Winchester Writer’s Festival and the Feeling of Impermanence

I don’t think I could have come up with a more pretentious title if I’d tried.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows I’ve completed the first draft of my manuscript (and dissertation) – a YA steampunk story that I’ll talk about in more detail when I’ve re-read it and decided if its terrible.

Happily, I finished in time to spend last weekend working at Winchester Writer’s Festival.  I helped to run a book stall, and had great fun, meeting various writers, agents and publishing folks, and getting to catch up with a handful of my friends from class.  Hint: if you ever get a chance to see Ali Sparkes or Matt Dickinson do a presentation, snap it up!  They are both hilarious and wonderful people.

Since I was taking care of a bookstall, I obviously didn’t get to look at everything.  I did, however, find myself occasionally running across the empty campus (usually carrying a box of books) and feeling the heebie-jeebies at how quiet it was.  At lunch and dinner, there were plenty of people milling around.  Once talks and meeting began, though, the campus became a ghost town: nothing like the daytime bustle I’ve come to expect.

I’ve never really been to Winchester in the summer before, despite spending four years there at uni, and I was struck by how the Uncanny can work in two directions.  You don’t have to take a usually bright place and make it dark to create something uncomfortable.  Take a usually grey, autumnal setting, and make it hot, full of flowers and green trees, and utterly empty, and see how eerie it is.

I joked to my friends that it was weird to walk into the (ordinarily packed) computer cafe, and find that I could sit anywhere I wanted.  I could use any computer I wanted.  I could do cartwheels down the room and no one would even know.  Instead of cartwheeling (and inevitably doing myself an injury) I felt a little sad.  I’m leaving uni now – really leaving, and not coming back for another course.  The quiet, empty campus kept reminding me that I’d finished a big old chapter in my life – forgive the cheese – and had to get ready to start a new one.

As the saying goes, This Too Shall Pass.