Having listened last Friday to the talented Lisa Cutts, William Shaw and Simon Booker discuss crime writing at the Faversham Literary Festival, I was reminded of Stephen King’s words, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Where better to combine the two than at a literary festival?
Literary festivals not only afford the opportunity to rub shoulders with agents, publishers, best-sellers, newcomers and writers yet to be discovered but also those who just love books and therefore form part of your potential future readership. The best-sellers can tell you a lot about how they stay on top of their game and it is reassuring to know that even some of their ideas are knocked back by their agents and editors. Each newcomer has a fresh story about their struggle for representation and publication, encouraging you to persevere. Fellow yet-to-be-published writers have the same hopes, dreams, problems and doubts as you and offer comfort that you are not alone.
Readers will tell you what and who they like and can spark ideas for you to follow up. Give them your ‘elevator pitch’ and they will give you instant, unbiased, unvarnished feedback. Trust me!
Authors these days need to be self-promoting and all literary festivals have opportunities to mix with the great and good and to network like crazy. Most have a pitch-an-agent session too and this is your chance to get personal, constructive, detailed feedback from the mythical gatekeepers of the industry. They have no vested interest in sugar-coating their opinions so whatever they think of your work they’ll tell you and that is something you don’t get from the usual submissions route.
As well as author talks and keynote speakers, pub quizzes and murder mystery dinners, new talent panels and awards events, many festivals also include a day of writing workshops. Here, a budding author can get practical advice on their craft from industry professionals and published authors. However much you think you know, these people have been through the industry mill and know what they’re talking about. I’ve certainly learnt a lot from such workshops and ensuing discussions.
When I first took the plunge a couple of years ago with the following events, I kicked myself for procrastinating for so long.
CrimeFest – Marriott Royal Hotel, Bristol (17-20 May 2018)
Winchester Writers’ Festival – University of Winchester (15-17 June 2018)
Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival – Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate (19-22 July 2018)
Now I keep my eye on the expanding list of local (Rochester, Faversham, Deal, Whitstable, Broadstairs, Folkestone, Chiddingstone Castle and Kent FoW), national and international festivals via the Crime Writers’ Association, the Crime Readers’ Association, crimefictionlover.com, literaryfestivals.co.uk, Writers’News/Writing Magazine, the Historical Novel Society and others. My literary education is ongoing and I have Edinburgh and Bloody Scotland in my sights for the future, as well as Killer Women and First Monday Crime in London.
My advice is to sign up now – it’s a crime not to.