For all those crime fiction enthusiasts, CRIMEFEST in Bristol is a definite date for the May diary. I’ve attended a couple of times and it’s one of those conventions, which is particularly welcoming and inclusive. There is none of that ‘them,’ as in published writers, and ‘us,’ as in unpublished, nonsense. It’s smiley, warm and friendly.
I went for one day only, but what a day. As soon as I stepped into the foyer of the Marriott, I caught up with my agent and, after a long ‘catch-up’ chat, came out fizzing with renewed energy. Next, I finally met Luca Pesaro, a new writer on the block and one whose work I’d critiqued at an early stage. Likewise, later I caught up with Pauline Rendall, another former Writers’ Workshop client, and a couple of other friends and writers I’ve known for a few years now, but in case you think I’d gone for one mother of an extended natter, think again.
The highlight of the day was the ‘Gender Bending: Writing as the Opposite Sex’ panel shared with Chris Simms and Tania Carver aka Martyn Waites, and Laura Wilson as participating moderator. With one man down, Tom Vowler, through illness, and Laura Wilson delayed – her watch had inconveniently stopped – we could have got off to a bumpy start but, as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and Chris and I volunteered Martyn as our ‘in loco’ moderator until Laura’s arrival. Sportingly, he agreed.
Laura had already prepped and suggested we all read out short extracts of unattributed prose to see if the audience could spot whether a man or woman had written the piece. I selected a sensitively written paragraph from the wonderful John Hart, ‘The King of Lies’ – most of the audience reckoned a woman had written it, although I can’t claim to be too self-satisfied as I got both of my fellow panellists’ pieces wrong!
Next up, we debated why we write with a pseudonym, why choose a main protagonist from the opposite sex, the pitfalls, if any, and the issue of double standards. It was lively. It was fun. The audience were clearly engaged and asked some great questions.
Catching the train home at the end of the day, part of me wished I’d stayed for the full shebang, but actually it was quite nice to leave wanting that little bit more. Next year, I thought, definitely next year…