How to work the writers’ festival circuit - Claire Scobie
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How to work the writers’ festival circuit

How to work the writers’ festival circuit

It’s literary festival season again. At the same time as Sydney Writers’ Festival opens, Hay-on-Wye – UK’s biggest gathering of writers – kicks off.

How to work the writers’ festival circuit - 220514Yesterday I heard Alice Walker talk about writing and activism; today David Malouf revealed what’s at the heart of his novels.

Despite all the gloomy news about publishing and book stores closing, new literary fairs are cropping up everywhere.

Internationally you can go to festivals in Myanmar, Pakistan and Bhutan. Locally they’re springing up like mushrooms after rain.

I’ve always found these festivals a great place to learn more about the craft, connect with other writers and meet potential publishers. So whether writing is a hobby or a profession, here are some etiquette tips:

10 ways to make the most of lit fest season

  1. Choose sessions relevant to your genre. Bring your notebook in case authors share their deepest secrets.
  2. Think of questions through the session and be brave enough to ask at the 15-min Q&A at the end. This is your chance to ask a writer you love something meaningful to you.
  3. Authors are generally a nice bunch. If you buy their book at the end, you can always ask a follow up question. Just don’t hog their time, especially if they have a queue at the signing table.
  4. Bring business cards. If your manuscript is ready to go you might meet the perfect agent or editor. If you’ve got a card it shows you’re serious.
  5. Take a friend. He or she can support you and encourage you to make that connection.
  6. Get inspired. Drop into sessions with writers you don’t know. You often learn new stuff.
  7. Join the conversation. If you do social media then tweet about sessions you are about to go to or events you’ve just seen and use the hashtag for the festival. i.e #SWF14 Show you care.
  8. If you’re working on a book and you’re trying to gauge people’s interest, work out your 30-second pitch. Talk about it to people you meet. In the queue, at the cafe. Do people’s eyes glaze over or is there a spark?
  9. Practise this pitch enough and then go to a session with publishers and editors. Here, having a friend is really handy. Your friend needs to push you to speak to that editor and pitch your idea. The editor may brush you off but not before giving you their card. Just don’t stalk anyone insanely.
  10. Be chatty and get to know other bookish people. Network at events and meet publicists and others involved in the industry. Authors are often very accessible at festivals, so don’t miss any opportunity.

How to work the writers festival circuit2_220514I’ll be reporting back on some of the great sessions I’m going to this week in Sydney and next week I’m appearing at Darwin’s Wordstorm.

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