postgraduate level for many years. In this workshop she’ll explore some of the techniques a writer can use to create a compelling character, and analyse published examples of great characterisation to see what we can learnt from them. And she will consider a boring protagonist, and look at ways of making them more interesting and memorable.

TALK: Performance skills for writers (2pm – 3pm)

Rosie Garland

Are you nervous about presenting your work in public? Do you want to keep audiences hanging on your every word? In this session, award-winning writer and performer Rosie Garland looks at how all writers – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – can improve their readings and presentations. This informal and supportive talk will combine key insights with practical tips and strategies to help build your confidence and make your words sizzle.

There can be few people better equipped to share her knowledge and experience on this topic. Rosie writes long and short-form fiction as well as poetry, and has been praised by Apples and Snakes as ‘one of the country’s finest performance poets’. She also sings with post-punk band The March Violets and performs gothic cabaret as Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, chanteuse and mistress of ceremonies. So come prepared for an inspirational and exhilarating hour…

(This talk is also available on Sunday AM)

TALK: Earning a living as a writer (2pm – 3pm)

Danuta Kean

A 2018 survey by the Society of Authors found that the median annual income of a professional author in the UK is just £10,500 – and the average earnings of female professional authors are around 75 per cent of those of the average male. Many writers make a living through portfolio careers, with multiple part-time jobs or contracts.

Publishing expert and commentator Danuta Kean – who has been earning a living as a freelance writer for over two decades – looks at the many ways that writers can supplement their income, from teaching workshops and chairing events, to journalism, copywriting and blogging. 

She also offers advice on managing your portfolio workload – and your work-life balance – to keep the commissions coming in without burning out. And she’ll tackle that all-important issue of calculating what your writing is worth, and making sure you get paid a fair fee for your work.

TALK: Funding opportunities for writers in the North (2pm – 3pm)

Claire Malcolm, New Writing North & Alison Boyle, Arts Council England

If you’re interested in finding out about funding opportunities for writers in the North, this is the event for you. We’re delighted to welcome two of the most knowledgeable women in the region to answer your questions about what kind of support is available – and what the funders are looking for in an application. 

Claire Malcolm has been leading New Writing North for over 20 years, presiding over an organisation that supports work-in-progress by new, emerging and established writers across the whole of the North of England, with a wide range of grants, initiatives and partnerships with organisations such as Channel Four, Live Theatre and Penguin Random House (and Mslexia…). 

Alison Boyle is your direct line to literature funding from Arts Council England, with insider information on what kind of financial support is available now and in the pipeline for the future. 

PANEL: What makes a book addictive? (2.15pm – 3pm)

with Julie Fergusson & Maggie Gee

What is it about a novel or a book of creative non-fiction that keeps the reader totally engrossed, feverishly turning the pages, unable to set it aside, until three in the morning? In this engaging discussion, commercial fiction agent Julie Fergusson and seasoned author of 13 novels and Professor of Creative Writing Maggie Gee will talk about what makes a book addictive, how to use plot and character to hook a reader and force them to read on for their next ‘fix’, and what writers can learn from blockbusting bestsellers, TV soaps and Netflix binges to apply to their own work. What is a hook and how does it work? What is it about a particular character that makes the reader care about them so much it’s impossible to abandon them part-way through a story? 

SPECIAL GUEST: In Conversation with…  Sophie Hannah (3.15 – 4.15pm)

We’re excited to present the highlight of Mslexicon Sunday, an intimate ‘In conversation…’ event with Sophie Hannah, the multi-talented multi-tasking author of bestselling brain-teasing psychological crime, award-winning poetry, edgy contemporary novels of manners and – in her most recent incarnation – the officially anointed new voice of Agatha Christie’s Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. 

Sophie has been a regular in the pages of Mslexia, both as interviewee – about her no-nonsense approach to her career and how she goes about constructing her extraordinary ‘inside the locked room’ plots – and as a feature writer, on the skills on display in good genre fiction. Sophie will be talking about developing personas in fiction, about good and bad writing, and how she maintains her spark, productivity and momentum as a bestselling author with an annual publication deadline. Bring your books along to be signed, and your questions to be answered, at this informal event. 

(No booking necessary)

MEET UP: Find your tribe (4.30 – 5.30pm)

with Rosie Garland, Michelle Hodgson, Danuta Kean & Debbie Taylor

A meeting with a difference! Our panel convenors and MCs will introduce a range of activities to ensure the contacts and friendships you made during the weekend will last until Mslexicon 2020 – and beyond. 

Because new privacy regulations prevent us from simply circulating your contact details, we have decided to use this opportunity to make a virtue out of a necessity. So if you’re interested in starting a feedback group, a regular performance event, a self-publishing alliance, or just a supportive get-together – in real life or on line – this is your chance to throw your hat into the ring.  

(No booking necessary)


Click here for:   Friday Sessions   |   Saturday Sessions   |    1-2-1 Sessions