Mslexicon Day Tickets
Saturday 13 / Sunday 14 July
Please read the terms and conditions before booking your ticket.
Ticket Option 1: Saturday Only
Ticket Option 2: Sunday Only
Your day ticket includes your choice of talks and panel discussions, and lunch. Individual events are booked on a first-come, first-served basis, so you will need to choose your morning and afternoon sessions when you buy your ticket. Please have selected your options from the drop-down lists above before you pay for your ticket! If an event listed in the programme is no longer available in the relevant drop-down list, this means it is fully booked. Please note that a Sunday ticket also includes access to ‘Sophie Hannah in Conversation’ at 3pm.
All event and workshop spaces are wheelchair accessible, apart from one room reached by a wide staircase. Please telephone 0191 204 8860 if you would like to discuss your accessibility needs.
TALK: Writing for children: Middle Grade and YA books
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
PANEL: Opening pages: how to get our attention
with Jo Unwin & 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; 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.Back to top
TALK 1: Memoir and fiction: what’s the difference?
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 exotic 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 inboxes.Back to top
TALK 1: Discovering your voice as a writer
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.
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!Back to top
TALK: Performance skills for writers (2pm – 3pm)
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…
TALK: Earning a living as a writer (2pm – 3pm)
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 (3.15pm – 4pm)
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 the 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 an 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