The Stay at Home Festival: the online literary festival – 27 March to 11 April

In these strange times all the usual outdoor events are on hold. That includes literary festivals. Authors and readers everywhere were finding long anticipated events were cancelled, book launches postponed and author discussions delayed. So CJ Cooke, award-winning poet and author of I Know My Name and The Blame Game, had a brain wave. An online literary festival. No travel ban worries, no social distancing required. Anyone from anywhere in the world could join in.

So the Stay at Home Literary Festival was born. From 27 March to 11 April a myriad array of authors will take part in online events.

Because I’m slow off the mark we’ve already missed three days. But from today onward here is the programme for this week. Check back for part 2 later on.

Monday 30 March

Ask a literary consultant! 9-10am. Founder and director of Cornerstones Literary Consultancy Helen Corner-Bryant opens the floor for your questions, on anything from the editorial process to submitting your work to agents. Join here

Liz Hyder, author of Bearmouth, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2020. 10-11am. Bearmouth grew out of Liz’s research into the exploitation of children in Victorian mines. Join Liz as she talks about her writing tips, how the children’s book publishing industry works, and shares some creative writing exercises that can be done at home, including a guided exercise. Join here

Molly Murray, 11-12pm. TaPoetry & Your Immune System: mindful creativity and how it helps us to survive. Join here

Jacqueline Saphra, 12-1pm. Poems from the good heart, the laughing heart and the angry heart. Featuring one of the UK’s finest poets, this event comprises a reading of Saphra’s work to date interspersed with Q&As and discussion about poetry and what it means to be a poet in the current moment. Join here

Andrew Leach, 1.30-2pm. Live tweeting part 1, original 3,000-word short story. @4ndrewJames

Emma Pass, 2-4pm. Bringing your characters to life. Join award-winning YA author Emma pass as she leads a workshop on how to create characters that leap off the page. Join here

Louise Welsh, 4pm-4.45pm. Louise Welsh’s debut novel won the Crime Writers’ Association Creasey Dagger. More recently, she has collaborated with composer Stuart McRae on a number of successful operas, and her Plague Times trilogy has been heralded as work for our times. She’ll be reading from her works and discussing her long career working across genres. Join here

Rejection, inclusivity and getting an agent. 6-7pm. Jenny Knight is a prize-winning writer of short fiction and memoir, she attended PRH WriteNow 2018 and her work has won many competitions. Tune in as she gives the low down on overcoming rejection and securing an agent. Join here

New Irish Fiction. 7-8pm. Join exciting new voices in Irish literature, Helen Cullen, Elaine Feeney and Ruth Gilligan as they discuss their works. Join here

Tuesday 31 March

Molly Brown, 10-12pm. Creative Writing Practice: Childhood & Fairytales (selected tales, images and objects). Limited to first 10. Notebooks and fast-writing pens or pencils please – we won’t use keyboards. Please email to sign up: Once you RSVP, you will get a confirmation and a Zoom link from Molly.

Jo Clement, 12-1pm. The editor of Butcher’s Dog reads from her poetry collection Moveable Type. “Lyrically agile and never predictable, Moveable Type is a proud and startling debut pamphlet which marks an impressive new voice in contemporary poetry.” ​Join here

Andrew Leach, 1.30-2pm Live tweeting part 2, original 3,000-word short story. @4ndrewJames

Samuel Tongue, 2-3pm. Don’t miss this reading from Samuel Tongue’s debut collection ‘Sacrifice Zones’ and a discussion on poetry translation with Dr Rebecca DeWald. Join here

Rishi Dastidar, 3-3.30pm. Join Rishi as he gives a reading from his new book Saffron Jack, a long narrative poem which ‘boldly updates Kipling’s ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ to confront one of the most pressing issues our fractured world faces today – how can we live together in peace if we exile the most vulnerable in our societies and deny them a place to belong?’ Join here

Therapeutic Journal Writing. 4.30-5.30pm. In this experiential workshop Professional Writing Academy tutor Anne Taylor will introduce you to the value of keeping a journal and to some tools and prompts for writing your way through these times of stress and uncertainty. Have an old-fashioned pen and plenty of paper to hand. Limited to 12. Email Anne at to sign up. Anne will send a Zoom link upon confirmation of your place.

Abbie GreavesBeth Morrey and Clare Pooley in conversation with CJ Cooke to talk about their exciting debut novels. 5.30-6.30pm. Join here

Finding your voice (and getting it heard). 6.30-7.30pm. As writers we’re often told to find our voice, but what does it mean, especially if you’re not used to speaking up? Join writers Susmita BhattacharyaJoanna HowardSallyanne Rock, Deborah Martin and editor Miranda Roszkowski as they discuss access to the publishing industry for women and read their contributions to the powerful new collection 100 Voices which brings together writers from across the UK to celebrate women’s stories. Join here

Maggie O’Farrell, Twitter launch of Hamnet at @Will_Sutcliffe@ (, 8pm.

Wednesday 1 April

Molly Brown, 10-12pm, Creative Writing Practice: Gratitude & Forgiveness (epistolary forms). Limited to first 10. Notebooks and fast-writing pens or pencils please – we won’t use keyboards. Please email to sign up: Once you RSVP, you will get a confirmation and a Zoom link from Molly.

Dr Pragya Agarwal, 12-1pm, How to write a non-fiction proposal and getting an agent. Join here

Andrew Leach, Live Tweeting his 3000 word short story – part 3 (@4ndrewJames) 1.30-2pm

Wanderers in the Fourth Dimension. 2-3pm. Four writers of Doctor Who novels, audios, and just about everything else talk about writing for the best character in the universe. Una McCormack, Simon Guerrier, Jonny Morris, Jac Rayner. Join here

Katie Lowe, author of YA phenomenon The Furies, gives a reading and Q&A. 4-5pm. Join here

Dominique Thompson, award winning GP and young people’s mental health expert. 7.30-8.30pm. How to Grow a Grown Up- raising your teenager to be independent and resilient – in the 21st century. Workshop Q&A for parents of secondary school age children. Join here

Emily Koch, 8.30-9.30pm. A discussion about Emily’s book KEEP HIM CLOSE and how to research for fiction writing. Reading and Q&A chaired by Kim Nash. Join here

Thursday 2 April

Nikki Smith, 10-11am. Live tweeting for launch of ALL IN HER HEAD – with book giveaways and prizes!! #StayAtHomeFest

Beverley Ward, 11am-12pm. A reading from her recently released grief memoir, Dear Blacksmith. Followed by a Q & A session. Join here

Jane Austin (News From Nowhere) and Janet Dean Knight (The Peacemaker), 2-3.30pm. How Family History Wrote My Novel: Two historical fiction writers on writing about family secrets. Join here

Dr Pragya Agarwal4.30 – 5.15pm. Why do we act the way we do? ‘Thinking about our biases’ to coincide with the launch of her fascinating book SWAY: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. Join here

Haleh Agar, 5.30-6.30pm. Writing Realistic Characters + Short Reading from Debut published on this day. Join here

Katherine May, How to winter well – insights from her new book, Wintering. 7.30-8.30pm. Join here

Friday 3 April 

Narrative Structure for Novelists. 9-10am. Bestselling author and BAFTA winner John Yorke explores how the rules of screenwriting apply to novel structure, and how they can dramatically enhance your work. Join here

How to write young adult fiction with Lee Weatherly. 10-11am. Discover what Young Adult fiction is and how to develop a strong YA character with a voice that will hook your reader. We’ll look also at current trends, and explore what themes and concepts make for dynamic YA fiction. Join here

Writing workshop. 11-12. Join here

Mab Jones2-3pm. Love the Words: a hope themed poetry workshop and free to enter competition for all ages Join here

Rob Keeley, 3-4pm. Live Q&A on Twitter. #StayAtHomeFest

Louise Powell, 4.30-6pm. Live reading of play & Q&A on playwriting. Join here

Nicholas Jubber, 6-7pm. An illustrated talk and Q&A of Nicholas’ travels around Europe, exploring epic poems and meetings with storytellers re-imagining our ancient tales! Join here

Alexandra Ford, 7-8pm. Alexandra will be reading from her debut historical novel, What Remains at the End (Seren Books), followed by a Q&A session. Join here

Maggie O’Farrell, in conversation with Claire Malcolm, Chief Executive of New Writing North, about her new novel Hamnet. 8-9pm. Join here

Saturday 4 April

Starting a Short Story. 9-10am. Join Professional Writing Academy tutor and award-winning short story writer Susmita Bhattacharya for an hour of writing short story openings. Explore a variety of prompts to get words down on the blank page and create short story ideas. Join here

Clara Challoner Walker and Janet Dean Knight, 11-12. Fiction and poetry workshop for new writers or those needing a little boost! Join here

Emily LeQuesne. Are you writing a play? 12-1pm. Emily LeQuesne is a playwright, theatre maker and dramaturg. In this dramaturgy workshop she will follow a step by step process to help you edit and develop your stage script, refine your characters, subject and theme, learn to write visually, and get your script to sing. Join here

Performance Workshop. 1-2pm. Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa (aka Birdspeed) is a poet, choregographer and multi-champion. Join her as she leads one of her dazzling performance masterclasses to help you boost your confidence to deliver your best live readings. Join here

Laura Laakso, The Pros and Cons of Indie Publishing. 2-4pm. Join here

Nikki Dudley, editor of Streetcake magazine. Expanding your writing practices: experimental poetry. 4-6pm. Join here

Cath Drake, poet, will be giving a reading and talk about her new poetry collection, The Shaking City published by Seren – ‘a guide to staying clear-eyed, combative and caring in unsettled times.” 6-7pm. Join here

CJ Skuse will be live on her Facebook page, talking about her new novel, The Alibi Girl, ‘a sweet, twisty thriller that will keep you guessing.’ 7-8pm. Join here.

Darren O’Sullivan, 8pm-9pm. Darren O’Sullivan is the author of #1 bestsellers, OUR LITTLE SECRET, CLOSE YOUR EYES and CLOSER THAN YOU THINK. His latest, DARK CORNERS is out April 2020, and he’ll be chatting about it here. Chaired by Vic Watson. Join here

Sunday 5 April

Staying True – how to make your crime fiction more authentic. 9-10am. Police consultant and author Graham Bartlett hosts a talk and Q&A on how nailing down the details in your crime fiction will take its authenticity to the next level. Let Graham know the crime, policing or criminal justice areas you’d like him to cover by dropping him a line at He’ll do his best to include as many as possible. Join here

Avril Joy, 11-12pm. Going In With Flowers – reflections in poetry and prose on 25 years working in a women’s prison in County Durham. Join here

Una McCormackTiffani Angus, Gemma MilneEddie Robson,12-1pm. Launching in Lockdown. You’ve written a book. You’re hoping it will be noticed. And then… We can’t tour, we can’t launch, but we can still connect online. How can we bring our books to people’s attention? Five authors launching their work discuss how to get the news of their books out there. Join here

Abigail Mann and guests, 1-2pm. Comedy Women In Print Prize: Writing comedy when things don’t seem funny. Join here

Colin Dardis & Geraldine O’Kane, 2-4pm. Writing workshop: Write Your Way To Mental Health. Join here

Is there a Right Way to Write? Join writers Sarah Stovell, Nicola Cassidy, and Cat Walker as they dissect the ways that they go about their writing. Chaired by CJ Cooke. 4-5pm. Join here

apple, fallen. 5-6pm. Launch of Against the Grain poet Olga Dermott-Bond’s pamphlet with Q&A from IS&T poet Jo Young. Join here

Butcher’s Dog showcase. 6-7pm. Chaired by editor Jo Clement. Butcher’s Dog poetry is a bi-annual poetry magazine founded and published in North East England. Get the kettle on and make yourself couch-comfy as we join a selection of our brilliant poets reading from past editions and sharing their new work. Join here

Living Like Common People: Celebrating Working-Class Writers. A reading from the anthology Common People, featuring Louise Powell and guests. 7-8pm. Join here

There’s no need to register interest. Simply click on the join link of the event you are interesting in. Make sure to mute your microphone so that there’s no feedback noise. But of course unmute if you are taking part in a Q&A.

You can find out more here.

As you’ll know doubt agree the line up looks fantastic, even more so because C J Cooke only had the brainwave on 13 March. It’s so wonderful to see so many authors coming together in such a short space of time to help create such a diverse programme.

So sit back, relax and enjoy this literary festival from the comfort of your own armchair.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Sounds fab Janet – thanks for the info! Will join in when I can! 😀


  2. What a wonderful, creative response, Janet. Thanks for this.


  3. Fabulous Janet. Thanks x


  4. Sounds great Janet! Thanks for sharing.


  5. What a brilliant idea! It’s so impressive how much they’ve got going on at such short notice.


  6. Love this!! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


  7. Jules_Writes says:

    I’ve somehow missed this! Thanks for sharing.


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