top of page
  • Writer's pictureBristol Lit Fest

The Bristol Festival of Literature Writers' Retreat

Updated: Sep 1, 2019

20 October

The Anglican Chapel, Arnos Vale Cemetery

£25 (all-day ticket), £10 individual workshops)

Join Bristol Festival of Literature for our annual Writer’s Retreat; a series of incredible workshops designed to help you write, polish and publicise your writing. Expect a full day of workshops from writers and publishers, along with plenty of opportunities to chat to fellow writers over coffee.

Buy a day pass for the entire retreat, or purchase individual tickets below.

Perfecting your book: Self-editing and genre workshops (10am)

Perfecting your book. Writer and editor David Wake will explain how to self-edit your manuscript. This will be followed by genre workshops, exploring tropes and deconstructing popular genre fiction. Choose one of romance, crime thriller, historical fiction, sci-fi or children’s books workshops, led by Stella Wilkinson, Jo Ullah, Lucienne Boyce, David Wake and Kate Frost.

Successful self-publishing (12pm)

Find out how local writers make a good living publishing their own books. Journalist Michael MacMahon interviews historical mystery writer David Penny, romantic novelist Stella Wilkinson and ghost writer and historian John Lynch.

Social media for writers (2pm)

Promote your writing more effectively online. In this workshop, digital marketing expert and writer Tom Mason will showcase ways for writers to make the most of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to promote their work. During the session, you'll discover how to write effective blog posts, learn how to network with agents and publishers online and explore ways to promote your events.

What is going to sell? (3:30pm)

Journalist Michael MacMahon finds out what readers are looking for, in conversation with literary agent Kate Hordern, book reviewer Linda Wilson and publisher Emma Smith.

Additional Information

The Writers’ Retreat is hosted by Arnos Vale in their airy and atmospheric Anglican Chapel. You will also have access to the Underwood Centre, a tented space surrounded by autumnal trees if you wish to take time out or seek inspiration during a break. Break times are generous, to allow time for networking and reflection.

What to bring: Pens, paper (or laptop if you prefer, but charging facilities are not guaranteed). A warm jumper is advisable as the Anglican Chapel can be chilly first thing. There is a café on site where you can buy food and drink, but you are welcome to bring your own and eat in the chapel.

Parking and public transport: While there is free parking at Arnos Vale and on streets nearby, it is limited, so please use public transport if possible. Buses to Bristol city centre stop right outside, and it is a 20 minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads rail station.


09:30 - Registration

10:00 - Session 1: Perfecting your book. Self-editing and genre workshops.

11:30 - Refreshment break

12:00 - Session 2: Make money self-publishing.

13:00 - Lunch break

14:00 - Session 3: Social media for writers

15:00 - Refreshment break

15:30 - Session 4: What is going to sell?

16:30 - Ends.


Lucienne Boyce is an award-winning historical novelist, women’s suffrage historian and biographer. Her books include the Dan Foster Mysteries: Bloodie Bones, The Butcher’s Block, and The Fatal Coin. Non-fiction includes The Bristol Suffragettes, and contributions to Suffrage Stories (Stevenage Museum); Bristol and the First World War (Bristol Festival of Ideas); and The Women Who Built Bristol (Tangent Books).

Kate Frost is the author of Time Shifters, an award-winning time travel adventure trilogy for 9-12 year olds. Kate has a MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University, is the Director of Children’s and Teen Events at the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, and is co-producing Storytale Festival, a week-long series of fun and interactive events for children and teens taking place over October half term in her hometown of Bristol.

Kate Hordern founded KHLA in Bristol in 1999.   She represents a range of fiction authors, some non-fiction authors particularly in history and memoir, and some middle-grade kids fiction. Her clients have been short-listed for the CWA Debut Dagger award, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Desmond Wettern Award, the WH Smith Travel Award, and achieved a #3 in the Sunday Times paperback fiction bestseller list.  Kate works closely with her colleague and fellow agent, Anne Williams, who is based in London, and between them KHLA represents around thirty published authors.

John Lynch’s breakthrough year was 1989 when he sold his first book to a publisher, his first short story to BBC Radio 4 and his first article to a magazine. Since then, he’s published a number of books in his own name including fiction and non-fiction, but most of his work now is as a ghost writer for publishers and film companies. He’s written more than 60 books that have been published under other people’s names including non-fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, dystopian fiction, romance and detective fiction.

Michael J MacMahon is a coach. He’s been a public speaker for forty years, partly in connection with his career in the chemical industry. As a result he now likes helping anyone who has to speak in public, whether for professional or personal reasons. His speciality is wedding speeches, especially the Father of the Bride, having been that very person recently. He's an author – his latest is The Wedding Speech Handbook – and also a host on community radio station BCfm.

David Penny is the author of the Thomas Berrington Historical Mysteries set in the chaotic final years of Moorish al-Andalus in Spain. He started writing again after a lapse of almost 40 years. After being traditionally published in his 20’s with four science fiction novels, he chose to publish independently on his return to writing. David’s work is available in eBook, print and audio, as well as translation into Spanish.

Emma Smith is Editorial Director at Ebury, part of Penguin Random House UK. She mostly commissions non-fiction and is focused on emerging talking points, fresh voices, gripping writing and hot talent rising through diverse platforms. Previously at Trapeze, Smith had published bestseller Part-Time Working Mummy, LGBT ambassadors Rose and Rosie, The Ordnance Survey Puzzle Book and DJ Target’s story of grime music. Since at Ebury, she has been working on critically-acclaimed memoir Skint Estate by Cash Carraway and Nikita Gill’s new book of mythical retellings, Great Goddesses, along with many more upcoming titles. She is always on the lookout to find new authors with messages that resonate.

Jo Ullah is a writer and artist. Her first novel, The Locksmith, is a psychological thriller set in Bristol and Dorset. Her second novel, Sweet Dreams, also a psychological thriller, is set in Bristol and is due to be published in November. Jo created stories from an early age, with a preference for the darker side of life threaded through with the supernatural. As child she felt held back by severe dyslexia - but thanks to the computer spell checker, mentoring with Bristol writer Rosemary Dun and completing an English Language and Literature degree - she no longer considers this an impediment.

David Wake was Chairbeing of the Birmingham University Science Fiction and Fantasy Society and a member of SF fandom ever since. He’s written for the theatre, winning awards and taking shows to London and the Edinburgh Fringe, and he was Captain Tartan in the Eastercon plays. His novels include science-fiction (I, Phone and the Thinkersphere Series) and the Derring-Do Club steampunk adventures. He’s been Guest of Honour at ArmadaCon and Redemption. With Andy Conway, he co-founded New Street Authors, a collective of Birmingham based independent publishers, and they co-authored Punk Publishing, a guide to why and how to indie publish.

Stella Wilkinson is the author of over thirty books, and writes young adult romance as Stella Wilkinson and paranormal romance as Elena Bryce. She is the winner of the Local Library Awards for Encouraging Reading in Teenagers, she regularly visits schools to discuss the craft of writing and story structure, and is passionate about Independent Publishing.

She lives in Bristol with her husband, two children and the cats, Sherlock and Dr. Watson.

Linda Wilson started reviewing for the US/UK website in 2009. She took over from Sharon Wheeler as UK editor two years later. In 2003, Linda and Sharon launched a new UK website,, in 2013. This quickly grew in size and popularity and now pulishes 20 reviews every fortnight, along with an author interview and editorial. Linda reads widely in the genre and is particularly excited by books for teens and young adults. Her other interests include caving and cave art. She lives in Bristol with her husband and two lurchers and spends three months a year in France.


Address: The Anglican Chapel,  Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bath Road, Bristol BS4 3EW

1,074 views0 comments


bottom of page