I'm revving up to go off to Winchester for the weekend. The Writers' Conference will be on from the 29th at the University of Winchester - it's a pretty massive event, which has been running now for over a quarter a century (therefore started long before the explosion of courses, conferences and festivals we now see). I'll be teaching a day course on plotting (cram everything I know about how to structure a novel into six hours? No problem!) and giving lectures on editing and characterisation on Saturday.
I've been going to this conference for years now - initially as a delegate, not a speaker. I first went when I'd just completed 'The Chase' and had hopes of it. I went because I wanted to make contact with other writers and feel part of a community. Again, that's much easier these days, partly because of the aforesaid popularity of courses and festivals and so on, partly because there are more book groups and writing groups, partly because of the internet - Facebook, publishers' sites, online courses, and blogs like these.
I've made some good friends at the conference - it's like a school reunion every year! I learned a lot when I first came about the power of networking, and I learned what I've come to believe strongly in - that apart from talent and graft, as a writer you need to know how publishing works and you need to learn how to play its game.
The conference is pretty massive and is a bit of a fitness challenge, as the venues are spread across the face of a steep hill overlooking the city (which, by the way, is a wonderful place to visit in itself). You develop the skills of a mountain goat.
It's also totally exhausting - so many people, so many queries, so much hunger for information, for the magic secrets that lead to publishing success! And I'm also the worst person in the world for remembering names ...
So if you're there, and you come up to say hi or ask a question, forgive me if there's a blank, exhausted look on my face and I have trouble remembering my own name, far less anyone else's!
If you do go, swig a lot of caffeine, make the effort to meet people, be prepared to listen to often uncomfortable advice, be positive and professional - and enjoy!