I had a great time at Felixstowe Book Festival…

I love Felixstowe Book Festival. It’s in my hometown making it convenient for me to attend. It’s reasonably priced so it doesn’t break the bank. And, it gets bigger ever year.

This year, I only bought tickets for the writing workshops delivered by Orwell Writers League. It consisted of three sessions, each cost leas than £5, and if you bought all three it was only £9.99!

With the pandemic I was a little worried it could be cancelled. Last year all events went virtual. The only disruption was a location change from Orwell Hotel (the usual venue) to Harvest House (a new venue).

I’ve lived in Felixstowe almost all my life and never been inside Harvest House. Usually it’s not open to the public. They are looking to diversify their income and now offering it up for hire for Weddings. And, Book Festivals 😍.

The Workshops

Language & Voice

This workshop had us exploring the 5 senses and developing a word bank for the theme “Shoreline.”

We were given a postcard and challenged to write a short story about the setting using the five senses. Half the room was asked to focus on “natural” senses. The other half focused on “man made” senses.

I wrote this piece, focusing on man made senses:

Body language

This workshop had us thinking about how actions can speak as loudly as words. We thought about facial expressions, and then worked our way through the body listing different actions and gestures.

We then imagined a couple on an open top bus and had to come up with three scenes they see – I think that’s what we were meant to do as I did something different. I did not do what I was supposed to 🤦‍♀️.

We were then challenged to write some dialogue between at least two people, and encouraged to use senses and actions to give the scene more meaning.

I wrote this scene based on the setting, “stuck in a hot car looking for a parking space”.

Free writing

The afternoon session was an opportunity to do some free writing. They recapped on all the things we’d covered in the morning.

I decided to use this opportunity to work on an untiled prequel to Ocean Heart (my debut novel). I decided not to read this out allowed:


I didn’t learn anything new from the workshop but I didn’t expect to. I find workshops like this valuable as they remind us about the basics needed to write effective fiction. Think of it as refresher training.

Whilst creating my word bank, I realised it would be a useful tool to combat Writers Block and will be adding it to my arsenal. I also find writing settings challenging, the word bank was a great way to create a personal thesaurus of descriptions to use.

I love Felixstowe Book Festival and would go again. I also enjoyed networking with other writers and met two other upcoming authors. It was great to see my favourite local bookshop there with a stall, and to have a good chat with the manager of Stillwater Books.

I wish I’d taken a copy of Ocean Heart with me so I could have taken selfies with my book at such a beautiful location. I did get to hand out my new bookish business card to interested people, and ran out! I learnt from a marketing perspective to be more prepared and utilise every opportunity.

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Felixstowe Book Festival – Containment

I booked this workshop with no idea what I had got myself in for. As I arrived, I realised in the scorching hot sun, I had forgot to bring my bottle of water and was about to spend two hours in a container.

Thankfully, Richard O’Neill came prepared with water, notebooks and pens for everyone. We felt rather spoilt despite our unusual setting. Richard’s wife Louise helped us all settle into the container, where we sat on blankets, cushions and someone had brought a camping chair.

Richard began the session but talking about Containment. He talked about his background and the things that have held him back and how he has learnt to consider whether a barrier is his perception or a reality. Sometimes, all it takes to free yourself it to change the way you think.

I could relate to this a lot. For a long time, I described myself as an aspiring writer because I don’t have anything published. Then, I realised that I am a writer because I write. And, I write a lot. I also felt my writing wasn’t good enough to share as I was not good at English at school despite enjoying it, I certainly don’t have a degree. But, I realised that my writers voice is what sets me apart, it makes my stories unique and my writing is good without some fancy certificate.

Richard then asked us to imagine we were somewhere else. Where would we want to be? He then left us to write about this place. The he got us all to share what we had written and we had all wrote something different. He pulled out parts that he liked from our writing.

I wrote about Mauritius. I went back to the white sandy beaches and crystal blue sea that I enjoyed for my honeymoon with a cocktail in hand.

Richard talked about the different constraints that people have. He talked about how he has delivered workshops in prison and that those students were obviously physically constrained within those walls. He spoke about a project he is involved with about diversity in books and how the subject is much deeper than just the colour of a persons skin. He explained how he grew up living as a traveller and the constraints the lifestyle presented.

Then Richard asked us to think about our own barriers to writing and got us to write them down and think about how to overcome those barriers. Some of the participants wrote down a paragraph but I chose to do a spider diagram as that is something I like to do when problem solving.

It was a very enlightening experience. I do have a lot of barriers to my writing but I choose to overcome these because writing is important to me. Everyday, I don’t give up.

Richard & his wife did a tremendous job at making everyone feel welcome. Richard is an incredibly charming man who made us to think and question. He encouraged everyone’s writing and didn’t make anyone feel on the spot or stupid. I think we all came away from the session feeling motivated – I know I did.

What are your barriers to writing? Can you break free from your containment?

To learn more about Richard O’Neill and his books, you can follow him on Twitter or visit his website.

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