Sunday, 6 July 2014

Literary Festivals - Debbie Bennett

Being relatively new to the professional writing scene, I don't have that much experience with events and festivals. I organised many FantasyCons in the late nineties and early noughties, and have attended lots of conferences and festivals as a reader and wannabe-writer, but very few where I've been up-front, where people have actually turned up to see me. I'm still convinced that in many cases they just didn't want to leave their comfy chair after the last speaker, or were simply having a chat to their mates in the vicinity of a stage.

      There was Wales in March at Sci-Fi Weekender. And then there was the Northwich Literary Festival in June. Now we're not talking Hay-On-Wye here - Northwich is a small market town in mid-Cheshire, but this is, I think, the third year in which it has run a small literary festival, consisting of a couple of dozen events in local cafes, libraries and theatres - talks, readings and discussions. Plus there was a "poetry trail" around the town, where many of the vacant shops displayed poems and artwork in the windows for a few weeks (far better than an empty window).

      Last year, I emailed the organiser, Suzi, but was too late to be included. Email me just after Christmas, she said. So I did - in early January - suggesting a talk on independent publishing: how I'd done it, my journey, what it meant, Q&A etc. I'd get a few more authors on board and we'd put something together, so that readers and potential writers could find out what was involved.


      So that's how Jan Ruth, Conrad Jones, Simon Gould and I ended up in Cafe Terazzo in Northwich on a sunny evening in mid-June. We'd discussed it beforehand - what we were going to do - and decided that Conrad, being the expert as he's been interviewed on the red sofa at the BBC, could start us all off while Jan and I drank a bottle of wine and waited for inspiration ...

     And we talked. All of us. To a full house of people having a drink and/or a snack (they do great tapas apparently). I assume they'd come to see us, as it wasn't raining and Northwich does have a good spread of cafes and pubs. We talked about what the differences were between traditional and independent publishing, why we'd all chosen the latter route, how we'd done it and what we all felt were the most important things to remember about publishing a book independently. We fielded lots of questions and everybody seemed happy with the answers.

      Now we have a whole year to think about what we can do at the next literary festival!

6 comments:

Kathleen Jones said...

It looks a really nice event Debbie!

JO said...

Good for you - I love literary festivals - whatever capacity I'm there for.

Chris Longmuir said...

Looks like you did a good job. What about Crimefest? And then I could come and listen to you.

Debbie Bennett said...

If only they'd ask me, Chris... might try and do crimefest next year if I know other people are going. I just hate being a billy-no-mates at these kind of events.

Lydia Bennet said...

I've done lots of festivals as a poet, some have been amazing experiences. Your event sounds great, and a bit different from most, Debbie! One thing though, people are very keen to do festivals to get book sales, but it doesn't always work out that way if there are gazillions of events on with several authors at each, nobody has enough moolah to buy all the books! Gigging at regular monthly events is probably better for that, not that I've not had great sales sometimes at lit fests, it's unpredictable. But you do meet some lovely readers and writers and make friends for years to come. We should get into bands of bros/sistas and tour fests as AE!

julia jones said...

I did enjoy Crimefest (not least meeting Valerie and Chris) but for my purse it was a bit of a ££ commitment. It was sociable, it was educational but it wasn't great on book sales. In fact I did much better in that respect at the far smaller Felixstowe Book Festival last weekend. I do like LOCAL. Your event sounds a very good one and I noticed when Linda Gillard did something similar at Felixstowe last year the room was packed.