Northern Lights Writers' Conference 2017

£30 / £25

CIT's writers’ conference returns, (co-promoted with Manchester Literature Festival and The Writers & Artists Yearbook), bringing a mix of author's masterclasses, publishing industry talks and panel discussions.

This year’s speakers include authors Sarah Dunant, Cath Staincliffe, Alex Wheatle MBE and Liz Williams who will be sharing advice for emerging and mid-career writers. 

We also welcome literary agents Piers Blofeld and John Jarrold, editor Julie Crisp and Alysoun Owen from Writers & Artists Yearbook.

Featured authors

Sarah Dunant

Sarah is the keynote speaker for Northern Lights Writers' Conference 2017

She is a writer, broadcaster and critic and was born in London and studied history at Cambridge university. After a brief spell working for the BBC she spent much of her twenties travelling (Japan, India, Asia and Central and South America) before starting to write.

She has written eight novels, two screenplays and edited two books of essays. She has worked in television and radio as a presenter and a producer. She sits on the editorial board of the Royal Academy magazine and reviews for The Times and The Independent on Sunday and The Guardian.

She is winner of the Silver Dagger Award 1993 (The Birth of Venus, Blood & Beauty, Snowstorms in a Hot Climate).

Cath Staincliffe

Cath is author of the Sal Kilkenny private eye stories and creator and scriptwriter of Blue Murder, ITV’s hit detective drama starring Caroline Quentin as DCI Janine Lewis. She writes the Scott & Bailey books, based on the much loved ITV1 police series.

In 2006, she was short-listed for the CWA Dagger in the Library and in 2012, Cath won the CWA Short Story Dagger for Laptop, sharing the prize with Margaret Murphy with her story The Message. In 2014 Cath was short-listed for the CWA Short Story Dagger again for Night Nurse from the anthology Deadly Pleasures.

Cath is a founder member of Murder Squad, a virtual collective of northern crime writers. 

Alex Wheatle MBE

Alex is author of Brixton Rock (1999), which was adapted for the stage and performed at the Young Vic in 2010. Its sequel, Brenton Brown, was published in 2011.

His second novel, East of Acre Lane (2001) won a London Arts Board New Writers Award. A prequel, Island Songs, set in Jamaica, was published in 2005,  and a sequel, Dirty South, in 2008.

In 2010, he wrote and toured the one-man autobiographical performance, Uprising. His play, Shame & Scandal, had its debut at the Albany Theatre, Deptford in October 2015.

Alex Wheatle was awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008. His novel, Crongton Knights won the 2016 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.

Liz Williams

Liz is is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She has been published by Bantam Spectra (US) and Tor Macmillan (UK), also Night Shade Press and appears regularly in Asimov's and other magazines. She is the secretary of the Milford SF Writers' Workshop, and also teaches creative writing.

Her novels include The Ghost Sister and Empire of Bones and her book Banner of Souls was nominated for the Philip K Dick Memorial Award, along with 3 previous novels, and the Arthur C Clarke Award. 

She writers a regular Comment is Free column for the Guardian. 

Publishing industry

Julie Crisp

Julie is an editor with over fifteen years’ experience working for three major houses across a broad spectrum of commercial titles within fiction, non-fiction and children’s. This also included three years spent working in the Australian publishing industry.

Most recently she headed up the UK arm of one of the largest global brands of science fiction and fantasy, Tor. 

Julie has worked on bestselling and award-winning authors such as Ann Cleeves, Peter F. Hamilton, China Miéville, Neal Asher, Amanda Hocking, Naomi Novik and TV/Game partnerships including Halo, The Returned, The Walking Dead and Twin Peaks 

John Jarrold

John is one of the UK's leading science fiction & fantasy literary agents. He has run three science fiction and fantasy imprints in the UK and his extensive client list includes Curtis Jobling, Suzanne McLeod and Stephen Hunt. 

Alysoun Owen

Alysoun has over twenty years experience in UK publishing. She has been the Editor of the Yearbook for five years and is a regular speaker at literary events and writing courses. She runs a publishing consultancy and project management business. 

Piers Blofeld

Piers has been an agent at Sheil Land Associates since 2009.  He was previously senior commissioning editor at Headline where he was responsible for creating both an adult fiction list and a new YA list as well as exploring new areas of business relating to games, online publishing and graphic novels.

Piers is on twitter @pblofeld and has also published a series of YouTube videos in which he discusses some of the thorny issues around getting an agent.

Watch Piers on You Tube


The event runs from 10.30am - 5pm.


10.00am - registration

10.30am - introduction with Kate Feld & Ric Michael

10:40am - 

Panel Talk: Literary Genres - what are they and why do they matter?

‘What is genre in the first place? Who invented it? Why am I perceived to have crossed a kind of boundary?’ - Kazuo Ishiguro

Our panellists discuss the concept of literary genres: asking why do they exist, how easy is it for writers to work across different genres. Are they a barrier or a benefit to writers and readers?

11:45am - 

Author talk - Writing science fiction & fantasy.

In conversation with author Liz Williams & specialist SFF literary agent, John Jarrold.

Industry session - Why Authors Need Agents and How to Get One, with Piers Blofeld.

12:45pm - lunch

1:30pm - keynote speech 

Sarah Dunant on the responsibilities of writers when telling stories set in both historical and future worlds.

2:30pm - break


Author session - In conversation with crime writer Cath Staincliffe. Cath discusses her work and career, along with tips for those writing crime fiction.

Industry session - editor Julie Crisp explains the role of the editor and gives essential tips to authors on editing their work.

3:40pm - break

3:45pm - 

Author session: 

Alex Wheatle MBE in conversation, discussing his inspirations and the career, leading to the publication of his novel Crongton Knights.

Industry session:

3:45pm - UK publishing: what all budding authors should know

Alysoun Owen, Editor of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, the bestselling guide to how to get published, will give an overview of the UK publishing industry: its structure, how it works, how books are created, where literary agents fit in, and most importantly what it is useful for authors to know when trying to get their manuscript into print or e-book.

5pm - networking and book signing

6pm - close


To find out more or to book a place please contact our Box Office on 0161 912 5616 or email

Northern Lights is co-promoted with

Manchester Literature Festival

Writers & Artists Yearbook

  1. March 18, 2017, 10:30 a.m. → Book Now