The National Creative Writing Industry Day is the largest conference of its kind taking place in the North of England. Drawing over 150 delegates annually, the event is run in partnership with The Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, and is designed for all new writers aspiring to publication to gain an insight into the publishing industry from its experts, and to help them hone their skills needed to enter it.
Returning on the 1st November 2019, the Industry Day (was Graduate Fair) is now in its fifth year. Find the full programme and tickets here.
Last year, we asked attendees of the NCWID 2018 to report on their experiences of the event. Keep reading to see what alumni Urmi Pahladsingh and Alessandro Pozzolo, who both flew from different countries to attend last year’s event, had to say about the National Creative Writing Industry Day, including what they took away from the conference and their advice to future delegates.
“Last year, the screen of my phone lit up with a reminder to sign up for the National Graduate Creative Writing Graduate Fair. For weeks I had no real intention of going, as I live across the channel on a meagre student loan. Yet, on some unexpected whim, I booked a last-minute flight, a hotel and a ticket to the fair. It was the best money I ended up spending in 2018.
NCWGF was well organised, budget friendly and rife with opportunities for amateur writers. Comma Press went above and beyond to bring dozens of front-running industry professionals to their event, which made it the perfect opportunity to expand my professional network. At the end of my NCWGF experience, I ended up with two business cards and three interested agents, which was a better outcome than I could’ve hoped for.
Your time at NGCWF is limited. That means that when you walk through the doors of the Geoffrey Manton Building, you want to have some sort of strategy in your mind. Here, it is crucial that you know who might be interested in your work. This should include the agents you are pitching to, but also other attendees, like editors, publishers and published writers. You never know when an opportunity to give an informal pitch might present itself. When it does, you want to be ready.
Regarding the pitch, there is no perfect formula. Each of mine were radically different. Yet, you should have prepared a 5 to 7 minute pitch that you know by heart, so that you can accommodate deviations or interruptions without losing your cool. Prepare to talk about the following topics: brief story arc (including main plot points), primary motivation of your characters, genre, demographic and similar books. Now, if you have that information nailed down, practice. I practised my pitch over a dozen times with over a dozen different friends, who I know to be critical, honest and capable of constructive feedback. As writers we tend to get too close to our work to be objective. We need others to be objective for us.
Get the most out of the workshops, panels and speeches by actively engaging in the content at hand, and ask any questions you might have about the industry. This is your chance. Take your time to meet fellow aspiring writers, so you can share experiences and maybe even acquire some readers. Building a professional network, in my opinion, is a crucial step towards getting published and the NCWGF provides you with the perfect platform to do so.
So, if for any reason you are still not sure about attending the fair, tune out the thoughts that tell you “I’m not ready yet.” or “now is not the time”. Even with an unpolished or unfinished manuscript, the things you learn throughout the day are bound to improve your final draft.”
“I decided to go to the NCWGF not knowing what to expect. I knew it was a whole day dedicated to writing and careers within the sector, and that was enough. I bought a return flight from Lille (France) to Manchester all on the same day. The fair was useful to me in ways I could never have predicted.
At the fair, I pitched the plan for a novel which was to be my PhD dissertation to Ludo Cinelli from Eve White Literary Agency, in search of some advice more than anything – I couldn’t sell a book I hadn’t written. The agent suggested that I start finding out more about my plot and characters.
I was on the train back to the airport when I thought of something Cathy Rentzenbrink had said during the panel on how life experiences fuel our writing. The memoir writer had said that when deciding subject matter, you have to go down a few layers to find what really matters to you, and often this can be hard and painful. However, it is only by accessing these core reflections, these memories exploding with meaning, that we are truly invested in our writing – and consequently manage to grasp the reader. Something clicked. Your writing has to really matter to you, before it does to anyone else.
There are times when hearing an outside opinion is the only way to realise that you are going down the wrong track, and this is what talking to the agent did for me. I realised that in my PhD proposal/novel plan, I hadn’t thought about any detail of story or character, getting lost in the symbolism and authenticity of it. The story was alien to me and I couldn’t even picture the characters in my mind. Considering that I would have embarked on a three-year journey doing a project that I didn’t even care for at the start, crash-landing into reality was invaluable.
One important tip I was given is that the competition is tough, so your work really has to be marble-floor polished if you want to get it out there. It has to be the best possible product you are capable of delivering at the time you send it off. This may seem obvious, and indeed it is, but sometimes we must hear things repeated to properly absorb them. I remembered when, during the workshop on Editing for Success, writer Mahsuda Snaith told us that she’d written the first draft of her novel when she was fourteen, and redrafted for years and years before publishing; I remembered seeing all these other aspirant writers, just like me, putting all their effort possible into achieving their goal (publishing), just like me… and well, everything fell into place.
A whole day dedicated to writing was a great motivator. I came back from the event bursting with ideas and plans to start developing on the page.
I would recommend the NCWGF to anyone living in a European country (it is worth the plane journey!). Pitching your writing, hearing other writers discussing their own writing – it all gives fresh insights into the craft, and new perspectives on things you thought you knew. Rest assured, going will be invaluably useful in ways you could hardly have imagined beforehand.”
The National Creative Writing Industry Day 2019 will take place at Manchester Metropolitan University on the 1st November. Tickets are on sale NOW.