What happens at a literary festival?

If you’re someone whose unpublished novel is gathering dust, someone who wonders what sort of people write books, someone who needs inspiration or someone who wonders about self publishing versus traditional publishing, then you should go look up a festival near you. I did that and the Wexford Literary Festival sounded perfect.

I was so happy setting off last Saturday. The programe was full of all aspects of writing. There were discussions on writing crime, historical novels, young adult fiction, editing and pitching. We listened to a panel of first time published authors and later self published authors. I stayed for all on offer, finding interest in each one, regardless how I felt it applied to myself.

So what did I find most interesting? What inspired me or frightened me?

To be honest, as I said I found interest in everything. Some of the speakers were highly entertaining, others very informative. I loved the discussion from the panel of newly published authors, this is the one where you listen and wonder if that will be you some day. Last year I’d attended this festival and had sat next to a writer who told me she had her book almost finished and would love to be published. I remember as I left wishing her well and admiring her determination. One year later Cat Hogan was there, on the panel, newly published.

It’s hard not to be inspired hearing the tales of each writer. Each experience was different, but essentially the common theme was ‘just write.’ There was talk of rejection letters and editing changes, with different writers having different experiences. I enjoyed one particular writer, fellow Dubliner Frankie Gaffney’s, irreverent attitude to publishers and pitching.  New York born, Jax Miller, had us in stitches when replying to the question, ‘how did you get into crime writing?’ she said, ‘I was writing a story and they loved each other, but then I’d a really bad day, and decided to just kill everyone.’

Later in the day there was a panel speaking of self publishing. Along with almost everyone in the room I suspect, I was intrigued. Each had their own reason for going the self published route, some didn’t wish to wait in order to go the traditional route and another wanted the control which self publishing gives. Earlier in the day I had sat beside one of these self published authors, Siobhan Davis. She’d told me she’d given up work the previous year and now wrote every day, but wait for it… she writes up to five hours a day, seven days a week. She writes fantasy fiction for young adults and produces five books a year. Just to sit beside her, feeling her enthusiasm and passion made me itch to go and write. As I listened to her speak on the panel I wasn’t the only one who took a sharp intake of breath when she said she’d sold thousands of books in the past year.

A fellow blogger, Andrea Mara attended the festival with me. She had been shortlisted for the Colm Tóibín short story prize (I’m over my jealousy now) Although she didn’t win, I did get the chance to read her story and just like the speakers I listened to, she too has left her mark. Her story was excellent and set a mark I’d like to aspire to. Another goal I’m determined to achieve.

Overall it was a wonderful weekend.  Two days in the year when I was surrounded by like minded people, all happy to live in worlds of our own creation. A chance to sit and  dream, maybe one day?  By the time I arrived home the dreaming was over and a new enthusiasm and belief sat in it’s place…

I can and I will.

None of us know the effect we have on each other. Each speaker has touched me, left a mark or lit a spark. I salute each one for giving their time to educate, encourage and inspire so many of us and a special word of thanks and congratulations to the festival chair, novelist Carmel Harrington. Who knows what new writers she has helped create? Perhaps even myself?


9 thoughts on “What happens at a literary festival?

  1. Good stuff, tric. Yer wan Jax Miller sounds a hoot. The amount of literary festivals on the go is staggering. It’s up there with my how-can-Ireland-sustain-so-many-fancy-hotels? anxiety. And right next to my so-many-books (still unread)-so-little-time-to-read-them-between-frittering-time-on-the-net anxiety. Hope the luck from this one wings its way to you.

  2. Wow Tric seems like you had an amazing time!! I’ll soon find my way into a literary festival too I hope… Sounds like a lot of fun 🙂

  3. It was a great festival and a pleasure to steal all your biscuits, Tric. Frankie Gaffney was an absolute howl but I’m not sure I’d be following his submission advice!

    1. No I thought the same, but it was so refreshing listening to him. I think he’d a really good story so all was forgiven. I’d be in the bin!

    1. It was and I’m still inspired, (long may it last).
      I was amazed to read the other day that you’ve never tried fiction. Really? You have a wonderful way with words and a quirky humour and outlook, you must have lots of ideas you could use to make something up. I’d love to see your efforts. Are you not even curious to try? I’d consider you among the very best of all writers I read.

      1. Thank you very much, Tric. That’s so kind of you. As to fiction, when I was eleven, I did write a story that my teacher liked and read to the class. Since my only goal in school was to get through it entirely unnoticed by anyone, I was mortified.

        I’ve forgotten now what happened in it. The one thing I do remember is that he lived in a tree trunk that had a beautiful spiral staircase running all the way down the inside. Goodness knows where the bear actually slept.

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