NAWGFest 2016: Workshops, Talks & Timetable

Here's the timetable and details of the workshops and talks for NAWGFest 2016. Complete details are available in our brochure, free to download.

Also on the site are mini-biographies and photos for the festival tutors and speakers.

Bookable Workshops

There are twenty workshops to choose from, all of which will add to and compliment your writing skills…


Here's a quick summary of the workshops. Click the name links for workshop details.

Tutor Workshop Sat Sun
Della Galton Biog Ideas and opening paragraphs (for short stories) AM
Developing plot and character (short stories) PM
Writing excellent dialogue — my top tips AM
Writing the twist-ending short story PM
Stephen Booth Biog An Inspector Calls AM
Just answer the question PM
Where the bodies are buried AM
You'll never get away with it PM
Steve Bowkett Biog Writing ghost stories AM
The Mysteries technique PM
Creating characters AM
Learn self-hypnosis to boost your creativity PM
Adam Strickson Biog Under the skin – poetry as 'life writing' AM
High heels and walking boots: dressing your characters PM
Hear ye, hear ye! – beginning radio drama AM
'Alive in the river of light' – the poetry of water PM
Marvin Close Biog The Comedy Sketch AM
The Comedy Monologue PM
The Sitcom AM
Selling Comedy PM
Della Galton
Saturday AM (Galton-Sat-01) Ideas and opening paragraphs (for short stories)

This workshop will focus on short stories. Where do ideas come from? What makes a good opening paragraph? What is the one thing you must not do in an opening paragraph?

Saturday PM (Galton-Sat-02) Developing plot and character (short stories)

Plot and character are intrinsically linked. There is very little time to develop either in a short story but without them your story won't work. This workshop focuses on how to develop the two in tandem.

Sunday AM (Galton-Sun-01) Writing excellent dialogue – my top tips (suitable for short or long fiction)

No two people sound exactly the same and neither should your characters. This is a fun workshop that will help you to make sure your characters don't all sound like you.

Sunday PM (Galton-Sun-02) Writing the twist-ending short story

This is still one of the most popular types of story. Fun to read but difficult to write well. This workshop will focus on the types of twists there are and the dos and don'ts when writing twist endings.

Stephen Booth
Saturday AM (Booth-Sat-01) An Inspector Calls

This workshop looks at how to create a believable protagonist for your crime novel with strengths, weaknesses and motivation. And what about the antagonist? Includes use of "The Diamond" to form a multi-dimensional character.

Saturday PM (Booth-Sat-02) Just answer the question

Examines the importance of controlling point of view to engage readers with a character and involve them in the story. Considers how much information you should give away in a crime novel – and how to keep some vital clues from the reader.

Sunday AM (Booth-Sun-01) Where the bodies are buried

Locations have become very important for crime fiction readers. This workshop considers how to choose the right location for your story and bring it to life. And what about background settings? How much detail should you use?

Sunday PM (Booth-Sun-02) You'll never get away with it

Focuses on plotting a crime novel: the ways of creating conflict, and how to carry your reader through to the end of the book. Should you stick to a three-act structure, or could there be four acts? Includes the concept of "the midpoint".

Steve Bowkett
Saturday AM (Bowkett-Sat-01) Writing ghost stories

The focus of this workshop will be the creation of atmosphere and tension within the context of the ghost story. The work of M.R. James will be used as an exemplar. James (1862—1936) is considered to be one of the foremost British ghost story writers. His advice to other writers was:

Two ingredients most valuable in the concocting of a ghost story are, to me, the atmosphere and the nicely managed crescendo. … Let us, then, be introduced to the actors in a placid way; let us see them going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings, pleased with their surroundings; and into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first, and then more insistently, until it holds the stage.

He also noted:

Another requisite, in my opinion, is that the ghost should be malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales or in local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story.

Saturday PM (Bowkett-Sat-02) The Mysteries technique

This workshop uses what is called the "Mysteries" technique as a story-building tool. Pieces of information about a story-in-the-making are written on scraps of paper, which are then arranged and rearranged to gain new ideas and insights into plot, characters and settings. The technique will be demonstrated using a children's whodunit story before delegates have the chance to work on a plot of their own.

Sunday AM (Bowkett-Sun-01) Creating characters

Believable characters are an essential element of any short story. This workshop offers a number of tips and techniques for exploring characters in depth, including "The Circles Game", "The World Inside" and "Creative Conversations".

Sunday PM (Bowkett-Sun-02) Learn self-hypnosis to boost your creativity

Hypnosis is a normal and natural state of mind very similar to daydreaming. Steve is a qualified hypnotherapist who has taught hundreds of people how to enter the hypnotic state in order to tap more directly into the subconscious mind, where the roots of our creativity lie. During the workshop delegates will enjoy a session of hypnosis relaxation and then be shown how to use the hypnotic state to benefit their writing. Each delegate will receive a relaxation CD to practise the skill of self-hypnosis.

Adam Strickson
Saturday AM (Strickson-Sat-01) Under the skin – poetry as 'life writing'

Through reading, reflection and writing exercises, we will explore how poetry can be used as a form of biography to dig deeply into the lives of those we know or admire. Adam's poems tell the stories of many different people, from a Cotswold farmer to a holocaust survivor, from Laurie Lee to Joseph Shabalala of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. He will share the characteristics of his approach and invite you to celebrate or commemorate the people in your life.

Saturday PM (Strickson-Sat-02) High heels and walking boots: dressing your characters – for writers of script, prose and poetry.

How can what she or he or wears bring a character to life? Find out how high heels, walking boots, a kagoule or a fedora can light up your character writing. We'll read some fine examples of the art and write some ourselves. You could come with a partly formed character in mind or invent one in the workshop. Or you could even bring an item of clothing to inspire you.

Sunday AM (Strickson-Sun-01) Hear ye, hear ye! – beginning radio drama

There's a constant demand for radio drama and we can listen to it every day. But what makes radio drama come alive? What rivets the listener in the first five minutes, and stops the station switch radio playwrights' dread? We'll listen to some powerful opening scenes and write one ourselves. And we'll find out what makes the worst radio drama ever.

Sunday PM (Strickson-Sun-02) 'Alive in the river of light' – the poetry of water

We'll share writing about rivers from Alice Oswald, Mary Oliver, Ted Hughes and Simon Armitage, and exchange our own watery memories. Can working with water imagery help our own poetry flow? We'll explore ideas for poetic structures that reflect the nature of this slippery element. Come prepared to spend some time outdoors, rain or shine!

Marvin Close
Saturday AM (Close-Sat-01) The Comedy Sketch

Using film and video clips, we'll look at all the tools and tips you need to start writing comedy sketches, for radio, TV and internet, or stage and public performance.

Saturday PM (Close-Sat-02) The Comedy Monologue

A great short form of comedy entertainment, we'll look at a host of different approaches to coming up with ideas and structuring them for both performance and in the written form. For pointers, we'll listen to one of comedy's greatest ever monologue merchants, Bob Newhart.

Sunday AM (Close-Sun-01) The Sitcom

Where to look for inspiration, create believable characters, storyline and plot. Using examples from the likes of Blackadder, Father Ted, Peep Show and Parks and Recreation, we'll look at how laugh-out-loud moments can be dramatically structured into this classic comedy form.

Sunday PM (Close-Sun-02) Selling Comedy

Who to approach and how. What opportunities exist out there for sketches, monologues, sitcom ideas, comedy short stories and one liners, magazine pieces et al. This session will look in detail at the opportunities that exist for selling comedy in the UK and abroad.


Here's a quick summary of the talks. Click the name links for details.

Speaker Talk Time Location
Joyce Worsfold Biog Go on, I Dare You! Friday 8:30 pm Chancellor's Suite
Stuart Gibbon Biog Murder! Saturday 1:20 pm Engineering F107
Gervase Phinn Biog The Limits of My Language Saturday after gala dinner Sutherland Suite
Joyce Worsfold
Friday 8:20 pm Chancellor's Suite Go on, I Dare You!

A talk about daring to dream and then making dreams happen, based on Joyce's own experience of writing, performing, self publishing and being published.

There will also be excerpts and anecdotes from her novel, A Fistful of Marigolds about which Gervase Phinn said:

"If you enjoy a warm-hearted, life affirming and penetrating read then A Fistful of Marigolds is for you. Written in a lively, accessible and entertaining style, the story captures the joys, misfortunes and pleasures of an inspirational teacher who clearly loved her work with children."

A Fistful of Marigolds

It's the beginning of a new school term in 1973 and Kathy Johnson needs a fresh start. Thirty, unmarried and a teacher in a primary school on a run-down council estate, she is beginning to feel that life has passed her by. She needs to move on, but is still haunted by a tragic secret from her past.

However, the disadvantaged people of Becklefield have problems of their own and it's not long before Kathy is irresistibly drawn into their tumultuous lives. A devastating fire; mice and marigolds, parental abuse and apathy, poverty and passion, plus knights, castles, cub scouts and hilarious days out all become entwined into yet another hectic school year. Kathy needs faith and hope to get through but can a church community really help?

Add to that a boy obsessed by Beethoven, a girl who finds hope through a love of flowers and the confusion of several children from the estate all sharing one father exquisitely wrapped up in two poignant love stories and the heart-warming tale of Kathy's life turns prejudices and assumptions upside down and tells just how it is in this chaotic neighbourhood.

Stuart Gibbon
Saturday 1:20 pm Engineering F107 Murder!

This talk covers some of the challenges facing a senior detective in charge of murder cases. It includes information about initial steps, crime scenes, suspect enquiries, forensic evidence and custody procedures. Stuart delivers the talk based around a generic scenario from discovery of a body through to the arrest and detention of a suspect. Although the talk deals specifically with murder, there are similarities with other types of criminal investigation.

Stuart has had positive feedback from writers who have heard the talk. Not only does it provide the details to ensure that their procedural elements are accurate, it also gives them ideas for future work.

Gervase Phinn
Saturday PM after Gala Dinner The Limits of My Language

English can be such a beautiful language when used properly. However, sometimes what we say and what we write can lead to a great deal of misunderstanding and unintentional humour. Referring to his latest books, Mangled English and Schooldays are the Happiest Days of Our Lives, Professor Gervase Phinn will take a light-hearted look at our rich and powerful language.

Full Timetable

Here is the full festival timetable. You can also download a copy as a PDF file.

Please note that there have been some changes since the original timetable was published. In particular, the mid-session coffee/tea breaks have been moved towards the end of each workshop. This was unavoidable, due to some last-minute room alterations by the University of Warwick.

Friday 2nd September 2016
3:00 pm onwards Check in at conference reception, the atrium of the Warwick Students' Union.
4:30 – 5:30 pm Tea/coffee and cakes with the NAWG committee. In the Chancellor's Suite.

This will be a time to relax after your journey,

meet new writing friends and renew old friendships.

7:00 pm Evening meal in the Rootes Restaurant, 1st floor, Rootes building.
The bar will be open on this floor.
8:30 pm (ish) Relax in Bar Fusion; entertainment in Chancellor's Suite. Go on, I Dare You! Talk by Joyce Worsfold.
Saturday 3rd September 2016
7:30 am – 9:00 am Breakfast in the Rootes Restaurant, 1st floor, Rootes building.
9:30 am – 11:30 am 1st bookable workshops. All in Humanities building. Assemble in Engineering building foyer for allocation of workshop rooms. List displayed on notice boards.
11:00 am → Tea/coffee refreshments will be available in Engineering foyer.
11:30 am onwards Market Place, at its liveliest. Several alternative sessions: book room open to view and buy members' books, book readings, head massage, meet specialist experts. Foyer and rooms 110 and 111 in Engineering building.
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Buffet lunch, served in Engineering foyer.
1:20 pm – 2:20 pm Murder! Talk by Stuart Gibbon. Free to all, no need to book, just turn up to Engineering F107. This talk covers some of the challenges facing a senior detective in charge of murder cases.
2:30 pm – 3:00 pm Grand Raffle draw. Engineering F107. All drawn prizes will be noted for collection later if you miss coming.
3:15 pm – 5:15 pm 2nd bookable workshops. All in the Humanities building.
5:00 pm → Tea/coffee refreshments will be available in Engineering foyer.
Don't forget to hand in your mini-tale before 2:30 pm today.
6:15 pm – 6:45 pm We now adjourn to the Rootes building for the rest of the evening.

6:15 pm

(by invitation)

Short-listed only to go straight to the Chancellor's Suite for the Chairman's Drinks Reception, meet Gervase Phinn, tutors and the NAWG committee.
The bar will be open until midnight.
6:45 pm for 7:00 pm Gala Dinner. Chancellor's Suite. Table plan at the foot of the stairs in Fusion Bar.
8:30 pm (approx.) After-Dinner Speaker, Gervase Phinn.
9:00 pm (approx.) Awards Ceremony for the 2016 NAWG Members' Writing Competitions.
9:30 pm (approx.) After-Dinner Sparkles (4 minutes of fame). Organised and introduced by Joyce.

There will be many stalls at the Saturday Market Place, for the sale of books and offering services to writers. Published authors who belong to NAWG may leave their books to be sold in the dedicated book room, new last year, and very successful. We take no commission from NAWG members, see page 31 in festival brochure.

Sunday 4th September 2016
7:30 am – 9:00 am Breakfast in the Rootes Restaurant, 1st floor, Rootes building.
9:30 am – 11:30 am 3rd bookable workshops. All in the Humanities building.
11:00 am → Tea/coffee refreshments will be available in Engineering foyer.
11:45 pm – 12:25 pm NAWG AGM in Engineering F107.
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Buffet lunch, served in Engineering foyer.
1:45 pm – 3:15 pm 4th bookable workshops. All in Humanities building.
3:00 pm → Tea/coffee refreshments will be available in Engineering foyer.
The festival officially closes at 3:30 pm.

B&B for Sunday night is extra and needs to be arranged separately – details on the prices page.

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Competition & Mentorships

We are proud to be associated with the Highlands & Islands Short Story Association.