Event: Northern Lights Writers’ Conference 2015

Date: 14th Nov 2015, 10:00am until 5:30pm
Venue: Waterside Arts Centre Price:


Tickets: £30 (full) / £25 (conc)

CIT and Manchester Literature Festival are delighted to announce the return of Northern Lights for its third annual event. This year, the event is also supported by Writers & Artists Yearbook.

The 2015 conference focuses on the craft of writing for different platforms – print, blogs, stage, cinema and radio – before a writer can approach an agent, a publisher or a producer, the story and characters have to be in the best possible shape.

Many successful writers tell stories across a number of platforms and this event will feature talks, panel discussions and workshops from expert speakers that will look in detail at the skills writers need in order to diversify their writing, to become accomplished storytellers across a number of platforms and to develop a sustainable career.

They keynote speaker is writer, journalist and broadcaster Louise Doughty (Apple Tree Yard, A Novel in A Year), appearing alongside DaDa Award for Performance Artist of the Year, Rosie Garland (Vixen), Green Carnation Prize winner, Kerry Hudson (Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma), winner of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015 Emma Jane Unsworth, plus Blog North Award winner Len Grant, writer & theatre-maker James Varney, BBC Radio 4 writer and producer Gary Brown, Made In Manchester director Ashley Byrne as well as guests from the world of publishing. Northern Lights 2015 will also feature  a range of video content available online before and after the event.


10:00 – Registration

10:30 – Panel Discussion: Storytelling across different platforms

Featuring Kerry Hudson, Emma Jane Unsworth and James Varney. How do writers tell their stories – in a prose narrative, for stage, for radio, for cinema? What are the different demands of each platform and what skills do writers need to become storytellers across more than one medium?

11:30 – Keynote speech – Louise Doughty.

12:30 – lunch

Afternoon –

1:30 – In Conversation with Louise Doughty

2:30 – The Path to Publication

With author and founder of WoMentoring project) Kerry Hudson, literary agent Juliet Pickering (Blake Friedmann Literary Agency) and editor Susannah Otter (Vintage).

This session looks at what happens once an author’s book is selected for publication – how do editors, agents and publishers work with an author to get the manuscript ready for bookstores? How is cover art selected? What is expected from authors in terms of promotion? The panel looks at book production from the perspectives of writer, editor and agent to give insights into what authors can expect during the excitement of the publication process.

3:30 – break

3:45 Workshops (attendees can now choose to attend one of three workshops)

Writing for Radio

With Ashley Byrne (director, Made in Manchester) and Gary Brown (producer, BBC Radio 4)

In conversation with Ric Michael, Ashley and Gary will discuss the process of writing for radio – including how to approach both independent producers and the BBC, what support is available for radio writers and how producers work with writers to bring productions together.

Writing A Successful Blog

With Len Grant

Len Grant is a multi-award winning writer and photographer and has successfully developed blogs around a number of commissioned projects. In this session, Len will discuss his work and how the blog platform has evolved. He will explain how writers can devise blog projects that have the potential appeal to commissioners, allowing writers to take the blog from an unpaid sideline to a creative platform that provides an income stream.

Performance & The Spoken Word

With Rosie Garland.

All authors are required to give readings and present their work in public or via the media. In this session, award-winning writer and performer, Rosie Garland looks at performing the spoken word, both in terms of poetry and looking at how novelists can improve their readings and presentations. This informal and supportive session will provide key insights and tips to give authors the confidence to make the most of their public and media appearances.

Once you’ve booked, please contact the Waterside box office on 0161 912 5616 to confirm your workshop choices. CIT will email all attendees to confirm their sessions before the event.

5 – 6pm – Networking

After the workshops section, join us in the Gallery Bar for time to speak informally to our speakers and other attendees. There is also the chance to browse the pop-up Waterstones display and get a book signed by our guest authors.

Throughout the day, we’ll have information stands from Writers & Artists Yearbook and The Writing Squad and book signings from our guest authors.

Northern Lights is supported by Arts Council EnglandThe Writers & Artists Yearbook and Cold Star Media.

Tickets are on sale here and from Waterside Arts Centre box office, 0161 912 5616.

Watch footage from Northern Lights 2014 at our Vimeo channel, including Will Self

About The Speakers

Gary Brown

Gary is a Radio Drama Producer working BBC Radio 4.  He has written a number of play and his production of ‘Lost and Found’ by Ian Kershaw, with Tom Courtenay and Sally Carman, won Sony Bronze in 2014, and Chris Reason’s ‘Every Child Matters’ won Sony Gold in 2011.

More information.

Ashley Byrne

Ashley is a director of independent radio producers, Made In Manchester.

Made In Manchester has produced over 70 programmes for the BBC and other networks in Britain and around the world.  Many of the programmes made by MIM have either been produced or exec-produced by Ashley. As well as working with Made in Manchester, Ashley also broadcasts in his own right, he writes articles, columns and lectures and is also occasionally a media consultant too. Ashley is the founder of the UK Radio Production Conference and is also a Director of RIG, the Radio trade body for the independent production sector.


Louise Doughty

Keynote speaker Louise Doughty is the author of seven novels, including Apple Tree Yard, published by Faber & Faber UK.  Her previous novel, Whatever You Love, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has won awards for radio drama and short stories, along with publishing one work of non- fiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her hugely popular newspaper column. She is a critic and cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly for the BBC.


Rosie Garland

Rosie is a writer and performer, having started out as singer in post-punk gothic band The March Violets, through touring with the Subversive Stitch exhibition in the 90s to her alter-ego Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, cabaret chanteuse and mistress of ceremonies.

She has published five solo collections of poetry and her award-winning short stories, poems and essays have been widely anthologized. She is winner of the DaDa Award for Performance Artist of the Year and a Poetry Award from the People’s Café, New York.

She won the Mslexia Novel competition in 2012 and her debut novel ‘The Palace of Curiosities’ was published in March 2013 by HarperCollins. Her second novel, ‘Vixen’, (Borough Press 2014) is now available in all formats.


Len Grant

Len has combined his photography and writing to produce a series of award-winning blogs.

His 12-month blog about a teenager’s first year as a new mum was featured in the Guardian Magazine and a blog commissioned by a charitable foundation about the plight of undocumented migrant families was shortlisted for an Amnesty International Media Award in 2013. These two, and a third about a Bolton housing association’s support for residents on a challenging estate, all won Blog North Awards over three years.
As an established Manchester photographer and writer, he has also published over 20 books and exhibited widely.

Kerry Hudson

Kerry Hudson was born in Aberdeen. Her first novel ‘Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma‘ was published in 2012 by Chatto & Windus (Penguin Random House) and was the winner of the Scottish First Book Award while also being shortlisted for the Southbank Sky Arts Literature Award, Guardian First Book Award, Green Carnation Prize, Author’s Club First Novel Prize and the Polari First Book Award. Kerry’s second novel, Thirst, was published in 2014 by Chatto & Windus and was shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize. Kerry founded The WoMentoring Project


Susannah Otter

Susannah has been working for Vintage’s editorial department since 2012, and has worked on a diverse range of authors including Toni Morrison, 2014’s Man Booker winner Richard Flanagan, Edmund de Waal and Nigella Lawson. Her favourite books include Vikram Seth’s AN EQUAL MUSIC, Laurie Colwyn’s HOME COOKING, Joan Didion’s A YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING and Proust. She is passionate about finding the right books for right people, Oxford commas and good food writing.


Juliet Pickering

Juliet has been very supportive to the development of Northern Lights since its inception in 2013.

She joined Blake Friedmann in 2013 and her authors have been shortlisted for Costa, Commonwealth, Orwell Prize, Green Carnation and Guardian First Book Awards. Her interests range from literary and well-written commercial fiction to mystery, crime and psychological suspense. She also represents many non-fiction writers across the board (although not for self-help, business or sport), including memoir, pop culture, social history, feminist and political commentary, cookery and food writing, and all sorts inbetween.


Emma Jane Unsworth

Emma has gone from participant in CIT’s Script School to published author in a few short years.

Her first novel Hungry, the Stars and Everything (Hidden Gem) won a Betty Trask Award from the Society of Authors and was shortlisted for the Portico Prize 2012. Her short story ‘I Arrive First’ was included in The Best British Short Stories 2012 (Salt). She has worked as a journalist, a columnist for The Big Issue, and a barmaid. Her second novel Animals was published by Canongate in May 2014 and won a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2015. She is writing a third novel, as well as the screenplay of Animals, which has been optioned by BAFTA-nominated producer Sarah Brocklehurstand awarded development funding by the BFI.


James Varney

James is a writer, reviewer and theatre maker, based in the middle bits of England. He has created work with Daniel Bye, Josh Coates, Live at LICA, 1623 theatre company, The Writing Squad, and Lenni Sanders. His work has been featured in Ambit and presented at Camden People’s Theatre, Manchester Literature Festival, Derby Theatre and the Royal Exchange Manchester.